Re: Atlantic: "Coming to Grips with Jihad"

Date: Fri Sep 14 2001 - 11:10:33 MDT

Charlie Stross writes:
> Needed: a new age of enlightenment

This is a great essay, the best thing I've read since the attack.

There are a couple of things I would disagree with; most importantly,
the assumption that we are going to win this war, that we will subdue
those countries that are supporting terrorism. I don't know that we
have the will or, frankly, the ability to do so.

But let's suppose we do. Then the real lesson of Charlie's essay is,
what next? We're running Afghanistan and some of the other countries.
What do we do with them?

Here I think we have to look back at history. Charlie points to the
example of Japan. We were able to take a country with no significant
history of democracy, with rule by a religiously oriented militaristic
faction, with religiously guided hatred of the West, and turn it into
a successful democracy. We were able to do the same thing in Germany
and Italy and other Axis countries of Europe.

I'd like to see more analysis of how we succeeded in these countries,
with some discussion of whether the same principles might be applied in
the Arab nations.

One other point that I think some people are missing. A lot of people,
myself included, are worried that we are merely going to escalate the
cycle of violence. We have been hurt much worse than ever before;
now we are going to hurt back, but the response may be even more deadly
attacks against us.

On reflection, I'm not so sure this is the likeliest outcome.
Human nature is flexible. Historically, movements and parties which
get squashed by larger forces tend to die. Islamic fanatics may have
more difficulty recruiting members when they see the U.S. destroying the
institutions used by the revolutionaries. People turn away from losers.

A recent historical example is Khadafi of Libya. At one time he was
highly respected in the Arab world, attracting men and money. The US
killed some of his family, nearly killed him, and destroyed much of
his equipment. He lost credibility and hasn't been a threat since.

Saddam Hussein represents an example of a different sort. He was left
standing after the gulf war and was able to cast that as a victory
of sorts. This has allowed him to retain some strength as a leader,
although the constant battering of American bombs has held him back.

So if the US can deal a significant blow to the terrorist organizations in
the Arab world (still IMO a very big "if"), I think it is very possible
that they will not be able to muster an effective counter response.
Rather than entering into a cycle of violence, we may be able to put an
end to the violence as we did with Japan and Germany.

If we can transform the most violent and repressive Arab countries into
democracies along the lines Charlie suggests, it would be a tremendous
gift to the future. Surely it will be an overwhelmingly difficult job.
And my guess is that there will be many setbacks along the way. But
it is a vision which offers hope.


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