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This document analyses in more detail the risks mentioned Competing Civilizations that the world faces as a result of the apparent attack in America on 11 September 2001 by Islamist extremists. 
Problems with mainly military response

First though the initially announced response was broadly based, in practice most efforts has been devoted to military options though there is probably no way to defeat a terrorist movement based in Islamist extremists through military action, even when combined with withdrawal of logistic support.

Moreover it appears that the terrorist leadership involves individuals who are outsiders to traditional Islam and who see military actions which affects whole Muslim populations in response to those attacks as the best way to draw others to support their cause.  

The US does not appear to see that the Christ-ian response (by 'turning the other cheek' with an effort to create a situation in which Islamic societies could be more successful in a practical way) could be be more devastatingly powerful (and much cheaper).

Reasons that military action is likely to be inadequate are: 

A. Islamist extremists may be stronger and more active in Western societies than they are in mainstream Muslim communities [1];

B. Islamist terrorists see themselves, and are seen by some others, as struggling to achieve valued political goals. There is much more to radical Islamism than terrorism. And what is known about this suggests a rationale that could draw broadly based support unless it is exposed to potential supporters as being based on unrealistic ideology (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism).

C. Islamist extremism potentially draws upon a diverse population base which numbers in the hundreds of millions worldwide - and has striven to gain a 'Robin Hood' image.

In Lombock, 50km west of Bali, religious leaders are horrified by the Bali bombing as having nothing to do with Islam - but some young men feel differently. Bin Laden is seen to be good, to give money to Muslims and to encourage more people to become Muslims (Callin R 'Bin Laden is the star in Muslim stronghold', CM, 26/10/02)

Though only a very few in Muslim nations are extremists, efforts to find them can result in injustices which draw others to the cause. This danger would be particularly severe if (as one observer suggested [1]) Islamist extremists are primarily located outside the mainstream Muslim communities in which others might seek to find them.

Intelligence is the key to any war against terrorists - which police, rather than the military, are best equipped to obtain. Such intelligence must be obtained from indigenous populations, and the methods used tend to abuse human rights. The Battle of Algiers is a movie presentation of a real situation that graphically illustrates the problems of defeating terrorists (and has been studied by terrorists for this reason) (Hoffman B. 'Raising capital for a very dirty business',  Financial Review,  1/2/02)

D. Resentments of the West which are felt are (at least) partly justified:

  • Islamic societies have been exposed to relentless economic, political, military and cultural pressure for hundreds of years - and been unable to respond effectively because of the combination of factors hypothesized in Competing Civilizations. Those factors include unexamined defects in the methods and institutions of democratic capitalism -as well as difficulties that arise from the character of Islamic societies themselves;
  • covert operations were conducted in (and affected) many neutral countries by both sides in the Cold War - and such practices have not been discontinued in the post Cold War world;
  • genuine injustices have been suffered by those displaced, or affected, by the Western-supported creation of the state of Israel (which support was mainly a response to the persecutions which Jewish people had suffered in Europe and elsewhere); 
  • retaliation against prior attacks have had innocent victims - and those victims (and their relatives and friends) are likely to view what may have been be well intended efforts to promote liberty and democracy as a valid basis for seeking revenge;;
  • Western societies enjoy affluent materialism  - when others are deprived; and there has been dramatic differences in the level of casualties and suffering which have arisen in Western efforts to repress terrorist actions; 
  • different standards have applied in valuing the interests and sufferings of Western peoples relative to others;
  • immorality arises in liberal societies when individuals drift away from their ethical moorings and lose self-control  - which appears to be a feature of many in the Baby Boomer generation - which provides a rationale for an anti-Western stance (see Eroding the West's Foundations); 

Moreover economic globalization which has emerged since the end of the Cold War might threaten the very existence of Islamic cultures far more than was possible even through colonization in the 18th and 19th centuries - because their young people are attracted by the products of Western cultures (eg consumer goods, entertainment) and significant numbers are changing their religion. The impact that mass desertions of the faith would have on the status and power of some elites may be a powerful motive for trying to create conflict between Western countries and the Islamic world generally.

One version of the 'attacks are justified' view is that US intervention / imperialism is itself the cause of terrorist attacks  [1, 2, 3, 4] .. also

  • a major problem in the cold war area was that the US supported corrupt or tyrannical regimes who would aid in their war against communism. These became their next set of enemies. The US now seems to be repeating this mistake in the war against terrorism (Hartcher P. 'Friends like these mean a lot of enemies',  Financial Review,  24/5/02)
  • Sept 11 may be seen as a significant date in US history - yet October 26th 2001 is more so - being the date of USA Patriotism Act which restricted the civil rights of many. Hertsgaard in 'The Eagles Shadow' studied why others hate America. US dialect is the language of international business, tourism and communication. US behaviour is in vogue everywhere. Nations adopt free market, pro-corporate ideologies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and put traditional cultures under threat.  How can America put a man on the moon yet fear debates about evolution? How can it be so rich and yet lack family and community ties? Hetsgaard offers critique of US in terms of (a) political system biased in favour of the rich (b) media which presents half truths (c) a cruel foreign policy (d) consumption that is killing off the planet. Hertsgaard suggests that the problem is US peoples' ignorance of what is being done (Matthews J. 'Taking stock in a world of change', FR 6/9/02) [CPDS Comment: Research generally seems to suggest that (a) globalization has reduced (not increased) inequality and that (b) generally those who get richer are those who choose to participate in the market system - while those who stay outside become poorer - see Global equality].

  • Malaysia's prime Minister (who represent views widespread in SE Asia) argues that the US has been losing the war against terror because it is seen to be only interested in attacking Islamic terrorists and the real issues are the presence of US troops in the Gulf and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians

  • US interference in regimes in the Middle East is seen as part of the problem of bad governance in the region [1]

  • An anonymous analysis (which some claim was authored by a CIA analyst who spent several years studying Al Qaeda) ascribed Osama bin Laden's motivations to nothing more than concern about the effect of US foreign policy in the Middle East [1]

The 'blowback' view has its critics. For example:

Theories about Blowback assume that the US doesn't just create enemies in general - but creates specific enemies ie that those it funds and trains are the ones who attack it (a claim extended to bin Laden). However US intervention in Afghanistan didn't create bin Laden. The problem was that the US didn't intervene aggressively enough - because the CIA didn't think that the Mujaheddin could beat Moscow. So the CIA avoided direct involvement - and gave support to its allies such as Saudi Arabia - on whose behalf bin Laden operated (Beinart P. 'Legacy of leaving allies to do the job',  Australian,  28/9/01)

It has also been suggested that the emphasis in US foreign policy on promoting stability is a major problem. This, at times, is the reason for seeking to keep particular governments in power - but stability is contrary to the natural processes of change, and perhaps should not dominate thinking (Peters R. 'Stability is the enemy',  Financial Review,  8/3/02)

An even more extreme form of the 'blowback' hypothesis is represented by conspiracy theories that are circulating, that ascribe all or most terrorist actions to covert actions by the US or Israeli governments (or by secret societies of business leaders or ancient religious orders) designed to justify attacks on Islamic societies and / or world domination (see About Conspiracy Theories).    However, as long as covert operations are used to achieve some geo-political objective it will be very hard for those affected to see (a) the limits to those operations and (b) that they are neither the mainstream way in which Western societies operate nor the source of their power.

E. No real solution to the economic deprivation of the disaffected communities the terrorists draw upon is possible without the pro-active participation of that community - which means that people closely aligned with the terrorists must willingly sit at the negotiating table.

It may be worth considering the parallels that may exist between Islamist extremists and the One Nation phenomenon in Australia - as both perhaps resulted when peoples have suffered social damage because they were unable to cope with economic change, and extremists then try to provide leadership to those distressed and disadvantaged communities. Because they express their hurt in an aggressive anti-social way (and clearly do not understand the situation well enough to formulate practical proposals to improve it), all that happens is that people around them that desperately need to be helped can then be further excluded.

If this analogy has any real validity, then it is possible that much terrorism could be an extreme form of childish 'attention seeking behaviour', and could be avoided if global elites really listened to what the most disaffected communities have been trying to say - which they normally don't do because the disadvantaged communities can't express what would be seen as a sophisticated opinion without help

F. Cultural differences are a critical factor (see Speculations about Extremists' Manifestos) - which hard-line tactics won't remove - and this includes a religion that traditionally breeds a very significant minority of extremists.

Extremists have been seen to be acting on behalf of their understanding of Islam - an interpretation which is supported by 10-15% of Muslims [1]

It may well be that eroding support for terrorism will not be achieved without a religious dimension (eg showing that the religious assumptions of the extremists is, in fact, the source of the failures that Muslim countries have experienced in recent centuries) - especially if fear that the lure of the West could destroy Islam altogether is the real motive for promoting conflict.

Thus military and economic power may be less important in defeating terrorism than 'soft' power such as public opinion and people's determination [1, 2] or more effective propaganda [1]

A possible example of 'soft power' (eroding the support base for extremists by enabling potential supporters to understand that the 'solutions' that extremists are struggling for would not actually work in practice) is suggested in Discouraging Pointless Extremism.

The terrorist actions raise dangers greater than the Cold War. In the latter there were limits to how far anyone would go, because of threat of retaliation. The post-modern, globalised, financially interdependent, multicultural world (symbolized by NY) has been attacked by forces from the medieval world; that reject the system of state-to-state relations established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648; and can not be comprehended because it embodies what the West has rejected - fanaticism, absolutism and religious fundamentalism. Its language is that of martyrs. The result has been to increase US unity. The problem is to eliminate the core terrorist networks - which operate in 60 countries - without triggering Islamic revolutions. The US repudiates war against Islam - yet this is the paradigm its enemies present. In the early 1990s Huntington pointed out that Muslim peoples are convinced of the superiority of their culture and obsessed with the inferiority of their power. (Kelly P. 'Battle of ideas must also be won',  Australian,  26/9/01)

Economic justice (for example) may simply be considered irrelevant, if religion is the main driver of 'Islamist terrorists'. The only relevant issue could well be about the nature of humanity's relationship with God (eg is it mere sinful pride to think that humanity, a part of God's creation, might be a co-creator in this world together with God?). Anyone who imagines such issues would only matter to obscure clerics, should consider (a) Genesis in which the 'fall of man' from an original relationship with God (and nature) is ascribed to 'eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil' and (b) that such 'fruit' has eventually allowed the development of technologies through which human population and economic growth has approach the point of ecological unsustainability - a point which is increasingly argued by those who give no credence to the Biblical account of the matter. 

G. Unilateral military action could create future risks to international peace.

If US acts preemptively against Iraq, this could make similar action by China more likely sometime in the future  (Harris S First strike will suit opportunists, A, 10/10/02)

On the other hand, however:

A. Many in Muslim societies (and elsewhere) appear to believe that the 'Islamist terrorists' don't really have much to do with Islam (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism).

Others however argue that terrorists actions are consistent with the original warlike character defined for Islam in the Koran [1], though others point out that similar conclusions can be drawn about Judaism from Old Testament sources [1]

B. A close study of terrorists reportedly suggests: that such individuals base their actions on the perception of injustices, rather than having been directly affected; and that the individuals suspected of involvement in the American attacks seem very much outsiders to Islam (Laquerer W. 'A crash course in terrorism', Financial Review, 5/10/01)

Similarly, it has been argued that, though apologists argue that terrorism is the weapon used by people who despair of achieving their goals any other way, terrorists historically have: (a) not really been representative of disadvantaged groups and (b) tended to base grievances on imagination rather than study of the real situation. The most important feature of terrorism is not what terrorists have in common, but what their victims have in common (groups, nations, races that achieve worldly success). Success breeds resentment and resentment breeds hate. [1]

C. There is a school of thought suggesting that terrorism can be defeated by force alone

 At University of Pennsylvania neuroscientists considered whether terrorists should be considered mad or bad. Editorials debate whether acts should be considered war or crimes. The blame-America groups want: events called crimes and prosecuted at the Hague; no military retaliation (because of risk of innocent victims and generating further terrorist recruits). There is a need for psychological realism - about terrorists. Terrorist behaviour springs from assumptions, beliefs that those involved have taken from their culture. However this is different in that it brings a ferocious passion that ignores all other considerations. Psychiatrists call this - having an 'overvalued idea' (a phenomenon which clinically is revealed in 'anorexia nervosa'). Persons involved in letter-bombing and assisted-suicide have also exhibited this behaviour - and been jailed. Hitler was an historical figure with overvalued-ideas. One can't correct the behaviour of such persons by addressing the root causes - because those causes aren't what is driving them. Their passions are. If the September 11 attacks are considered as the acts of men with overvalued ideas (ie that the US is Satanic nation that must be destroyed) this has implications for ways of defeating them. before 1975 psychiatrists would seek to uncover the meaning of destructive behaviour in terms of patients mental conflicts. This (ie dealing with the meaning of not eating to anorexics - without dealing with the fact that they were not eating) failed. Thus treatment now involves directly interrupting harmful behaviour. For terrorists, their behaviour is maintained by its consequences - especially by publicity. Thus the US should do everything needed to interrupt terrorist behaviour and ignore the supposed preconditions and justifying explanations. Many justifications are offered - which are likely to be only rationalisations.  But these should not receive attention until the behaviour is stopped. Terrorists should be treated as soldiers involved in a war of their own devising, rather than as individual criminals. To reduce terrorist behaviour requires laws that temporarily reduce civil liberties. Successful attacks are the major cause of future attacks - and must be halted. If this is done, support will emerge in the oppressed Muslim world. Freedom can be welcomed when the majority can speak openly. The above ideas fit with the idea of a just war. Force and destruction are not enough - and eventually it will be necessary to develop understanding of adversaries concerns. And historically the US has helped rebuild where it has conquered - but only after the war is won. The aim, as Churchill argued, needs to be victory (McHugh P. 'Force alone can foil fanatics',  Australian,  16/1/02)

Those who lack the ability to imagine disasters are liable to be surprised by them - and such a lack of imagination was the reason that the events of September 11 caused surprise. This particular world view had been characteristic of US left-liberals, but they had been joined by optimistic conservatives. The view that these events marked the start of a new era is invalid - and reflects an ignorance of history. They happened in the lifetime of people who experienced the Somme and the holocaust. Reasons to expect terrorism to increase included: the ending of the disciples imposed by cold war; erosion of the power of nation states by transnational forces; freer movement of people; and globalization (which resulted in fear and resentment of Westernization of the world).  What happened in September 11 was that assumptions about the world by Western elites were shown to be false ie (a) that world was moving to benign market-drive interdependence (b) a triumph for liberal democracy and (c) an ending of traditional power politics because enmity between peoples reflected only misunderstanding and ignorance rather than real conflicts of interests - and that these can be removed by education and closer contact in a multi-cultural world. These ideas can be called Wilsonianism (after the US President who first espoused them). However in the 18th century Rousseau noted that in Europe the conflicts that arise from contacts amongst countries become worse the more closely they interact. The Wilsonian assumptions are not useful for the future. Conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians are not due to a failure of understanding. 'Soft power' was not adequate for dealing with bin Laden and the Taliban - in fact it created them. (Harries O. 'The day the earth didn't change forever', Australian,  15/5/02)]]

D. There is also debate about the relevance of economic development in the fight against terrorism:

  • World Economic Forum delegates argued that the US should lead in the fight against poverty - because poverty and terrorism are twins (Collins L. 'US urged to take up the fight on poverty',  Financial Review, 2-3/2/01). However others believed that:
  • US emphasis on reducing poverty (on the grounds that it was the breeding ground for terrorism) was seen as not dealing with the problem - because those who have become terrorists were neither poor nor un-educated. Thus economic policies would not have stopped them (Collins L. 'US shocked by tough talking',  Financial Review,  4/2/02)
  • Malaysia's Prime Minister sought to persuade the organization of Islamic Countries to define 'terrorism' as acts which which were unacceptable no matter how noble the cause (eg attacks on civilian populations). This was not accepted. At the heart of terrorism is not social disadvantage - but cultural calumny. All encompassing social programming in some countries the door to large scale anti-Semitism which is even revisiting 1930s Nazi propaganda (Callick R. 'Pervasive propaganda of hate ignites terrorist acts', Financial Review,   6-7/4/02)
  • Peace could be promoted in the middle east through economic development. Business people could lead politics. Report by US based Council on Foreign Relations Harnessing Trade for Development and Growth in the Middle East drew connection between terrorism and the misery of economic backwardness and stagnation. It suggested: liberalizing trade; encouraging private investment; improving government administration and public services. It suggested using WTO and trade agreements as instruments of domestic reform. Eleven initiatives were suggested - with three related to natural resources, and others linked to exports and tourism. Research in conjunction with Israel was suggested. Capital needs to be attracted to exploit the region's petrochemical potential. Middle Eastern oil and gas exporters could benefit from links to Central Asia and world markets. Commercial interaction with the world would expand horizons and encourage tolerance (Abboud A and Manow N 'Peace lies in prosperity', FR, 11/9/02)

  • While no simple causal relationship can be identified between poverty and terrorism, there is no doubt that the struggle for survival in parts of Africa, the Middle East, the subcontinent and SE Asia and inequality breeds desperation and resentment. About 1.2bn people live in absolute poverty. The use of force in a world unjustly divided between the haves and the have-nots is not safe for anyone. One measure of response to poverty is the level of overseas aid - which is below levels recommended thirty years ago. Poverty is both a cause of and contributor to the ecological crisis. This is why Australia's intransigence over Kyoto protocol was disappointing. The global cost would be unbearable if equality were achieved by expanding our consumption habits. 2001 UN Human Development Report pointed out that economic growth does not automatically go to the poorest countries. To move to a world of lower poverty (and more peace) requires that countries like Australia must bear the cost. This raises issues about social justice domestically. Increasing crime in our suburbs (a petty form of terrorism) may be a symptom of the breakdown of egalitarianism. The poor may always be with us, but what it means to be poor depend on what type of 'us' they are with (Preston N., 'Poverty a breeding ground for unrest', CM, 19/10/02)

  • US Treasury secretary (touring countries with problems of poverty and terrorism (ie Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) identified issues of acute poverty and large populations. He suggested that bribery and corruption were seen as frightening away investment. Self reliance rather than aid were what was needed. World problems can't be solved by charity. The fact that people are poor doesn't make them terrorists. Challenge is to deal with both of these issues (and many others) (Someville G 'More than poverty behind terrorism', FR, 26/11/02)

  • The Western response must include measures to overcome poverty, improve education and create hope of better life - which requires more intelligent and subtle relationships between Christian and Muslim church leaders (Rolls J., letter to editor, A, 28-29/12/02).

  • inequalities in international terms of trade may be a greater barrier to interdependent and integrated world than third world tyrants and WMD [1].

  • dealing with the 'underlying causes' of terrorism would not be enough to discourage bin Laden's organization because because its motivations are religious rather than primarily political [1]

The author's view of a possible relationship between Islam and terrorism is presented in Speculation about Extremist's Manifestos.

A complicating factor is that a Muslim leader has used the 'clash of civilizations' theme as a way to inspire those societies to overcome their economic weaknesses and build their own weapons capabilities [1] - on the assumption that past weaknesses are due to oppression rather than to cultural and institutional factors.

Another complicating factor (which has largely been ignored in responding to attacks against the West) is that these need to be seen in the context of decades of attacks by Islamist extremists against (Christian) non-conformists within their own countries [1].

Problems in creating viable governments

Second terrorist centres in Afghanistan were targeted. However military action in Afghanistan is like a dog chasing a car. What is the dog to do with the car if it catches it? Afghanistan has no obvious viable government. Military success will merely shift the centre for terrorist operations elsewhere and highlight the problem of 'failed states'

  • The problem is not just to get the Afghan people to agree on a government, rather it is the failure of the entire machinery required for a state (Hordern N. 'Why Afghanistan could be ungovernable', Financial Review, 13-14/10/01)
  • the Taliban, who appear to provide support for the terrorists, appear to have been installed (apparently with Pakistan's support) to enforce strict Islamic law  because everything else had failed; 
  • "Only one thing seems certain about life in post-war Afghanistan - the country will still be ruled by a gang of ruthless, drug-pushing warlords who like public executions". 90% of Afghan people are opposed to the Taliban, but about the same percentage would fear the Northern Alliance who are most likely to gain power if the Taliban is displaced (Almond M. 'Life after the Taliban', Sunday Mail,   14/10/01)
  • Failed states that breed terrorism and violence are the 21st century version of the domino theory. Given globalization it is no longer possible to ignore misgoverned parts of the world. Reconstruction in Afghanistan requires (a) insisting on involvement of all ethnic groups - though through local solutions for doing so (b) maintaining the global coalition (c) US leadership and (d) finding the resources needed for 5-10 years of construction (Taylor L. 'Straw warns of domino theory chaos', Financial Review, 24/10/01 - quoting a UK political leader) [[ However, reconstruction is not just a matter of spending money - but rather of building individual and organizational ethics and competence in civil services and civil society. AND it seems very likely that that the Taliban (which means students) was such an attempt by supporters in Pakistan to develop state institutions where these had failed and Afghanistan had nothing but a set of rival warlords]]
  • The UN's moribund efforts to establish a broad based multi-ethnic government for Afghanistan were overtaken by events when the fall of the Afghan capital to the North Alliance opened the way for deep seated rivalries to emerge. The UN's efforts to establish such an administration are in disarray. There is no quick solution to satisfy the competing interests of the Pashtuns who dominate the south, and the Northern Alliance of ethnic Taijiks, Uzbeks and Hazaara. Kabul could fall victim to similar ethnic cleansing that cost 50,000 lives when the Northern Alliance last held power. Pakistan has most to lose from the retreat of the Pashtun dominated Taliban.  Without a political solution the Northern Alliance, a group of competing warlords, could unravel as each seeks a slice of the pie. Afghan's basic problem is that it is a tribal society - with no national identity. Loyalty does not go beyond the tribe - and that isn't going to be changed by holding a few meetings (MacKinnon I. 'Fall of Kabul leaves nation ripe for unrest', Australian, 14/11/01)
  • Afghanistan is a scattering of tribes rather than a nation in any meaningful sense. A central government is unlikely to survive. A loose federation is most likely to emerge - and will have to be secular given the deep religious differences that exist amongst the various peoples.  Freedom for individuals would need to be the basis for such a government (noting the prosperity which followed when this principle was adopted in other post-war societies). Yet plans for new government are being laid for short term convenience without any consideration of what is required for a viable state (Hughes H. 'The battle against tribalism', Australian,  15/11/01) [ CPDS Comment: undoubtedly principles are required for developing a viable state, but the assumption that principles that work in societies with the attitudes and traditions of Western societies is not necessarily correct]] 
  • The US believes (based on the Vietnam experience) that it should only fight with numerous allies in a grand coalition. However after achieving military gains in Afghanistan it is moving to a political effort though  its past experience is that attempting 'nation building' in the context of a war can be catastrophic - eg in Vietnam efforts to create a democratic structure encountered endemic corruption related to Confucian and French Colonial rule (Elegant R. 'US hobbled by its past', Australian,  20/11/01)
  • There are many civilizations pressing on Afghanistan and three main factions - the modernizers, the warlords and the Islamists (Lloyd J 'Caught in the crush of civilizations', FR, 13/9/02)

  • Unless the international military presence in Afghanistan is bolstered there is a risk that Taiban and Al Qaeda could regain their base there - according to a German observer (Hordern N 'Afghanistan the key to war on terror', FR, 22/10/02)

However Afghanistan has very substantial mineral wealth (copper, natural gas, coal and gemstones) that could provide the basis for rebuilding when order is restored ('beneath Afghan feet a world of riches',  Australian,  21/12/01) [Comment: natural resource wealth tends to translate into profits for outsiders, rather than providing a basis for domestic development]

Furthermore illegal drug production appears to be a major factor in the Afghanistan equation.

Helen Hughes has suggested that lasting peace in Afghanistan is only possible by international legalization of hard drugs. Heroin financed the fight against the Russians in the 1980s. Now with the Taliban close to defeat, it is expected that Afghan farmers will return to their most profitable crop (though the Taliban's ban on opium had been selective). 60% of Afghanistan's opium production over the past 4 years may have been stored, not sold. Every UK heroin seizure over the past 2 years has come from Afghanistan. Afghanistan has dominated world heroin production since 1999.  As long ago as 1994 drugs had become the chief means of financing terrorism. Afghanistan's heroin production has been funding al Qaeda. (Charlton P 'Chance to nip terrorism in the bud',  Courier Mail,  1/12/01)

Problems in containment

Third, while the US will undoubtedly seek to legitimize any response by seeking the endorsement of the whole international community (and of members of the Organization of Islamic Countries), and narrow the group against whom a response is directed, this may not be easily achievable.

There seems little doubt that the terrorists are trying (as Huntington suggested) to precipitate a broad conflict - a 'clash of civilizations'.

 For example, it has been suggested that:
  • the US has superior weapons - but does it has superior propaganda? Bin Laden's first reaction to the US action in Afghanistan did not admit, but seemed to assume, his responsibility for the attacks in America. He: invoked God; proclaimed a jihad; and claimed a clash of civilizations. Every Muslim was asked to rise up and defend the religion - and drive the US from the Middle East and the Gulf. He envisages the overthrow of Muslim Governments and the geo-political eclipse of the West. The stakes for the US are high: its values; its military and political position in the Middle East. (Kelly P. 'Fight for a way of life', Weekend Australian, 13-14/10/01)
  • plans are expected to include triggering an Islamic fundamentalist backlash which could result in (a) a takeover of Pakistan (which has 30 tactical nuclear weapons) by radical generals - who are believed to already provide support with weapons and intelligence and (b) a fracturing of the Saudi royal family in a civil war ('Bin Laden targets N-bombs, oil', Australian, 8/10/01)
  • three risks of escalation can be identified (a) displacement of Arafat's influence in Palestine which would allow Israel to claim that Palestine was under terrorist control and attack it with US support (b) US withdrawal from Anti-ballistic missile treaty - to allow it to increase its anti-missile shield (which will not improve real security); a new attack against Iraq - in which there would be no equivalent of the Northern Alliance to carry the burden of the ground conflict - and (if successful) would merely increase Iran's influence (Barker G. 'new threats raise stakes', Financial Review, 17/12/01)
  • Anti-US sentiment is increasing in the Middle East because (a) US campaign against terror has been portrayed as a conflict between Islam and the West and (b) the US is seen as too biased towards Israel which is in unequal conflict with Arabs (Walker T. 'Seeing is believing',  Financial Review,  31/1/02) 

The terrorists appear to represent political movements with support from minorities in various countries - who have seen Islam as a system of political economy (as well as a religion) that could reduce the political social and economic difficulties which their countries face, and some of whom see 'jihad' as a relevant option - directed both against their own (often authoritarian and corrupt) governments so as to introduce Islamic states and against the US as the superpower which has supported the global 'system' in which their governments have operated ('Looking for Answers', SBS, 23/10/01).  And ....

  • moral support reportedly comes not just from extremists - but from mainstream society who are frustrated by what they see as (a) the double standards of talk about self determination and democratization - while sanctions on Iraq hurt the population (b) the failure to control nuclear weapons development in Israel and India (c) US military presence in the Gulf which is seen to risk neo-colonialism and (d) support for authoritarian Arab regimes. There is now an Arab / Muslim media network independently presenting reports on the effect of military action (Sposito J. 'Why many Muslims hate America', Financial Review, 15/10/01);
  • An overwhelming majority of Muslims said that they did not believe that Arabs carried out the September 11 attacks on the US and disapprove of US led military campaigns in Afghanistan. (' Poll shows Muslims distrust arrogant US ',  Courier Mail ,  28/2/02)
  • Since Sept 11 2000, the Middle East has lived up to its reputation for resisting change - and sinks deeper into the problems that have plagued it for decades. All Arab rulers remain solidly in control - despite forecasts that pro-US regimes would be swept away by radical extremists. And hoped for democratic reforms have been in vain. But 300m people in the region are now more united in hating America. The region is now more unstable, tense and heading for war. The region is seen as likely to come under outside domination. The Bush administration says it is concerned about Iraq's nuclear weapons - but opinion makers suspect that the goal is to reshape the region's entire political landscape. This neo-colonial threat is rallying even dissidents behind their governments. Domestic dictatorship is preferred to imported reform (Trofimov Y. 'Hating US is a great unifier', AFR, 12/9/02)

  • Pro-Taliban candidates (from MMA) have made significant gains in elections in Pakistan - and may have gained power in two provinces on venomously anti-US and anti-Musharraff platforms. The US sees this process positively in terms of restoring the process of democracy in Pakistan. Pakistan's president had tried to fix the election by banning his main rivals and requiring  candidates to have university qualifications. MMA candidates all had degrees in religious studies (Moreau R and Hussain Z 'A big vote for Jihad', Newsweek,  22/10/02) [CPDS Comment: Political legitimacy for Islamists is likely to be useful. It will make potential supporters aware of the limited practical relevance of extremists' manifestos]

  • The leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan operates from Pakistan - and speaks of victory if only one Muslim is left alive, and the need to destroy America. The Bali bombing show that nowhere is now safe. British diplomats identified many potential flashpoints - and criticized the US President for focusing on one country (Iraq) which had not been conclusively proven to be involved) - and while non-government terrorist groups are the real threat. The US are seen as way behind in gathering intelligence. Saudi Arabia is of special concern. The royal family is corrupt and has mismanaged the economy - but any change of power will increase the position of fundamentalist Wahhabis. Yemen was the site of recent attack on French oil tanker - and was a haven for Muslim volunteers fighting against Soviets in Kabul. Yemen is a failed state - like Somalia and Sudan. The most immediate threat of terrorist strike on Europe comes from Maghreb. The French are concerned about the popularity of fundamentalists in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. The are furious with British for not cracking down on Islamic clerics from Algeria who operate from Finsbury Park in North London (Londonstan). Moroccan elections were seen as example of functioning democracy - with moderate Islamic party becoming third strongest. But Morocco has been forward station for Al Qaeda. Western governments are relying on dictatorships or autocracies to clamp down on terrorist cells. They have to ignore human rights abuses to keep fundamentalists at bay. The central Asian republics (long ignored) are now seen as military forward post in struggle against Al Qaeda. But presence of US forces plays into the hands of fundamentalist who want to replace secular governments. Leader of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan models himself on bin Laden. Governments across the world are doing whatever it takes to keep a lid on Islamists. British diplomats were most concerned about Turkey - which has been staunch ally of west against Iraq - and has the prospect of Islamic party gaining power in November. Turkey's corrupt secular elite has imploded. Its economy shrank, and IMF had to provide a loan. Even before Bali bombing, SE Asia was second front in war against terror - with Jemaah Islamiyah as main concern. Peaceful growth of Islamic fundamentalism continues in Malaysia - with one province now run by Islamist party - which is cooperating with national government of Mahathir. Mahathir has warned America against seeking military solutions to problems of terrorism - and suggested the needs to eliminate causes (even if silly and unreasonable) if going to win hearts and minds of sympathizers. The problem is that Bush's advisers have not considered causes - because most of 911 attackers came from wealthy families they have ignored the link between terrorism and poverty - seeing Islamic fundamentalism as the sole enemy. But what if they are wrong? They may have to fight on more than two fronts (Kampfer John (editor New Statesman), 'The threat of war on a hundred fronts', FR, 25/10/02)

That political support impedes military action, eg:

  • there is widespread discontent in Pakistan about US use of that country as a base for attacking terrorist positions in Afghanistan (Cheesman B. 'Pakistan dumps US war script', Financial Review, 17/10/01);
  • Indonesia (which has the world's largest Muslim population - and numerous organizations with links to extremists - see Islamism extremism in SE Asia ) faces extreme difficulty in expressing support for US efforts to attack terrorist bases in Afghanistan (eg Fealey G. 'Megawati tiptoes Muslim minefield', Financial Review,  13-14/10/01);
  • the US appears well aware of the risks involved (Hartcher P. 'Attacks on Taliban risks spreading radical Islamism', Financial Review,  12/10/01)

Various observers have identified the possibility of related conflicts, such as:

  • Pakistan (which has numbers of nuclear weapons) and where populations in the north are dominantly Pathans - the same ethic group as supports the Taliban;
  • Saudi Arabia (with huge oil reserves) - from which significant segments of bin Laden's organization appear to be drawn, and to operate; and where the Saud royal family (with which bin Laden has feuded, appears unstable (see Wahhabi and Saudi Arabia )
  • Iran;
  • between Israel and Palestinian communities.

The US's response to the situation may be too heavy handed, and erode (for short term security, military or economic gains) the advantage of the 'high moral ground' which it was given (as outlined in Section 6 of Attacking the Global Financial System). For example:

  • a case can be made that Iraq has been the victim of its treatment by the US and the West. US policy has achieved the unimaginable of uniting Iraqis and convincing them that their only hope lies in Islam (Roberts P 'Day of reckoning awaits US policy on Iraq',  FR,  2/8/02)
  • The US accepts no limits on its power or restraint on how to use it. It will act without a UN mandate or the blessing of its allies. A US attack may or may not be related to terrorism. Bush's administration is putting more emphasis on war than on peace. There is a fire in the Middle East (Palestine and Israel) yet rather than putting it out, the US wants to start another one (Iraq). There is a theory about US benevolent hegemony. Allies are to be led not consulted. This is based on the ideal of US exceptionalism - it is not bound by the rules governing others because its policies are rooted in a love of liberty - and are uniquely altruistic. By asserting itself it is asserting the universal values of freedom, democracy and capitalism. The more aggressive Bush is, the more popular support he gains (Hartcher P. 'Bellicose Bush, unlimited, unrestrained, Financial Review , 16-17/3/02)  [ Comment: if accurate, this account suggests that the US administration is either (a) competing with Islamist extremists for the Hitler prize for totalitarian ideology or (b) cleverly putting on a show of lunacy to force its allies to take some responsibility and initiative]
  • After September 11 it was believed that the US would embrace a new multilateralism in its approach on war against terrorism. It did so for some time, but there are increasing concerns about unilateralism (Taylor L. 'Relationships feel the strain', Financial Review,  11/3/02)
  • US comments about an axis of evil led to a conference between EU and Islamic countries to build understanding and avoid a real 'clash of civilisations'. The harmonious relationship between the US and EU over terrorism is being lost (Taylor L. 'Bush rhetoric fuels a clash of comrades',  Financial Review,  14/2/02)
  • The US's 'axis of evil' declaration fell short of a declaration of war. Though some are seeking campaigns based on success in Afghanistan, in other countries there are no comparable opposition forces capable of winning on the ground if supported by US bombing. Also action against either Iran or Iraq would increase the regional influence of the other - while North Korea is capable of destroying South Korea's capital. While the speech was thus just a warning, the US is in danger of over-reach if it is not able to carry forwards its pledge to disarm them. The US must hold together its coalition against terrorism. Its demands about human values (rule of law, private property, free speech, equal justice and religious tolerance) challenge many of its current allies (Dibb P. 'If US isn't careful, it may have to fight alone',  Australian,  11/2/02)President Bush's approach to terrorism is deliberately unilateralist - which reflects a dramatic shift from the past. The US won the cold war by acting as the leader of a global coalition (Hartcher P. 'You'll do it my way',  Financial Review,  9-10/2/02)
  • France has labeled US President Bush's 'Axis of Evil' unilateralism as simplistic (Wilson B. 'US faces revolt on evil axis',  Courier Mail,  9/2/02)
  • Criticism of the US at the 2002 World Economic Forum was particularly severe. Concerns included: (a) virtual declaration of war against Iraq, Iran and North Korea (b) US protectionist policies that disadvantage developing nations (Collins L. 'US shocked by tough talking',  Financial Review,  4/2/02)
  • Comments about 'axis of evil' by US President Bush seem to be excessive - and few US allies are keen on this. This is at odds with the measured and disciplined US responses so far in the war against terrorism (Barker G. 'Bush is not beating around',  Financial Review,  4/2/02)
  • US had the opportunity after September attacks of reviving its political ideals - but those opportunities may be being lost - as civil liberties are being eroded in the war against terror. (Lapham L. 'Who's really winning in America's jihad?', Financial Review , 4/1/02)
  • The US should take note of the experience of the UK which was the only hegemon to stir up no resistance against itself by great discrimination in the use of power (Harries O. ' Anglosphere Illusion ', National Interest , Spring 2001)
  • The US president seems to think that he is on a mission from God - and no one has the courage to disagree. This could see a return to the Cold War mentality where no one wants to be seen to be soft. The US also talks as if it was the moral leader of the world. (MOran J. 'Crusade strikes a tone too simplistic',  Australian,  26/9/01)

However there is an alternate view that others may be under-estimating the seriousness of the threat from terrorists:

  • though the US has never been so powerful, it finds that its enemies are increasing. The US's problem is how to relate to the world. The Bush declaration is about pre-emptive military action to destroy enemies before they can destroy Americans. The US feels moral outrage, and concerns about nuclear and biological threats (especially those held by Saddam Hussein). The US is consumed by the war against terrorism, and believes that it has only just begun. It wants allies, but is prepared to act alone. A Harvard academic argues that US desire to go it alone won't work. There is a strong tide of anti-Americanism in the world. However US analysts believe that by 2010 they could be subjected to attacks on cities leaving hundreds of thousands dead. However nominating enemies in advance makes negotiated solutions impossible. Terrorists attacked many different peoples - narrowing the response to the US alone plays into the terrorists hands (Kelly P. 'Strength and peril, Australian,  16-17/2/02)
  • Bush's State of the Union ('Axis of Evil') message has been interpreted as either a message for domestic political consumption or simplistic. However the US has since sought to reinforce the view that the US might not be the only target, and that the threat of weapons of mass destruction need to be taken seriously (Hartley J. 'price of progress',  Courier Mail,  16/2/02)
  • Bush's 'axis of evil' speech is intended to change the US's (Cold War) strategic doctrine of deterrence to one of pre-emption - because deterrence doesn't work against terrorists. The problem arises from (a) the increasing availability of weapons of mass destruction and (b) the increasing organization of terrorists (Sheridan G. 'No escape this time for Washington's worst foes',  Australian,  7/2/02

There are some parallels (and some differences) between the agendas of the terrorist's and anti-globalization protestors. 

  • Anti-globalization protestors and terrorists have a common agenda. Bin Laden has broader appeal than a narrow political agenda. This involves seeking to defend Islam as a religion and as a culture against globalization. Islamist extremists are frustrated by their inability to control the juggernaut of commercial modernity. In Pakistan Madonna and Michael Jackson were labelled cultural terrorists - and it was suggested that they be brought to Pakistan for trial. Anti-globalization protestors and terrorists both have utopian agendas, seek universal appeal and claim to represent the disenfranchised - though their methods are different (Hartcher P. 'America's other war', Financial Review, 10-11/11/01)
  • A set of shared values (freedom, democracy and security) are required for globalisation. Given the small number of nations supporting this, and the percentage of their populations with doubts, progress was surprising. But the attack on America could prove a limit. The question is: will the US increase its international presence or pull back. It has a history of isolationism. However the future also depends on how the attack is seen - eg as due to US support for Israel, or as part of Huntington's 'Clash of Civilisations' theory. One view is that many Muslims hate / envy the West's freedom openness and creativity. Envy of creative capitalism provoked all the horrors of the 20th century (eg the Holocaust, the liquidation of the Russian Kulaks; the massacre of Ibos in Nigeria; Indians in Uganda and Chinese in Indonesia). A Terrible Beauty (Peter Watson) described the emergence of ideas in the 20th century - which suggested that the traditional drivers of history (great people) are being superseded by science. For science to work, societies must be open to change. Science doesn't offer generalist solutions - but pragmatic specific solutions for individuals. This leaves much of the human race out.   Arab nations, Indians, Africans and South Americans are held back by religions that doesn't allow them to pursue science. If the attack on America is due to a set of fanatics, then the problem can be solved - but if it has deeper causes, the future is less certain. While some see that globalisation has brought horrors to the third world, this would be nothing to the horrors that would be suffered if the West withdrew behind its borders (Duffy M. 'Fundamental clash may bring uncertain future',  Courier Mail,  18/9/01)

Political opposition within the global coalition also exists:

  • disagreement is reported in the UK over whether the US or the UN should control operations against Afghanistan (Taylor L 'Cracks appear in support for US', Financial Review, 25/10/01) 

Despite these difficulties, it can be noted that:

  • the Islamist extremists often face widespread opposition in their own countries to their agendas, and attempts to gain power (Maher M. 'Fundamentalists wake', Bulletin, 9/11/01);
  • Turkey's Islamist-based Justice and Development Party has won an overwhelming election victory - which has caused NATO allies and EU to fear fresh turmoil. However it has pledged a pro-western line and free market policies. Some are skeptical that the party has forsaken its Islamist roots to maintain Turkey's secular constitution. (Taylor L. 'Islamists seize power in Turkey', FR, 5/11/02)

Furthermore the Islamist political movements may (as suggested in Competing Civilizations) not really have proposals to improve their countries' positions - though this itself is part of the problem. The people involved may have no hope of (say) economic success until they learn more - and it is hard to calmly educate people who imagine that there is something to be gained by killing 'infidels'.  The time when that could have been done safely was 20-30 years ago.

Global dislocation

Fourth in the event of that conflict can not be localized and contained, dislocation of the world financial and trading systems would seem highly likely - leading to economic depression and further potential conflict. Parallels can be drawn with the failure of globalization at the end of the 19th century [1].

Moreover it may be that a free global market economy may not be able to survive the re-assertion of state power that is occurring to combat terrorism (Grey J. 'The decay of market power',  Financial Review,  10/5/02)

In the latter case it may be that the US could break down the global economic order based on democratic capitalism that had been emerging in the 1990s - and thus ironically give 'victory' to its enemies through its actions rather than theirs.

Inadequate global institutions

Fifth no effective means for global governance exists.

  • multilateral agreements tend to be more oriented to gaining political acceptance, than to achieving effective practical outcomes (as illustrated by the Kyoto protocol for example); 
  • radically polarized positions which prevent effective discussions or communications appear to be emerging in some global forums;
  • the US has a tendency to isolationism - ie to disengage from problems elsewhere and has thus been self-absorbed and unaware and used its power primarily in its own interests. For example, key post-war global financial institutions (ie IMF and World Bank) tend to have been run primarily for the benefit of US interests - rather than considering others' goals; 
  • the fundamentally different expectations of various civilizations about the nature of government make it difficult (impossible) at present to devise a system of global governance which all could support (eg some might favour democracy; others rule by Confucian elites; others a religious state). 
Neglect of environment

Finally environmental limits to population and economic growth appear to be being exceeded - locally in some regions and globally for some environmental systems. It is likely that styles of thinking that permitted modern humans to achieve material progress (most particularly the rapid scientific, technological and industrial progress of the past two centuries) have contributed to some 'blindness' to such problems - as they have done for tens of thousands of years. However these constraints are increasingly likely to dislocate human activities in future, and managing them to be the key factor of the future success or failure of societies in coming decades (which is unlikely if the world is being run by megalomaniacs).