"Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Stamford, introducing us.
"How are you" he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit. "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive."
"How on earth did you know that?" I asked in astonishment.
Sherlock Holmes, "A Study in Scarlet" [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I, Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003, p.10].
|Ah.mad Khân Abdâlî||1747-1775||1747-1793|
|Mah.mûd Shâh||1800-1803, 1809-1818||1809-1818|
|Shâh Shujâ'||1803-1809, 1839-1842|
|Civil War, 1818-1826|
|First Afghan War, 1839-1842, British|
|Shîr 'Alî||1863-1866, 1868-1878, d.1879|
|Muh.ammad Ya'qûb Khân||1878-1879|
|Second Afghan War, 1878-1880,|
British Occupation, 1879-1880
|Third Afghan War, 1919, British|
|Nas.r Allâh||1919, d.1921|
|Amân Allâh||1919-1929, d.1960|
|Mohammed Daoud Khan||President, 1973-1978|
|Leftist Government, 1978-1992|
|Abdul Qadir Dagarwal||1978|
|Nur Muhammad Taraki||1978-1979|
|Fourth Afghan War, 1979-1988,|
Soviet Occupation, 1979-1989
|Haji Mohammad Chamkani||1986-1987|
|Rightist Government, 1992-1996|
|Abdul Rahim Hatef||1992|
|Ṭâlibân Government, 1996-2001|
|Mullah Mohammed Omar||1996-2001|
|Fifth Afghan War, 2001-2021, Americans, NATO|
|Ṭâlibân Government Restored, 2021|
The Second Afghan War was somewhat more successful, establishing at least a protectorate over the country. A famous (fictional) participant in this action was Dr. John H. Watson, M.D., who retired to quiet rooms in London with one eccentric "consulting" detective, Sherlock Holmes. The Russians never troubled Afghanistan (or India) much, and the protectorate was shaken off in the Third Afghan War in 1919, when the British were beginning to lose interest.
Afghanistan would next enter history in a big way in the 1970's. The overthrow of the King led to long political struggle between conservatives and communists. An endangered Communist government provoked an invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979, under the "Brezhnev Doctrine" that a country, once communist, could not be allowed to revert to something else. The nightmare of the British had now come true. The British no longer cared much, and the Republic of India, friendly to the Soviet Union, cannot have been too unhappy about another enemy of Pakistan arriving on its border; but the invasion had serious geo-political consequences. Jimmy Carter skipped the Moscow Olympics of 1980, revived the draft, and then lost reelection to a Ronald Reagan who promised (and delivered) a revived American military.
At the time, I reflected that the Russians might be up against the toughest people on Earth. There was no jungle available for guerrilla warfare, but it turned out that the vast mountain ranges, riddled with caves and valleys, worked about as well. Some parts of the country the Russians were never able to effectively occupy, and the Afghans basically didn't take prisoners. This began to tax the strength of the Soviet Union, even as the United States grew in strength, militarily and economically, under Reagan. U.S. training and arms, especially Stinger anti-aircraft missles, supported the Afghan Mujâhidîn (fighters in Jihâd, the Holy War) through a friendly Pakistan.
The provision of American aid to the Afghans is recounted in an entertaining movie, Charlie Wilson's War , about the colorful Texas Congressman who saw to it that this was done.
It was especially sad for me to see so much trouble come to Afghanistan. Oddly enough, when I lived in Honolulu, 1972-1975, I knew a group of Afghan students who lived at the East-West Center at the Unversity of Hawaii. I saw them frequently at the Cafeteria and got to be friends with several. Hawai'i hardly seemed like the same universe as Afghanistan, and they may have been surprised -- as surprised as me to find Afghans in Honolulu -- to find someone like me who spoke some Persian, a language that most educated Afghanis are liable to know a little of at least (or know well). I always remembered one guy in particular. Very tall and dark, with some scars on his face. He looked like he had ridden in with Genghis Khan. His appearance was daunting, until he spoke. Then he had a disarming, if not comical, high pitched voice; and in fact he was perfectly amiable. When the Soviet invasion occurred, I began to wonder, and have ever since, what happened to all those guys, with their Hawaiian shirts, in later years. I hope and imagine that they were able to get out or stay out of Afghanistan and live happily elsewhere.
After nine long years, Soviet resolve broke, and a face-saving peace was patched together (1988). This left a friendly government in Kabul, but that did not last very long (1992). By 1996, the most radical of the Mujâhidîn came to power, the Ṭâlibân or "Students" (ṭâlib is "student" in Arabic; -ân is a plural suffix in Persian). These were originally students in the Islâmic schools, financed by Saudi Arabia, in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Saudi Islâm is a very conservative sort, and the Ṭâlibân envisioned a purified Islâmic society under their rule. This ended up going far beyond the precedent set by the Irân of the Ayatollahs. Not only were women to be veiled, but they could not even hold jobs outside the home, attend school, go out without male escort, or laugh in public. Women found wearing nail polish might have their fingernails pulled out. Television, movies, and music were banned, and men prohibited from shaving or even trimming their beards. All these indicators of pure barbarism were topped off in early 2001 when the regime decided to destroy all the Buddhist art in the country, including the two great cliff carved Buddhas in Bamian province, 175 and 120 feet tall, dating from the earliest days of Buddhism. Even Irân asked them not to do this; but it was done -- one of the greatest crimes against history, art, and (other people's) religion within memory.
Worse was to come, however. The regime was harboring some of the most fanatical elements from all of the Islâmic world, including terrorist organizations that began to strike against American targets, like American embassies in East Africa (7 August 1998), and the American destoyer Cole in Aden harbor (12 October 2000). This led to a mass hijacking of American airliners in the United States itself on 11 September 2001, two of which were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, bringing them down, and one into the Pentagon, killing many people but making what, from a distance, looked like no more than a dent. In a fourth hijacked aircraft, Flight 93, the passengers counter-attacked against the terrorists, and the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. The World Trade Center was the most spectacular and sanguinary strike, leaving around 3000 people dead. An earlier terrorist, who had helped bomb the World Trade Center in 1993, and had been captured, told interrogators that he had hoped to kill 200,000 people. He evidently was not taken seriously enough. Many people who died in the South Tower had not evacuated, or had even returned, because it was not understood that the buildings were under attack.
This meant war, which is just what the terrorists wanted. What they really wanted was probably World War III between Islâm and the West; but that was not what they got. The United States did not want to occupy Afghanistan, like the Soviets, but just to beat down the regime and its power and hunt out the leaders of the terrorists and their installations. At the same time, the old enemies of the Ṭâlibân, hanging on in the North, still with Russian support, could be encouraged and aided. Whether or not they would be able to actually retake the country, the basic American operation should be a commando or "special operations" one, long celebrated in movies, which now must be proven in practice.
Thus, a poor, bare, harsh, sad, and luckless country, Afghanistan, enters the 21th century as the cockpit of world history.
By mid-November, 2001, after weeks of US bombing, the Ṭâlibân regime suddenly collapsed. The "Northern Alliance" ("United Front") forces took the northern city of Mazâr-e-Sharîf and began suspiciously claiming advances everywhere, but then the next thing the world knew, the Ṭâlibân were evacuating Kâbul. Besieged in Kunduz in the north and Kandahâr in the south, Ṭâlibân forces began defecting and surrendering. By late November, only die hard Arab, Chechyn, and other foreign forces were offering resistance. The siege of Kandahar was then supplemented by United States Marines. This has all allowed for the United States to begin using airbases all over the country and for American special forces to range at will looking for the terrorists.
The final mountain stronghold of the "Al Qaeda" terrorists, "Tora Bora" (sounding more like Polynesia than Afghanistan), eventually broke under American bombing and Afghan ground attacks. The leader of the terrorists, Usama ben Laden, has disappeared. Either he was killed, was able to flee (to Pakistan or elsewhere), or is still hiding in the mountains. The leader of the Tâlibân, the Mulla Omar, also fled and is apparently in hiding, though not far enough in hiding not to be negotiating surrender or safe passage. Meanwhile, the Northern Alliance with international help has put together a coalition government. There was some talk about restoring the King as a figurehead, but that has not happened. Life in Kabul almost seems to be returning to normal, with music playing, movies being shown, television back on the air, and the braver women returning to their jobs and going without burkas. Some Afghans are returning from exile for the first time in twenty years. This is all very promising, but Afghanistan is a place where things can go wrong quickly. There are still Tâlibân in the mountains trying to reorganize, and foreign "peacekeepers" are the kind of thing that might suddenly become very unwelcome. We shall see.
Almost ten years after American forces entered Afghanistan, they are still there, with help from some other NATO nations. Whatever else may be involved in the situation, no sensible person can possibly see this as a good thing. If whatever it was that needed doing is not done by now, then one begins to wonder if it can be done, in terms of will and resources or even in terms of what is possible on the ground. While in Iraq the challenge was to strike a modus vivendi between the dominant communities, Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds, in Afghanistan it is still not clear who all the players are, or how an accommodation would be struck -- especially when the Ṭâlibân are still involved, and the idea was to get rid of them altogether.
The Ṭâlibân survived for a couple of reasons. (1) They fled to the mountains of Pakistan, where the locals were sympathetic, the Government of Pakistan had minimal authority, and elements of Pakistani politics, including, it is alleged, much of Pakistani Intelligence, are cooperative. Pakistan has blown hot and cold on what to do about all this, and truces and have been followed by serious incursions, which have resulted in retaliatory terrorist bombings against civilian targets in Pakistan itself. The Pakistani Government has apparently been tolerating the missile strikes that have become favored by the Obama Administration, but this has been criticized as an inferior strategy to capturing Ṭâlibân leaders for interrogation and rooting out their support.
(2) The Ṭâlibân have regained some popularity and leverage in Afghanistan. Part of this is due to their willingness to market the opium crop, which pleases local farmers and provides a steady income for Jihadist activities. The American response to this involves folly of a high order. The drug warriors want to destroy the opium crop and get the farmers to grow something inoffensive, like sunflowers, even though this means a drastic loss of income for them. Such an approach has more to do with domestic American politics (i.e. drug prohibition) than it does with the circumstances of Afghanistan. The sensible strategy would be to buy the opium crop, i.e. buy it right out from under the Ṭâlibân. If the drug warriors then was to destroy the crop, fine; but they might also consider using it for morphine, which is actually needed in American medicine.
Meanwhile, the elected government of Afghanistan, of Hamid Karzai, has been wearing out its welcome. It is not clear that Karzai was even honestly reelected in the last election. The compaints about the regime are a little vague, but corruption seems to be high on the list. There have even been allegations that members of Karzai's own family are already striking deals with the Ṭâlibân, and Karzai himself has tried to gain nationalist points with criticism of the Americans, while also hoping for a deal with the Ṭâlibân. Yet it begins to look like he would not survive for a minute without Western support, although this in itself is a bad, if not fatal sign, for the regime.
The support of the Ṭâlibân has mainly been among Pashtun (or Pashtu) speakers, who are the largest ethnic group in the country. Minorities, like the Persian speaking Tajiks or Turkic speaking Uzbeks and Turkmen, are thus generally suspicious of the Pashtuns and hostile to the Ṭâlibân. They also are largely in the North, where the strength of the "Northern Alliance" came from that overthrew the Ṭâlibân. Yet Karzai thinks that peace requires more of an accommodation with the Ṭâlibân than with the minorities. The Ṭâlibân, of course, would need to agree to cut all ties with al-Qa'ida and other Jihadists, and withdraw from Pakistan. This seems to be a lot to expect, and American commanders are skeptical, to say the least. One wonders if legitimizing the Ṭâlibân would also involve reinstituting their anhedonic, nail-pulling, and art-destroying ways. I have not noticed public discussion of this aspect of the matter.
Hence the Western dilemma. The ideal procedure would have been like what the British did in Ethiopia in 1868: go in, overthrown the government, massacre the hostiles, then leave the place to its own devices. This could not be done for two principal reasons, one silly, the other weighty.
(1) The "liberal" criticism of U.S. policy after the Soviets left Afghanistan, voiced at the end of Charlie Wilson's War for instance, is that, having supplied the Afghans with what they needed to get rid of the Russians, it was then our obligation to pour in money to rebuild the country. Since Afghanistan had always been an exceedingly poor country, there really wasn't much to rebuild, since there hadn't been much there in the first place. So the idea seems to have been that Western Aid would help Afghanistan build new stuff, get educated, and grow into a modern country. It is not clear that any Afghans actually asked for this, and it is also not at all clear that such "nation building" with foreign aid has ever actually worked anyplace else anyway. Quite the opposite. So the "liberal" criticism of American policy looks more like the typical liberal attempt to blame America for every bad thing that happens anywhere. In truth, most Afghans were probably thinking more like, "Thanks for the help against the Russians. Good-bye."
What happened next goes back to the foreign aid that Afghans did get, from their Saudi co-religionists. The Saudi schools in Pakistani refugee camps, teaching Wahhâbî ideology, were the origin of the Ṭâlibân -- and the reason why they were called "students." There was nothing new about this. Wahhâbî clerics in India in the 19th century created a movement that the British called the "Hindustan fanatics." These characters actually headed for the very border regions that are a problem now, to stir up the same kind of trouble. They had some success, until the British were able to wipe out most of them. Now, in effect, they're back; and it is their foreign connection, as in the 19th century, that leads to the second point about Afghanistan.
(2) The Ṭâlibân and their al-Qa'ida friends are not just a bunch of lunatics up in the mountains who can be forgotten by the rest of the world. When Islamic Fascism expresses itself in gloablized Terror, even the modern "Hindustan fanatics" have a world-wide reach and represent a real danger to countries where many or most people might never have heard of Afghanistan. This is where the 9/11 attacks were plotted and launched, and it is still the spritual homeland of terrorist groups that are active in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, and in cells across Europe -- with attempts to establish cells in America. Thus, Afghanistan cannot simply be left to its own devices, unless we understand that it will again simply become the kind of hotbed of hostility and danger that it was in 2001.
This does not mean that operations can continue there with any hope of success. But if the Karzai regime is allowed to fall and the Ṭâlibân left to return, it does mean that plans should be in place to go back in and take them out all over again, perhaps with sufficient force to prevent their escape into the mountains from Kabul as before. This may seem like a lot of trouble to anticipate when we are already there, but then it does clarify the job, while meanwhile "counter-insurgency" is a nasty and thankless business with muddled purposes and uncertain allies -- and the prospect of dragging on indefinitely. The unpopularity of wars of indefinite committment has already done its damage in American politics -- with "anti-War" (but really just anti-American) Democrats given unlimited power in 2008. That the presumptively anti-War President Obama has not withdrawn from Afghanistan may persuade a few more about what is at stake, but it doesn't contribute any clarity or promise to the strategic or operational situation. It is a business where muddling through may be about the best we can hope for, while it bears to keep in mind that some kind of disaster or humiliation is always possible.
Islâmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine
Philosophy of History
...che non si debbe mai lasciare seguire uno disordine per fuggire una guerra: perché la non si fugge ma si differisce a tuo disavvantaggio.
...one should never permit a disorder to persist in order to avoid a war, for war is not avoided thereby but merely deferred to one's own disadvantage.
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince [Daniel Donno translation, Bantam Books, 1981, p. 20]
The intense fury and impatient publicity of the Ṭâlibân attack on cultural treasures that were theirs to preserve revealed clearly that more than mud and stone was at stake in the eyes of the attackers. With the help of hindsight, we can now see that the shelling and smashing of sandstone [i.e. the Buddhas at Bamian] in March 2001 was the Kristallnacht of the Ṭâlibân. The smashed images were emblems of vanquished faiths and lost civilizations. But they were emblems of humanity as well... and when spring had changed to fall, humanity itself became the target, on a more global scale.
Lenn E. Goodman, Islamic Humanism [Oxford, 2003, pp.18-19, boldface added]
Militants have been killing polio vaccination workers and their police guards since 2012, throwing into chaos the country's drive to eradicate the disease. Militants believe that polio vaccinations are a cover for spying activities.
"Pakistan Polio Campaign Targeted Amid New Militant Strikes," The Wall Street Journal, Thursday, January 23, 2014, A9
Islam was never a religion of peace.
Islam is the religion of fighting.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), 14 May 2015
The Revolution in Irân in 1979 inaugurated a new era of politics in Islâm. There had been various revolutions and coups in the Middle East previously, but none had aimed so openly at creating a state of an overt theocratic nature. Previous ideology, like Gamal Abdel Nasser's "Arab Socialism" in Egypt, after the Revolution of 1953, borrowed heavily from Western Marxist/leftist theory and practice. Nasser soon found an alliance with the Soviet Union more congenial that the alternatives. The very idea of Revolution, of revolutionary struggle, and of state run economics, not to mention the uniforms, the weapons, and the military organization, is derived from Western ideology and history, starting with the American Revolution but principally, in the 20th century, from the Russian Revolution. When Palestinian organizations began trying to practice guerrilla warfare, all of the rhetoric and precedent for this was borrowed from "national liberation" movement practices in Cuba, Vietnam, etc. When Israel occupied the Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank of the Jordan in 1967, Palestinian leaders hoped this would make possible a guerrilla war like that seen elsewhere. Their stated goal at the time was a secular state in Palestine, in which Jews would have equal rights with Palestinian Christians and Moslems. Some of the most radical Palestinians at the time were actually (or at least had been born) Christians.
A guerrilla war within Israel or the Occupied Territories never got very far. There just wasn't enough space, and the Israelis were able to suppress internal military action. One response to this was to resort to pure terrorism, like airliner hijacking and the infamous murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Real guerrilla strikes could only be mounted from outside, from Jordan or Lebanon. King Hussein put an end to Palestinian military force in Jordan late in 1970 ("Black September"). That left Lebanon, where a civil war broke out in 1975. This fragmented the country and enabled the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to become a state with in a state, bombarding Israel occasionally from across the border, even if no more serious military operations could be mounted. The Israelis were not going to allow this, and invaded Lebanon in 1978 and 1982. The 1982 invasion was an ambitious project that went all the way to Beirut and aimed to drive the PLO right out of Lebanon. The Israelis succeeded in that respect, but the ferocity of their assault, and the atrocites committed, at least by their Christian allies, put them in a very bad light internationally. A withdrawl was arranged, with Western, including American, peacekeeping troops deployed.
Now the effect of the Irânian Revolution began to be felt. The large Shi'ite community in Lebanon became energized under Irânian influence. The foreign troops began to be attacked by suicide bombers, including a catastrophic bombing of U.S. Marine barracks late in 1983. The peacekeepers pulled out, and Lebanon lapsed back into civil war, with the new twist of suicide attacks and terror kidnappings and murders.
The suicide tactic was more of Shi'ite than of Orthodox Islâmic inspiration. In Middle Eastern history, the Shi'ites had usually been no more than a persecuted minority in Islâmic countries. The original and paradigmatic Shi'ite Martyr was H.usayn, the son of 'Alî, who was killed in the hopeless battle of Karbalâ' in 680 against the forces of the Omayyad Caliph. Subsequently, the martyrdom of H.usayn would be commemorated by Shi'ites with practices, like self-flagellation, that seem much more characteristic of Christian self-mortification than of Islâm in general. Now, however, suicide tactics, like those of the Japanese kamikaze pilots, were discovered to be effective when more conventional forms of warfare, even guerrilla warfare, had failed.
Meanwhile, the Israelis had been funding conservative Islâmic groups among the Palestinians, hoping in this way to counter the influence of the revolutionary Marxist ideologies that seemed dominant in Palestinian guerrilla organizations. This turned out to be a mistake. The Irânians had coopted the revolutionary ideology to their own purposes, and now this began to catch on with the Palestinians, among whom there were relatively few Shi'ites. In time, suicide bombers became the weapon of choice for Palestinian attacks on Israelis. A new era, of pure terrorist attacks, rather than attempts at the familiar forms of guerrilla warfare, had arrived.
While scholars have been using the term "Islamism" for the mix of ideology in the Irânian revolution and the movements inspired by it, a term already exists in Western politics for such a thing, and that term is "fascism." An often nearly meaningless term of abuse (still loved by the recent Left), "fascism" can actually be given a fairly precise meaning. It represents, in the first place, a collectivist and totalitarian ideology. This is largely of Marxist inspiration, with political forms pioneered by Lenin and then copied with admiration by Mussolini and, especially, Hitler. The fascists themselves, like Mussolini (who coined the term), often came from a leftist and socialist political background -- Lenin wrote newspaper articles praising Mussolini in the days before World War I. Their new inspiration, however, was to abandon the international struggle of the workers and to embrace nationalism, especially a strongly racialistic and mystical nationalism. Elements of socialism remained. Private property might be left nominally in private hands, but its owners were expected to serve the Nation, and merely private purposes, let alone use for alien loyalities or ideology, was to be strongly condemned and suppressed. Hitler's Germany witnessed a social leveling unknown in earlier Germany: Where the Imperial Army had required noble blood for its officers, the Nazi Army was as much of a meritocracy as possible given its racial criteria (Mussolini was unable to go as far). Fascism thus assumed the character of a "Revolution from the Right," with a distinctive mixture of conservative and radical elements. Stalinist Russia itself began to take on some of these features, as Stalin found it expedient in wartime to begin appealing to Russian nationalism and even to the Church, with increasing attacks on "rootless cosmopolitans" -- which meant, not good Marxist internationalism, but, most precisely, the Jews.
The Irânian revolution was definitely "from the Right," embodying some of the most reactionary ideas imaginable. At the same time, it didn't need the nationalism or racism of European fascism. Both of these were artifacts of 19th century secular ideology, the latter even a kind of application of Darwinism. The Ayatollah Khomeini had no interest in this stuff, since secularism of any sort was alien. Such nationalism as modern Irân had seen was itself based on the Shi'ism adopted by the Safavid Shâhs. Khomeini needed only to extend and strengthen this, eliminating the civil authority and Western secularism represented by the Shâh and introducing a rigorous religious moralization of society, returning to the imaginary ideals of the Time of the Prophet. This Islâmic version of Calvin's Geneva, however, now had all the modern trappings of revolution and armed struggle, which owed little to the history of Islâm and much to Marxism, Fascism, and "National Liberation." Private life was invaded by the State in a way that traditional Islâm might have found appalling, and religious dissent, as in the Baha'i community, was annihilated. Even the ancient religion of Irân, Zoroastrianism, most of whose adherents had long fled to India (the Parsis), saw its ancient practice of sky burial (on the "Towers of Silence") prohibited. As with European fascism, private property was not itself attacked (that would be contrary to Islâmic law), but modern banking and finance could be attacked (charging interest is contrary to Islâmic law), and so vaguely socialist and anti-capitalist economic policies could be promoted. This, of course, all but ruined the Irânian economy. Irânian weakness then tempted Saddam Hussein of Iraq into a land grabbing attack. In the following lengthy war (1980-1988), the Iraqis could only be repulsed with suicidal banzai charges resulting in thousands of casualties.
Meanwhile, a Holy War (Jihâd) was being conducted by Orthodox Muslims in Afghanistan, against the Soviet Union. Irân had little direct involvement in this, and the fight was even supported by the country regarded by Irân as the "Great Satan," i.e. the United States. This was fertile ground, however, for the new radicalized Islâmic ideology. And as the Palestinians would adopt Shi'ite suicide tactics, the Afghan Mujâhidîn in their own desperate and ruthless struggle absorbed the reactionary and totalitarian aspirations of the Irânians. This meant that when the Soviets were gone, the Mujâhidîn could easily find their next enemy, the friend of Israel, the Great Satan itself, erstwhile ally or not.
The fascist mix of Islâmic ideology soon becomes evident even in books published in the United States. Daniel Pipes quotes from a 1989 book by Shamin A. Siddiqi (Methodology of Dawah Ilallah in American Perspective or The Need to Convert Americans to Islam) that Islâm "pinpoints the shortcoming of capitalism, elaborates the fallacies of democracy, [and] exposes the devastating consequences of the liberal lifestyle" [Commentary, November 2001, p. 23]. This says it all -- a leftist/collectivist attack on capitalism, a leftist/rightist/totalitarian attack on democracy (the Foreign Minister of South Africa recently called Cuba the "most democratic country in the world"), and a leftist/rightist/totalitarian attack on a liberal social order. Pipes and others have been warning for some time about the growth of anti-liberal, anti-modern, and anti-American ideology within organized Islâm in the United States.
As the 1990's went on, organization and planning for attacks on the United States, and their execution, moved along steadily. A bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 was followed by attacks on American troops in Saudi Arabia, bombings of American Embassies in East Africa, the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Aden harbor, frustrated attempts at bombings in the United States in 2000, and finally the horrific hijackings and suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. Many of the perpetrators (not the suicide ones) and accomplices of these attacks were eventually caught and tried. Many revealed their ties to the terrorist network in Afghanistan. The United States was willing to treat much of this as a law enforcement problem, and was more worried about drug production in Afghanistan than in its terrorists, but the attacks on American soil and the deaths of so many American in 2001 made it a matter of open war in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Israelis had come to a realization that they were stuck with the Palestinians and that some sort of accommodation was in order. The PLO returned home as the "Palestinian Authority" and Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza and much of the West Bank. Just as everything seemed about to be fixed, the ultimate Palestinian demand, the right to return to pre-1948 homes, resurfaced, and Israeli unwillingness to consider this set off new resistance and new suicide bombings -- even as many Palestinians clearly did not want Israel to continue to exist in any form, and wanted Jerusalem returned to Islâm, intentions that could not be allowed by any Israeli government. The attitude of the Israeli public hardened, and the mastermind of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, regarded by many as a war criminal, Ariel Sharon, was elected Prime Minister.
Another source of Islâmic discontent has been over Iraq. After Saddam Hussein failed to gain anything with his war on Irân, he turned his attentions to Kuwait, which he invaded and occupied in 1990. In 1991 a large coalition of Arab and Western counties threw the Iraqis out. They left behind, as threatened, burning oil fields, even though they had been warned that this tactic might set of an ecological disaster on a global scale. Fortunately it didn't, and the fires were out by 1992, but it revealed the level of ruthlessness and irresponsibility in the Iraqi dictator, who had previously used poison gas against Kurdish rebels and is famous for participating in and enjoying the torture of his enemies. Shi'ite and Kurdish rebellions were sparked by the defeat on the battlefield, and unfortunately the decision was made that the survival of Hussein was probably better than the Irânian intervention that Shi'ite success might bring, or the anarchy that might result from Shi'ite and/or Kurdish success in any case.
Saddam Hussein's good behavior was thus to be assured by UN inspectors and UN economic sanctions. Hussein eventually kicked out the inspectors, and began to blame the sanctions for poverty, starvation, and disease among the Iraqis. However, the sanctions allow for the sale of Iraqi oil to pay for food and medicine; nor do they prohibit free economic and humanitarian aid. In fact, Hussein deliberately allows people to starve, for the propaganda value, and uses his income to pay for palaces, for the rebuilding of his military, and for what may still be his chemical and biological weapons programs. Although he plastered Allâhu Akbar, "God is Greatest," on the Iraqi flag after the war, it is hard to imagine a less religious and more cynical ruler than Hussein. The Ayatollah Khomeini himself said that he would rather drink poison than make peace with Saddam Hussein (he did anyway). So it is especially pathetic to see Hussein and Iraq represented as martyrs to Islâm and victims of the United States.
Nevertheless, this attitude is part of the mix of Islâmic fascism, one of whose abiding sources of power is resentment over the poverty and powerlessness that characterizes Middle Eastern and other Islâmic countries and communities -- Saddam Hussein is praised just because he "stood up" to the West. Since the real explanation for this continuing poverty and powerlessness is the lack of the rule of law and of protections for a modern, liberal, capitalist society, the real explanation is emotionally intolerable and must be rejected. As Daniel Pipes says of "Islamism": "Wherever that seditious and totalitarian ideology has gained a foothold in the world, it has wrought havoc, and some societies it has brought to utter ruin" [op.cit. p.24]. All that lies at hand for an alternative explanation are the hoary cliches of Marxism-Leninism. Everything can be blamed on colonialism, imperialism, and the international conspiracy of Americans and Jews to exploit the oppressed and thereby dominate the world economy -- seamlessly blending Marxist analysis with the tradition of Tsarist and Nazi anti-Semitism. The fascist affinity of reactionary inspiration for leftist ideology is thus strongly reinforced. Die-hard Western enemies of capitalism, free trade, and "globalization" thus happily provide conceptual and rhetorical tools that confirm Islâmic fascism in its sense of being wronged and of fighting righteously against evil, "by any means necessary." The defeat of the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler, and the later fall of Communism, were thus preludes to the same tactics and resentments, against individualism and capitalist modernity, being taken up in a new geo-political, and intensely reactionary, cause.
The solution to most of the ills of the Islâmic world is in principle easy. Democracy, the rule of law, a tolerant and secular government, and the protection of property rights in an open economy are the keys to modern life, prosperity, and the kind of power that is envied in the Great Satan.
The great festering wound, in the view of many Moslems and Arabs, and the source of much anti-Americanism in the Islâmic world, that is the problem of Israel and the Palestinians, is not so easily -- if even the general solution were really so easy -- resolved. Conflicting claims to the same land are involved. Now, the Israeli view tends to be that their enemies simply don't like Jews, don't want to concede the existence of a Jewish state, and so are determined on Israel's, and her people's, destruction. The Islâmic world, after all, was quite content with the partition of India, since this produced an Islâmic state, Pakistan, despite its displacement of millions of people. But the partition of Palestine was not accepted, just because it was not to the benefit of the same partisans. Also, what Palestinians often don't realize is that most Israelis now, and the ones most adamant about concessions to Palestinians, are not European immigrants, like the original Zionists, but Jews who have been displaced from other Middle Eastern counties, whether by choice, or because the hostility of Arab governments drove them out. The story of these Jews, after a fashion, is similar to that of many Palestinians themselves, who fled or were driven out of their homes in British Palestine.
On the other hand, individual Palestinians, including Christians, are not bound by the expectations or purposes of the Islâmic world, or of particular Arab governments, let alone Pakistan. Their ownership of homes in the Mandate, preserved in the British land records, is independent of claims of Jewish refugees against Egypt, Iraq, or Yemen. Nor can their claims be dismissed and disqualified as the fruit of anti-Semitism. It is unlikely that their dispossession by anyone else would have been accepted with any better grace than they have accepted dispossession by the Jews. The conflict has certainly fostered anti-Semitism, but it doesn't make any sense to ascribe it to anti-Semitism. The Israeli attitude has tended to be that Israel is a fact and that when it comes to their lost homes, Palestinians should just get over it. But this is a surprising attitude in people who claim to have returned to their ancestral homes after 2000 years -- two millennia of "remembering Zion." If Jews can remember their homes since the days of Vespasian and Titus, it is not surprising if Palestinians can remember their homes since the days of Harry Truman. The implication here is that the homes of Palestinians must somehow mean less to them, must somehow be less memorable, than the homes of the Jews. This may even be true; but, unfortunately, if the Palestinians were lacking a cultural system, ideology, or religion to identify themselves with the land, they have now certainly acquired it, often in the worst way.
What Israelis fear the most, and have every reason to fear, is massacre. Having fled the monumental slaughter inflicted by the Germans, a foundational sentiment of Israel is the determination, "never again." Israel thus always acts unapologetically in whatever way seems necessary for its defense and for the preservation of the lives of its citizens. This has often seemed admirable and paradigmatic as an example of a country protecting its citizens (e.g. the ambitious and successful 1976 raid on Entebbe airport in Ugandu to free victims of an airline hijacking). The approaches and ideologies, whether secular or religious, to which Palestinians have adhered have never been such as to calm this most fundamental fear of the Israelis. Instead, it is well known in Israel and elsewhere that, however mild and conciliatory Palestinians leaders often are in the foreign press or when speaking to foreigners, the rhetoric in the Arabic language press is usually violent and vicious, conjuring images of attack, conquest, mastery, and annihilation. They sometimes don't seem aware that foreigners, and especially many Israeli Jews, can read Arabic. And, when this duplicity may be exposed, the response is sometimes that the Israelis themselves are engaged in their own massacre of the Palestinians, rather like the Nazi genocide itself. Now, Israel has certainly killed Palestinians, sometimes gratutitously; but the truth is that Israel has long been in the position of being able to kill as many of them, or all of them, as Israel might like. Israel in fact has not engaged in mass murder but has been rather more intent on making life uncomfortable enough for Palestinians (seizing land, blowing up houses, denying building permits) that they will simply leave.
If the Palestinians wish to exploit the moral possibilities of their position, that they have a good claim to their old homes in Palestine, that the actions of the Israeli Occupation are often contrary to International Law (which they are), then they should do so in a way that does not undercut their own moral ground and does not give precisely the wrong impression to the Israelis, and to disinterested observers. This can be done, not with the traditional Middle Eastern rhetoric and practice of violence, but with the very modern device of non-violent resistance, Mahâtmâ Gandhi's Satyagraha, or "truth force."
When I was a student in Beirut in 1969 and 1970, a Catholic priest once suggested that Palestinian refugees who wanted to go home should simply get up and walk across the border into Israel. There was no more than a fence there. A large crowd could trample it down. The Israelis always feel justified in violent responses to violence. Dead Israelis mean deadly retaliation. Although this is usually protested by some, most Western opinion sees it as at least understandable, which it is. If Palestinians, however, were to cease killing Israelis and deliberately adopt a non-violent approach, then Israel would be in no position to justify or explain deadly retaliation to anyone. In doing this, Palestinians could do a number of things simultaneously: (1) Cease threatening Jews with death; (2) convey the determination to live on peaceful and friendly terms with Israelis, since the purpose of Gandhi's practice is to make friends with your enemies; and (3) to do what Palestinians say they want most, simply to go home. Nor is this just a matter of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories or refugee camps. Israel has expelled some Israeli Arabs from their ancestral villages, even though these people are Israeli citizens and still live in Israel. In terms of non-violent resistance, all these Israeli Arabs need to do is reoccupy their old villages, or block roads and stage sitdown strikes at the point where they might be forcibly prevented from going there.
It is clear that such practices are a difficult and alien concept in the Middle East, and Palestinians have largely never done anything of the sort. There is no local tradition of non-violence as in India, or of peaceful civil disobedience as in the United States. Instead the ideals are all of armed victory and conquest. This is unfortunate, to say the least. Unlike Saddam Hussein, who would be happy to simply murder his enemies, even if they delivered themselves to him peacefully, Israel must be sensitive to Western public opinion, including Western liberal Jewish opinion, all of which is vulnerable to images of non-violent protestors being attacked by police or soldiers. As it is, Palestinian practice and rhetoric plays mainly to an Islâmic audience, and only clumsily to the West. The occasional Palestinian can score points with articulate and reasonable appearance and arguments (like Hanan Ashrawi), but such points are then lost with the next suicide bomber, or the next murdered Israeli tossed from a window into the exultant mob.
The problem of the Palestinians is thus the problem of Islâmic fascism in general, which is that it is necessary for some prestigious and charismatic leader, whether political or religious, to denounce the violence, resentment, and hatred and to articulate the sensible alternatives in an appealing way. Frankly, this seems unlikely. The traditions of liberal, tolerant society, of non-violence, and of secularism may be just too alien in the Islâmic world. I can hope otherwise, but what the radical ideologues want is war, Holy War. As it happens, war is what they now have, as American bombs fall on Afghanistan and American commandos drop in out of the night. We will have to see how this works out -- certainly, when a Texan is President, it is a bad time to mess with the United States of America. Saddam Hussein wanted the "Mother of Battles" in 1991, and he got it. But he did not do well out of it. The rhetoric of the Afghan terrorists is now of Islâm against Christians and Jews. So far, they seem to have done poorly in rallying actual Islâmic governments, as opposed to radical demonstrators, around them. If they lose, and their terrorist networks are rooted out, it may be a particularly sobering moment for the Palestinians. At such moments, soul searching and reexamination are possible. Perhaps even Satyagraha in Palestine is possible.
Philosophy of History