Jewish World Review May 14, 2003 / 12 Iyar, 5763

Jim Hoagland

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Globalization's evil offspring | We know this much about the holy warriors of al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups:

They kill Americans and others when Israel makes serious efforts to reach a just peace with the Palestinians, and when Israel makes no such efforts. They kill Americans and others when Washington stations troops in Saudi Arabia, and when it begins to withdraw them. They kill Americans and others when Bill Clinton leans over backward to avoid confronting Saddam Hussein, and when George W. Bush deposes the Iraqi dictator.

They kill Americans and others whenever they can.

That makes no sense in the rational, secular political universe that Western nations and much of the developing world have jointly constructed out of centuries of nation-building, decolonization and free global trade. So we reach out for explanations that would bring the killers and their motives back into our comprehension.

Road maps for Middle East peace are drawn up on the implicit assumption that rewarding Palestinian nationalism with a state will quell the holy bombers and their allies. The Bush administration will now face accusations that its campaign in Iraq triggered the horrendous carnage in Saudi Arabia on Monday night, which it will be claimed might have been otherwise avoided.

But such judgments defy logic and miss the bombers' point. Their target is the entire rational, secular political universe that we instinctively -- and mistakenly -- turn to for explanations of their behavior and our response. They attack not to create another Arab state but to turn the existing ones into a single fanatical theocracy that will eventually extend its control over other civilizations. However mad, their intention is clear.

They are the forces of counter-globalization. Trade and technology obliterate national boundaries for huge corporations and the American system of free-market economics. These horror attacks are supposed to do the same for the bombers' perverted brand of Islam. Assuming that al Qaeda and company can be countered with negotiating or military strategies and tactics that were used against nationalist-based insurgencies is misguided and dangerous.

These terrorists must be recognized and treated as globalization's evil offspring, who are intent on destruction, not change. They take advantage of the increased killing power that technology allows them to pack into a car or a boat. And they manipulate religion to form a ready supply of deluded individuals who volunteer for "martyrdom." No less guilty are those who then praise wanton destruction as justice.

In today's Iraq, the weakness of nationalism has been the constant surprise both of war and postwar. Iraqis did not fight for the dictatorship or to defend their cities. Nor did the Arab "street" explode in fury. Even the initial wave of anti-American demonstrations in the Shiite cities of the south appears to have subsided.

And now, to its distress, the Bush administration finds that large numbers of Iraqis have been more interested in looting, revenge and religious exhortation than in getting their country back on its feet through their own civic efforts. The administration's extensive prewar planning has proved to be woefully inadequate in the complex postwar reality.

The decades-long nightmare of dictatorship, constant war and poverty that Iraq endured helped create such passivity and venality. But the administration's original team was slow to recognize the need for a bold and authoritative break with the region's past. It even sought to build on the defunct Baathist regime, which had long since been overtaken by events when it fell.

For three decades the United States has stumbled ever deeper into an overlapping series of religious and political civil wars centered in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia without coming to terms with the nature of America's deepening involvement there.

Americans tend to underestimate or minimize the force of religion in politics at home and abroad. But fanatics within both the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam struggle against each other and against the world at large and use the United States as an easy global symbol.

Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saudi bases makes sense now. These steps should be taken because they are right, not out of any misplaced hope that they will appease the bombers. They won't, any more than leaving Hussein in place would have. The holy warriors still would have struck when the opportunity arose.

They leave Americans with no choice but to be ever more vigilant about safety -- and to track, confront and neutralize the fanatics wherever possible. Survival is now a step-by-step matter.

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05/12/03: No time for mixed messages
05/05/03: The case for patience on North Korea
04/30/03: Eroding Principles
04/28/03: Wars tailor made
04/25/03: De-Baathification, root and branch
04/21/03: Victims of civic passivity
04/14/03: Three miscreants
04/11/03: Saddam's final mistake

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