Islamism and terrorism

by John Quiggin on September 7, 2004

I posted this piece on my own blog this morning, in response to some challenges to set out my own views on the relationship between radical Islamism and terrorism, but was in two minds about putting it up on CT, since I didn’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said better by others. But it now appears that such diffidence is interpreted as adherence to a

Crooked Timber thesis”, according to which the truth of statements about a group or a set of beliefs ought to be weighed against the perlocutionary effect of uttering such statements on the group or the holders of the beliefs in question.
This is all a bit highbrow for me, but I assume it means not talking about Islamism for fear of inciting anti-Islamic feeling. So, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.

I’ll begin with the observation that most discussion of this issue is worse than useless.

First, there are a lot of people who start with the observation (more or less accurate) that, as of today, Muslims are the main religious group involved to a substantial degree in terrorism, then go on to explain this in terms of observations about Islam going back to the 7th century, to show that Islam is uniquely prone to violence. This is silly. The dominance of Islamism as a source of terrorism is a recent and probably temporary phenomenon, so any explanation that relies on characteristics of Islam has to invoke some recent change in the character of Islam.

On the other side of the coin, there have been fairly recent terrorist outrages involving most of the major religions (for this purpose, I’ll count nationalism and revolutionary Marxism as religions, since they share most of the relevant characteristics). To give a partial list suitable for Googling, there’s Omagh, Oklahoma City, Baruch Goldstein, Colombo (many times), Gandhi assassination (twice), Bogota, Vukovar and so on. You only have to go back sixty years to the Holocaust, which was largely (though not wholly) the product of Christian anti-semitism. Of course, most of these involved national disputes as well, but the same is true of most of the violent conflicts currently involving Muslims.

My short view is that most Muslim terrorism is explicable in the same general terms as I’ve used previously, and involves national disputes with religion as an added source of hatred and motivation to sacrifice. If the national disputes were resolved, terrorism would, in most cases, die away (though it’s much easier to release this genie than to put it back in the bottle – there will always be diehard rejectionists who see any compromise as betrayal). Examples include Israel-Palestine, Iraq since the war, and Kashmir.

However, both radical Islamists and their Western counterparts[1] seek to wrap these various struggles into a global clash of civilisations. Al Qaeda is the Islamist manifestation of this. Although Al Qaeda draws most of its support from the specific disputes I’ve listed above, it doesn’t have any concrete set of demands, and effectively pursues terror for its own sake[1].

In some respects, the appeal of radical Islamism is similar to that held by revolutionary Marxism, in that it purports to wrap lots of separate struggles into a single encompassing global struggle in which victory is pre-ordained.

A notable relatively new feature is the prominence of suicide bombings, and the relative ease with which volunteers can be found for this. Although it’s been most notably exploited by radical Islamists, the first group to use it on a substantial scale was, I think, the Tamil Tigers. On the other hand, despite offering substantial incentives, Saddam Hussein was only able to elicit a handful of volunteeers. I don’t have a good explanation for all this.

A couple of reactions to Islamist terror are worth pointing to. First, there is always a supply of young men (and, to a lesser extent) young women willing to attach themselves to a cause calling for fanaticism. They frequently come from fairly well-off backgrounds, haven’t experienced much direct oppression themselves, and tend to favor the most extreme possible positions.

Second, the average Muslim (and particularly the average Arab Muslim) is bound to take an ambivalent view. On the one hand, few support terrorism or want to get involved in it. On the other hand, they are hostile, with good reasons to the policies the Western Powers (including, in this context, Israel) have pursued in the Middle East for the last 100 years or so, and frustrated that the imbalance of military power is such that they can’t fight back by conventional means. So they support guerilla warfare and are naturally inclined to shade the boundaries between guerilla fighting with purely military opponents, guerilla attacks involving “collateral” civilian deaths and outright terrorism. Hence, the frequently evasive nature of responses, with indefensible terrorist attacks being implausibly claimed to be setups by Mossad or the CIA.

To see the other side of this coin, look at those who have sought to excuse brutality and murder in the “war against terrorism”, for example that committed by Yeltsin and Putin (of course, there are examples closer to home).

In terms of a response, the worst possible is the “clash of civilisations”. What’s needed is to isolate, as far as possible, the extreme Islamists committed to an endless crusade[3] against the West. There is no response to them except to kill them before they kill us and try to avoid doing anything that will help their recruiting.

Meanwhile, we should deal with the various national grievances as best we can, trying to avoid making them part of a battlefront between Islam and the West. In my view, this means, among other things, a Palestinian state with something close to the 1967 borders, elections followed by an early withdrawal from Iraq and a Kashmir settlement that hands over some majority-Muslim areas from India to Pakistan.

Of all of these, the Palestinian issue is the most important.

fn1. That is, those who see Islam as a monolithic anti-Western bloc and the fight against Al Qaeda as a struggle between Christendom and Islam.

fn2. I suppose Al Qaeda would claim that they are pursuing some objective such as new Caliphate, but the use of terror in pursuit of goals that are either unachievable or meaningless is, for practical purposes, the pursuit of terror

fn3. Of course, they would reject this term in favor of “jihad”. But except for the difference of religion, the two words are almost perfect synonyms.

{ 77 comments }

1

abb1 09.07.04 at 1:30 pm

I’ll begin with the observation that most discussion of this issue is worse than useless.

You can’t just ignore roots of a popular movement, be it radical Christian, Islamic, Zionist or Marxist movement. It’s not useless to discuss, but it sure may be uncomfortable at times.

2

dsquared 09.07.04 at 1:35 pm

I’ve never forgotten Max Sawicky’s post on Hurricane Isabel:

“I think the national security implications of this are being neglected. After all, you don’t see any Norwegians from Norwegia sending tropical storms our way. That Hugo Chavez must have something to do with this. Thank god Instapundit is safely out of harm’s way, so he can keep us informed. It can’t be a coincidence that this is happening while they are prosecuting the Islamic snipers. Yesterday there was an Islamic auto accident on Connecticut Avenue. You don’t want to hear about my Islamic hemorrhoids.”

3

Russkie 09.07.04 at 1:45 pm

Most of your post is reasonable – even if some of the points are debatable – until you try to draw practical conclusions.

Of all of these, the Palestinian issue is the most important.

It’s unfortunate that many people think this way. But much more disturbing is the fact that this incorrect belief (which is born of a desire to see a simple solution to a currently untractable problem) leads to tremendous injustice and double standards in Europe’s dealings with the Jewish state.

Your attitude commonly leads to a desire to placate (or even be “inclusive” towards) the demands and sentiments so commonly found in the Arab world – and explains why such sentiments generally receive at-best hesitant disagreement coupled with intense “understanding” from Europe. (Tangentially: those who excuse things like UN “anti-racism” meetings that condemn Jews and exclude Jewish groups as “biased” are thinking along the same lines).

Winning Arab hearts and minds in the current situation entails “rewiring” them (or the next generation). The fact that this amounts to a form of cultural imperialism makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but there are examples to indicate that accomplishing it is less difficult than some think.

4

Hektor Bim 09.07.04 at 1:54 pm

I don’t think Kashmir is comparable to Iraq or Palestine. Kashmir isn’t a broad-based liberation movement. All the major players who want to join Pakistan are entirely sectarian, and have rather efficiently ethnically cleansed Hindus and others from the Kashmir valley. A significant (majority?) number of people there want to remain either part of India or become fully independent (including those parts ruled by Pakistan), so the situation is not the same.

The rebellion in Kashmir would die down without Pakistani support, including money, armaments, and bodies to die for the cause. The easiest way to damp down that conflict would be to pressure Pakistan to end their support and for India to cease its repressive measures. Things are already trending in that direction anyway.

5

kevin donoghue 09.07.04 at 1:55 pm

“The dominance of Islamism as a source of terrorism is a recent and probably temporary phenomenon, so any explanation that relies on characteristics of Islam has to invoke some recent change in the character of Islam.”

Until a convincing explanation is actually offered it is hard to see what purpose is served by using the term “Islamism”, particularly since as you say: “both radical Islamists and their Western counterparts seek to wrap these various struggles into a global clash of civilisations.”

If it suits them to wrap their struggles like that then the interests of the rest of us are better served by unwrapping them.

6

Anna in Cairo 09.07.04 at 2:06 pm

I thought your post was very well-thought-out and agreed with the vast majority of it. I wanted to respond to a few points made by the commenters. First, I think that the idea of getting rid of anti-Jewish sentiment on the part of Arabs should be handled by “rewiring” Arabs while not solving the Arab-Israeli issue is ridiculous. Anti-Jewish sentiment as it currently exists in the Arab world is not endemic, it really started becoming serious after Israel became a state. Yes, I know about dhimmis and all that, but I am talking about the current type of feeling that Jews are an enemy, not the general ethnocentrism that has always existed in every society. As for the person who said Kashmir is not important and would fade if Pakistan would get out of the picture, I disagree with that just because I think that your average Muslim does indeed think Kashmir is an important issue. If you want to build bridges between the WEst and the Muslim world you need to deal with the issues that are important to all Muslims and Kashmir is very high on the list not just because of Pakistan’s provocations. Finally I did not understand the point of Kevin D’s comment at all. As Mr. Quiggen is using the term “islamists” he is talking about people like the Al Qaida leadership, not your average Muslim who has a lot of beefs with US foreign policy. And they define themselves by their Islam so it is hard to separate them from it although they don’t represent all other Muslims. As some extremist christians call for genocide or forced conversion and you would not be able to unwrap their fanaticism from the fact that theirs is a specifically Christian form of fanaticism.

7

dsquared 09.07.04 at 2:14 pm

To be honest, I think that we are gathering material at pace for my thesis that “Islamism”, if it ever had a meaning, has become a burden to the debate and should probably be retired.

8

Russkie 09.07.04 at 2:17 pm

First, I think that the idea of getting rid of anti-Jewish sentiment on the part of Arabs should be handled by ‘rewiring’ Arabs while not solving the Arab-Israeli issue is ridiculous.

First, “rewiring” refers to “hearts and minds”.

My point was that the “Arab-Israeli issue” can’t be solved as long as much of the Arab world views Israel as an alien entity destined for elimination. If Israel withdraws to roughly the ’67 lines, the Palestinians will focus on their still-unfulfilled demands (especially “right of return” for refugees, which is central to their notion of a “just solution”).

Europe’s government(s) (which share Mr. Quiggin’s logic) would still pressure Israel and blame it for the deadlock.

9

kevin donoghue 09.07.04 at 2:28 pm

Anna, maybe my point will make more sense to you if I put it this way: if we were discussing extremist christians calling “for genocide or forced conversion” then I would prefer not to call them “Christianists.”

I agree with John Quiggin that the challenge is to isolate the extremists. I don’t think that aim is well served by applying a label that they might well be proud to wear.

10

Ray 09.07.04 at 2:29 pm

“If Israel withdraws to roughly the ‘67 lines, the Palestinians will focus on their still-unfulfilled demands (especially “right of return” for refugees, which is central to their notion of a “just solution”). “

I think the point is that John/Europeans would argue that if Israel returns to 1967 lines _in return for_ Palestinians giving up the right of return.

11

Steve Carr 09.07.04 at 2:44 pm

There is some radical cognitive dissonance going on here. On the one hand, John is saying that there is no (and should be) no clash of civilizations between the West and Islam. On the other hand, he says that the “average Muslim” is justifiably worked up about Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq, etc. And Anna from Cairo echoes this, saying that Kashmir is “an important issue” for the “average Muslim.”

Now, notice that Anna is not saying that Kashmir is an important issue just for the average Muslim in Kashmir, or even in Pakistan. She’s saying it’s important to the average Muslim in Cairo (and in Mecca, and in Damascus, etc.). And John is saying — or at least implying, accurately — that Palestine and Iraq and Kashmir are important to average Muslims all over the place (since otherwise dealing with these issues would hardly lessen hostility to the West).

Now, all of this is accurate. But how does it make any sense unless all of these Muslims think of themselves — in an active, embodied way — as part of a global community, in which an attack on Palestinians or on Kashmiris is, in some sense, an attack on Muslims as a whole? Qaradawi and Bayyumi — who are, remember, mainstream Muslim clerics and scholars — are quite explicit about this: in a conflict between nonbelievers and Muslims, any Muslim is justified (and in some cases enjoined) to enter the struggle on the side of the Muslims, regardless of their politics, etc.

We accept this kind of rhetoric as unexceptionable because we’ve heard it for so long. But its implications are quite extraordinary. The fact that some average guy in Cairo views Indian policy toward Kashmir as personally important, or that some average guy in Jakarta is obsessed with the need for Muslims to control Jerusalem, is prima facie evidence that we are not talking about “national struggles” at all. It’s evidence that average Muslims see the world through the “clash of civilizations” framework, viewing all of these distinctive matters — Palestine, Algeria, Iraq, Kashmir — as part of a broader struggle between nonbelievers and Muslims.

That doesn’t mean that the average Muslim is Islamist — although I think there’s no doubt that tens, if not hundreds, of millions of Muslims share the basic assumptions of someone like Qaradawi — but it does mean that there are lots of potential recruits out there for Islamist ideology. And it means that the rewiring that has to go on involves not just the rejection of terrorism. It also involves the rejection of the idea that the world can, in a political sense, be divided between nonbelievers and Muslims.

12

dsquared 09.07.04 at 2:51 pm

Steve, I distinctly remember that Jacques Chirac said that September 11 was an “attack on us all”, and Le Monde’s front page read “We are all Americans”, but it didn’t translate into military action, did it?

13

abb1 09.07.04 at 2:55 pm

If Israel withdraws to roughly the ‘67 lines, the Palestinians will focus on their still-unfulfilled demands…

If it’s true, is this really a good reason to not withdraw to the ’67 lines? If I steal your car and then invade your house – should I refuse to vacate your house arguing that if I move out you’ll focus on getting your car back?

All grievances need to be addressed.

14

Tracy 09.07.04 at 2:57 pm

Why not reward oppressed groups that don’t resort to terrorism? Or at least, given what an imperfect world this is, are vastly less terrorist. Push for a homeland for the Kurds, find a region in Russia that wants to leave the state but hasn’t resorted to terrorism and support them. (Unfortunately I don’t think much can be practically done at an international legal level about Tibet and China, what with the veto in the Security Council and the nuclear weapons.)

Tell the Palestinians that, much as we sympathise with their desire for a homeland, the overall costs of appearing to reward terrorism outweigh that, and until they renounce terrorism the West cannot support a Palestine state for fear of an unending series of Beslans.

Of course, if the Palestinians, or any other group, renounces terorism (in practice as well as in English-speaking rhetoric), then for this tactic to work they’d need to be given major international support for at least some of their goals.

What worries me about John’s technique is that the countries with lots of terrorists are the ones that get the attention and are top of the list for their national greviances to be solved or removed. This strikes me as a good way of breeding terrorists in other countries.

15

dsquared 09.07.04 at 3:03 pm

Why not reward oppressed groups that don’t resort to terrorism?

Because this usually involves giving them something which belongs to somebody else.

16

Steve Carr 09.07.04 at 3:12 pm

Daniel, in part Chirac was simply reflecting reality: Bin Laden is hostile to the West as a whole, and the attack was intended as an attack on the West.

More important, Jacques Chirac and Le Monde may have said that and felt that, but I’d be very surprised to learn that your average Chilean felt it, or, for that matter, that your average Italian or German thinks too much about 9/11, except perhaps insofar as they worry about being attacked themselves. By contrast, political discourse in the Muslim world is positively dominated by discussions of Palestine, Kashmir, and now Iraq. Palestine matters more to many average Muslims than the political situation in their own country does. So thinking about this in purely national terms is simply misconceived.

I’ll also note that I don’t think Chirac feels solidarity with every Christian nation — otherwise I’m not sure how you explain the intervention on behalf of Bosnia. Someone like Qaradawi, on the other hand, defines everything in terms of Islam/not-Islam. Religion trumps everything, including ethnicity, nationality, etc.

17

Ophelia Benson 09.07.04 at 3:16 pm

“All grievances need to be addressed.”

Ah. Do they? And how, and by whom?

It is a grievance to some people – to many people – that women go out in public on their own, that they walk around in the streets unescorted, that they expect to be treated as equals, adults, autonomous human beings. Is that a grievance that should be addressed?

It is a grievance to some people – to many people – that atheists are atheists, and are allowed to say atheist things. Is that a grievance that should be addressed?

It is a grievance to some people that there are places where Sharia is not the law of the land. Is that a grievance that should be addressed?

It is a grievance to some people that biology is taught in schools. Is that a grievance that should be addressed?

It is a grievance to some people that prayer is not allowed in (most) public schools in the US. Is that a grievance that should be addressed?

It is a grievance to some people that they have to pay their workers a minimum wage. Is that a grievance that should be addressed?

It is a grievance to some people that they are not permitted to dump their effluents into the nearest river. Is that a grievance that should be addressed?

It is a grievance to some people that they are not allowed to beat their children as hard as they want to. Is that a grievance that should be addressed?

18

Russkie 09.07.04 at 3:18 pm

I think the point is that John/Europeans would argue that if Israel returns to 1967 lines in return for Palestinians giving up the right of return.

Huh? Your sentence doesn’t parse.

In any event, no European diplomat has ever said that the Palestinians should be prepared to give up what they call the right of return. Moreover, the EU reacted with intense disdain to Bush when he made a similar statement.

19

john b 09.07.04 at 3:21 pm

Excellent work – it says various things I’ve never managed to articulate quite so clearly.

I’ve written a piece on my site on how “The appeal of radical Islamism is similar to that held by revolutionary Marxism, in that it purports to wrap lots of separate struggles into a single encompassing global struggle in which victory is pre-ordained.” applies Muslims and anti-Muslim extremists alike…

20

kevin donoghue 09.07.04 at 3:36 pm

Steve Carr: “Palestine matters more to many average Muslims than the political situation in their own country does.”

That’s truly astonishing. In a way I would love to believe it. Are they really so concerned with the plight of people they have never seen?

21

Ray 09.07.04 at 3:39 pm

“I think the point is that John/Europeans would argue that if Israel returns to 1967 lines in return for Palestinians giving up the right of return.
Huh? Your sentence doesn’t parse.

In any event, no European diplomat has ever said that the Palestinians should be prepared to give up what they call the right of return. Moreover, the EU reacted with intense disdain to Bush when he made a similar statement.”

Its missing a bit. I think ‘Europe’ could support an agreement which returned Israel to its pre-1967 borders, in return for Palestinians dropping the right of return. (There might have to be other things on the table too)

I don’t think that if Israel, under European pressure, agreed to return to its 1967 borders, Europe would continue putting pressure on Israel, this time to allow a right to return. There are compromises possible.

I’m not sure what specific Bush statement you’re referring to – was he calling for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders at the same time?

22

Rob 09.07.04 at 4:02 pm

Bush said that if the Palestinians drop the right of return there could be discussion of an Israeli pull back. Hardly the same thing.

23

Russkie 09.07.04 at 4:15 pm

rob wrote:

Bush said that if the Palestinians drop the right of return there could be discussion of an Israeli pull back. Hardly the same thing.

That’s ignorant nonsense.

Text of Bush speech:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3627257.stm

(reasonably even-handed) background at:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/Printer&cid=1081998815811&p=1078027574121

24

BigMacAttack 09.07.04 at 4:22 pm

Returning to the 1967 border might be a good tactic for Israel.

But is in no way shape or form a solution to the problem.

Returning to 1967 borders does not disband Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa brigade etc. It does not mean that the 51% or so of Palestinians who believe the goal of the intifada should be liberation of historic Palestine will suddenly form some sort of consensual or semi-consensual government that will disband those groups.

It might be a tactic that will enhance those developments but it is definitely not a solution to the problem.

25

abb1 09.07.04 at 4:32 pm

It might be a tactic that will enhance those developments but it is definitely not a solution to the problem.

It is THE solution to A problem – Israeli occupation of the territories. What is THE problem?

26

Hektor Bim 09.07.04 at 4:32 pm

Look, the Muslim focus on Kashmir is strange. Muslims have freedom of religion in India (a secular country) to the extent of even having their own sharia courts.

The Kashmir dispute is essentially a dispute between two founding ethoses: Pakistan as an avowedly Muslim nation where Muslims will be a majority and hold all political and military power (and which has led to large-scale ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims) and India as an avowedly secular democratic nation where religious fundamentalists are repeatedly trounced at the ballet box.

To say that one should transfer all Muslim majority lands in Kashmir to Pakistan is to say that anywhere in a country where Muslims are a majority they have the right to found their own country or join a neighboring one where Muslims are a majority. This is not a position respectful of human rights, especially when we know in the case of Kashmir that essentially every Hindu, Sikh, Christian, or Buddhist in Kashmir would be expelled or dead after such a transfer of territory.

27

Hektor Bim 09.07.04 at 4:33 pm

Look, the Muslim focus on Kashmir is strange. Muslims have freedom of religion in India (a secular country) to the extent of even having their own sharia courts.

The Kashmir dispute is essentially a dispute between two founding ethoses: Pakistan as an avowedly Muslim nation where Muslims will be a majority and hold all political and military power (and which has led to large-scale ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims) and India as an avowedly secular democratic nation where religious fundamentalists are repeatedly trounced at the ballet box.

To say that one should transfer all Muslim majority lands in Kashmir to Pakistan is to say that anywhere in a country where Muslims are a majority they have the right to found their own country or join a neighboring one where Muslims are a majority. This is not a position respectful of human rights, especially when we know in the case of Kashmir that essentially every Hindu, Sikh, Christian, or Buddhist in Kashmir would be expelled or dead after such a transfer of territory.

28

Steve Carr 09.07.04 at 4:37 pm

Do Muslims care more about Palestine than their own land? Well, Juan Cole argued that the entire rebellion in Fallujah started because of the Israeli assassination of Yassin. And Qaradawi believes that Palestine is so important that the Palestinians actually have no authority to negotiate a separate peace if it entails giving up control of Jerusalem or any Muslim land to nonbelievers. (This is long, but it’s worth reading the whole thing. And remember, Qaradawi is not a fringe thinker. He is squarely in the heart of mainstream Islam, and until recently he was trumpeted as one of the leading exponents of “moderate Islam.”):

“No Muslim, be he in authority or not, is allowed to abandon any of the lands of Muslims. The land of the Islamic world is not the property of any president, prince, minister or group of people. It is not up to anyone therefore to relinquish it under any circumstances.

“Conversely, it is the duty of individuals and groups to strive hard to liberate occupied territories or retrieve usurped land. The entire nation is jointly responsible for that and it is not up to the ruler or his subjects to choose to give up the land. . . . It is unlawful for all homeless Palestinian refugees to accept damages in return for their lost land, even if they amount to billions. The land of Islam is not for sale; it is not to be relinquished, and no damages can possibly make up for its loss.

If this is the ruling concerning any ordinary piece of land in an Islamic state, what will be the case with the holy land of Jerusalem, the land of the first of the two Qiblahs and Al-Aqsa Mosque and the third most venerable city in Islam, after Makkah and Madinah? . . . Jerusalem has come to enjoy a special place in the heart of every Muslim in the entire Arab world. The occupation of Jerusalem moves his heart and pains him, out of love, keenness and jealousy over it as well as his concern about it. It is mainly on account of Jerusalem that the Palestinian cause comes first on Muslims’ list of priorities. It is Jerusalem that Muslims fear for and are keen to preserve, defend and fight for. It is for the sake of Jerusalem that they willingly give their lives and all they hold dear. . . . Jerusalem is not for the Palestinians only, but for all Muslims, be they Arabs or not. It is a city for all Arabs, be they Muslims or Christians. Therefore it is incumbent on Muslims, wherever they may be, to shoulder their responsibility of defending Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is an obligation for them all. They are to jointly defend it, offering in the process their lives, their money and all they possess, or else they will be subject to Allah’s punishment, for Allah says: “O ye who believe what is the matter with you, that when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter.” (Al-Tawbah: 38)

During my tours across the Arab world, many a time have I been asked by Muslim youth who would hide their heads in their hands and fervently crying, would ask, “How do we clear our conscience and shoulder the responsibility of defending Jerusalem?” . . . Muslims everywhere are still, as they have always been, ready to do all what they can in defense of Jerusalem. This is the case with all the nations I have visited, starting with the Philippines and Indonesia in the very East through Morocco in the Muslim West, though unfortunately this was not the temperament of Muslim rulers. . . . The crisis of Jerusalem should be the number one item on the agenda of the Islamic World. “And Allah hath full power and control over His affairs; but most among mankind know it not.” (Yusuf: 21)”

29

Ophelia Benson 09.07.04 at 4:38 pm

“Muslims have freedom of religion in India (a secular country) to the extent of even having their own sharia courts.”

Which, of course, opens another can of worms. Or re-opens the same old can. A lot of people point out that there is a massive contradiction between ‘a secular country’ and ‘sharia courts’. To put it another way, a secular country with sharia courts is a contradiction in terms. And then, ‘freedom’ of religion is an odd usage to the extent that those sharia courts are binding on people who don’t want to be subject to them. See the related controversy over Sharia courts in Ontario. We have articles on the subject at B&W.

30

Tom Beck 09.07.04 at 4:39 pm

“Although Al Qaeda draws most of its support from the specific disputes I’ve listed above, it doesn’t have any concrete set of demands, and effectively pursues terror for its own sake.”

I thought Al Qaeda had the goal of completely removing all Western presence and influence from Middle Eastern Arabic, Islamic countries, starting with Saudi Arabia. That sounds like a “concrete set of demands” to me.

31

Ray 09.07.04 at 5:00 pm

“In any event, no European diplomat has ever said that the Palestinians should be prepared to give up what they call the right of return. Moreover, the EU reacted with intense disdain to Bush when he made a similar statement.”

Bush didn’t call for a return to the pre-1967 borders in the speech you linked to. So I’m still wondering what speech it is that caused EU leaders to react with disdain.

“Returning to the 1967 border might be a good tactic for Israel.
But is in no way shape or form a solution to the problem.”

Well, no. Has anyone suggested that a unilateral move would solve all of Israel’s problems? I’m saying it could be a bargaining chip.

32

Russkie 09.07.04 at 5:07 pm

Bush didn’t call for a return to the pre-1967 borders in the speech you linked to. So I?m still wondering what speech it is that caused EU leaders to react with disdain.

Bush called for a solution based on resolution 242.

The EU did not merely criticize Bush’s (sensible) statement that a return to the 1949 armistice lines is unrealistic. Spokesman Brian Cowen “emphasized that any settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “must include an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue.” – a position that is content-free in and of itself, but was pointedly a rejection of Bush’s statement on the matter.

http://www.iht.com/articles/515269.html

33

Ray 09.07.04 at 5:14 pm

“Bush called for a solution based on resolution 242.”

Oh come on. He called for a solution based on 242 while welcoming the Sharon plan for a continuing presence on the Jaza strip.

He said, explicitly, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centres, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949”.

The ‘recognition of the realities on the ground’ was a major change in US policy, _away_ from 242. And that is what the EU objected to.

34

Ray 09.07.04 at 5:21 pm

Oh yes, the objection from Cowen was because Bush’s speech was, in effect, taking two things off the table. Not only was he saying that most of the West Bank would remain Israeli, he was declaring the refugee issue settled. These are both points of negotiation, and Bush was shortcutting that negotiation. And not in an even-handed way.

35

a-train 09.07.04 at 5:24 pm

LINK HERE

Even though the war on terrorism is indeed, as the president said, a “crusade,” it has nothing real to do with Islam either, although Islam is surely its target. Not Islam as it actually exists in dozens of different settings and cultures across the globe, but an imagined Islam that exists only in the troubled minds of a people who project “evil” outward and then attack it. Alas, it is an old Christian habit.

The war, meanwhile, answers the Bush administration’s need to justify an unprecedented repressiveness in the “homeland,” and simultaneously prompts widespread docile submission to the new martial law. But more deeply still, by understanding ourselves as a people at war, we Americans find exemption from the duty to face the grotesque shame of what we are doing in the world.

So the final truth about this war is that there is no real enemy (although we are creating enemies by the legion). There will be no victory.

36

Russkie 09.07.04 at 5:27 pm

Oh come on. He called for a solution based on 242 while welcoming the Sharon plan for a continuing presence on the Jaza strip.

Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal scheme includes a “presence” in the West Bank, but not the Gaza strip.

He said, explicitly, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centres, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949”.

Yes, I acknowledged this, did I not?

The “recognition of the realities on the ground” was a major change in US policy, away from 242. And that is what the EU objected to.

This is not a break from 242 (which you seem not to have read).

And I took pains to point out that the EU also objected to the refugee statement.

37

BigMacAttack 09.07.04 at 5:29 pm

abb1,

Just maybe the violence? The deaths? The maimings? The fear?

ray,

Well, yes. Pretty much. It is a bargaining chip.

At best it would probably be fairly meaningless. For all the reasons I mentioned. At worst it would escalate the violence.

38

Tracy 09.07.04 at 5:31 pm

Me: Why not reward oppressed groups that don’t resort to terrorism?

D^2: Because this usually involves giving them something which belongs to somebody else.

Anymore than John’s suggested examples for addressing national greviances?

39

Tracy 09.07.04 at 5:36 pm

Me: Why not reward oppressed groups that don’t resort to terrorism?

D^2: Because this usually involves giving them something which belongs to somebody else.

And John’s suggested methods for addressing national greviances don’t?

40

dsquared 09.07.04 at 5:45 pm

I was answering in terms of giving you the reason why, not giving a justification.

By the way, I regard myself as having a long-standing historical claim of ownership of your shoes. What reward am I to be given for my commendable restraint in not resorting to violence?

41

drapeto 09.07.04 at 5:48 pm

Palestine matters more to many average Muslims than the political situation in their own country does.

I think Palestine matters as a symbol of the political situation in their/our own country.

Palestine (like apartheid era South Africa) makes incredibly visible the force of Western imperialism which expresses itself in more subtle ways in other countries.

42

john b 09.07.04 at 6:34 pm

India as an avowedly secular democratic nation where religious fundamentalists are repeatedly trounced at the ballet box.

I’m relieved to learn that the BJP government and Shiv Sena’s (mis)rule of Maharashtra were both just horrible nightmares.

43

Antoni Jaume 09.07.04 at 7:09 pm

Drapeto has an opinion similar to mine as I understand it. The conflicts of Palestine, Kashmir, and even Chechnya, are seen as a proxy of their own situation in their own countries, as I see it the more democratical a country the less acute is the perception of these problems as affecting them. Turkey for example, while mostly muslim, has little problems collaborating with Israel.

DSW

44

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.07.04 at 7:13 pm

“The dominance of Islamism as a source of terrorism is a recent and probably temporary phenomenon, so any explanation that relies on characteristics of Islam has to invoke some recent change in the character of Islam.”

Why “probably temporary”?

“By the way, I regard myself as having a long-standing historical claim of ownership of your shoes. What reward am I to be given for my commendable restraint in not resorting to violence?”

Funny thing is I have a long-standing historical claim of ownership to your shoes. I’m willing to kill lots of children eating lunch and people waiting on buses. I strongly suspect that John is going to suggest that I get your shoes. Hmm, I seem to recall having a long-standing historical claim on his house….

45

abb1 09.07.04 at 8:16 pm

Funny thing is I have a long-standing historical claim of ownership to your shoes. I’m willing to kill lots of children eating lunch and people waiting on buses.

I doubt that you’ll be willing to kill yourself along with those children just to bolster your phony claim. Nice try but no, your allegory doesn’t work.

When terrorism becomes a serious problem, one thing is certain: there must be some very real institutionalized injustice taking place somewhere.

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Dan Simon 09.07.04 at 8:21 pm

Why not reward oppressed groups that don’t resort to terrorism?

As far as I can tell, this is the only comment posted so far that actually proposes a serious response to terrorism. Every single other comment has simply expressed the sentiment which I’ve described elsewhere as, “it’s only practical to embrace my moral and political outlook”. That is, those who support a particular cause assert that others must rally around it, in order to discourage its more militant proponents from resorting to terrorism. Meanwhile, those who oppose the same cause assert that the terrorism has nothing to do with the cause, or in any event shouldn’t be “rewarded” with increases in support for the cause.

I suggest that we clearly and firmly separate, in our discussions, the issue of terrorism from the underlying cause for which any particular terrorist or terrorist group might be claiming to “fight”. If we can all agree that terrorist groups should be rooted out and destroyed wherever they may be found, we can then continue on to the broader question of which international causes (whether associated with terrorist groups or not) are deserving of high-priority action in their pursuit.

Of course, some may reject the implication of such a consensus that eradicating terrorism is itself a particularly high-priority cause. (“One man’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom-fighter'”, “the worst form of terrorism is ‘state terrorism’/Zionism/global capitalism/taxation/cellphone use while driving/the gripe du jour”, etc. etc.) If this position of relative nonchalance about terrorism still–even after the events of the last few years–garners substantial support, then any discussion of solutions to the problem of terrorism will inevitably be swamped by red herrings, as dissenters shift the discussion from terrorism to their own favorite global priorities. In that case, John’s initial assertion that “most discussion of this issue is worse than useless”, will have been proven, sadly, to be quite correct.

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kevin donoghue 09.07.04 at 8:33 pm

Steve Carr: “Palestine matters more to many average Muslims than the political situation in their own country does.”

Evidence? “Well, Juan Cole argued that the entire rebellion in Fallujah started because of the Israeli assassination of Yassin.”

That’s a bit like saying that WW1 started because of a bullet fired in Sarajevo; true in a sense but it took a bit more than that. Cole’s blog, 27th March (before the killing of the four contractors which prompted the massive US response): “The fighting in Fallujah that took so many lives Friday appears to have begun with Sunni insurgents doing operations in memory of Yassin.”

In any case, the guys who started the Fallujah rebellion are hardly representative of average Muslim opinion. The largest Muslim populations are in Indonesia, India and Pakistan, so Islam’s centre of gravity is a long way to the east of Fallujah.

Within Iraq, the Kurds are noticeably less hostile to America than the Arabs. The most reasonable explanation for this is that they see an alliance with the US as being in their interest. It is hard to square that sort of explanation with claims that Muslims care more about Palestine than the political situation in their own country. It suggests that Muslims, like most of us, put their local concerns first. This hypothesis is not affected by the fact that Arabs (who mostly happen to be Muslims) are concerned about the treatment of other Arabs.

“… Qaradawi is not a fringe thinker. He is squarely in the heart of mainstream Islam….”

Unsurprisingly, Juan Cole is not cited as authority for this particular claim. His view: “Al-Qaradawi came out of the old Muslim Brotherhood before it turned toward parliamentary politics, and still worships the false idol of terror.”

Having said that, Qaradawi is not unusual in attaching great importance to Jerusalem; surely all Muslims do. I’m sure it gets a mention in Friday prayers in mosques all over the world. For the rest of the week local problems dominate.

That at least is my impression. As I remarked above, it really would be nice to think that so many people are more concerned about the plight of a distant land; but human nature isn’t like that.

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Tracy 09.07.04 at 8:35 pm

There is a moral difference between maintaining a claim to my shoes, and maintaining a claim to things like freedom of speech and voting and self-determination and not being dragged away by soldiers in the middle of the night and shot. I am not advocating rewarding everyone who decides that they feel oppressed & doesn’t resort to violence, but was using the word in the sense of genuine oppression.

In other words, you want shoes go buy your own shoes. However if you get thrown into jail for your political beliefs, you might be lucky enough that I’ll write some letters in your defence.

49

John Quiggin 09.07.04 at 8:53 pm

Just for the record, I don’t think terrorism is in general, an effective way of pursuing political objectives (there are exceptions, but on average terrorism is counterproductive), and the central case for resolution of the disputes I’ve mention is not that it will appease terrorists (in fact, as I point out, terrorism arising from such disputes will take a long time to die down).

50

kevin donoghue 09.07.04 at 8:59 pm

Dan Simon: If people had the wisdom and fortitude required to “clearly and firmly separate…the issue of terrorism from the underlying cause for which any particular terrorist or terrorist group might be claiming to ‘fight'” then terrorism would never work.

Something tells me it isn’t going to happen.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 09.07.04 at 9:13 pm

“I doubt that you’ll be willing to kill yourself along with those children just to bolster your phony claim. Nice try but no, your allegory doesn’t work.”

Funny, I haven’t seen Arafat blow himself up along with those children to bolster his claims either. I guess you have now established they are phony, correct? Bin Laden wasn’t on the planes on 9/11 so I guess he doesn’t have any legitimate claims either. On that analysis I don’t see why we bother to discuss the claims at all. Apparently no one has any.

“There is a moral difference between maintaining a claim to my shoes, and maintaining a claim to things like freedom of speech and voting and self-determination and not being dragged away by soldiers in the middle of the night and shot.”

That is nice. But what does that have to do with terrorism in general or Islamist terrorists in specific or Palestinian terrorists in specific? Are Islamists trying to maintain a claim for freedom of speech? Are Palestinians fighting for voting rights and freedom, or the right to install Arafat as dictator number X in yet another dismal Arab state? Your analysis has nothing to do with the actual aims of terrorist organizations. The only freedoms their leaders are fighting for are the freedoms that come with being despots.

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Dan Simon 09.07.04 at 9:35 pm

Kevin–I agree that people in general probably don’t have the wisdom and fortitude to separate terrorism from the causes its perpetrators purport to embrace. But shouldn’t we expect better of the participants in Crooked Timber’s comments threads?

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Andrew Boucher 09.07.04 at 9:41 pm

“Why not reward oppressed groups that don’t resort to terrorism?”

If you’re American and non-black, how much reparations are you willing to pay blacks for slavery?

If you’re American and non-Indian, are you willing to give back the U.S. to the Indians?

If you’re Australian and not indigenous, are you … ?

If you’re English, are you willing to pay the Irish…?

If you’re French, how much are you willing to pay black Africans…?

etc. etc. etc.

In short, the reason why – I’m speaking on a causal/historical level and not in terms of ethics or rights – we don’t reward oppressed groups before they resort to terrorism is because there is far more oppression in the world than the non-oppressed are willing to compensate. So it’s a sweet sentiment, but I don’t think this duck is going to fly.

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Steve Carr 09.07.04 at 9:42 pm

Just one obvious but important point: Arafat is by no stretch of the imagination an Islamist. (Despot, yes. Islamist, no.) In fact, if you look at the Qaradawi fatwa, what becomes clear is how screwed Arafat is. If he actually does cut accept a deal with Israel that doesn’t guarantee Arab control over Jerusalem and a right of return, no matter how reasonable that deal might be, he’ll earn the permanent enmity not merely of Hamas, etc., but also of Islamists around the world who believe that “the land of Islam is not for sale; it is not to be relinquished.”

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abb1 09.07.04 at 9:43 pm

Funny, I haven’t seen Arafat blow himself up along with those children to bolster his claims either.

But Arafat is not a terrorist anymore, he is a peace nobel prize laureate and he’s been a mainstream politician for decades now. If you want to call him a terrorist, then let’s call Bush, Clinton and certainly Sharon terrorists as well. And where is it going to lead us?

Nevertheless, Arafat (who is not a religious nut) and most certainly OBL are risking their lives every day; for what what purpose, may I ask – for some phony claim they don’t believe in?

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Dan Simon 09.07.04 at 9:50 pm

the central case for resolution of the disputes I’ve mention is not that it will appease terrorists

John–fair enough, but then, when you said

Of all of these, the Palestinian issue is the most important

what was your rationale? What makes the Palestinian issue more important than, say, Darfur (just to mention one random, particularly egregiously blood-soaked conflict), if not its association with terrorists’ motivations? Is it a billion Muslims’ anger? (Then what about a billion Catholics’ anger at abortion? A billion Chinese’s anger at Taiwan?) Geopolitical considerations? (Then surely aligning with the concerns of a belligerent, world-dominating US comes first–no?)

If it’s not the terrorism connection, then what could it possibly be?

57

Ophelia Benson 09.07.04 at 9:53 pm

“When terrorism becomes a serious problem, one thing is certain: there must be some very real institutionalized injustice taking place somewhere.”

That one thing is not certain at all. It may be true that terrorism is always rooted in perceived injustice, or perceived grievance – but as for whether that injustice or grievance is ‘very real’ or not is quite another matter. There are people who commit terrorism on women to force them to submit. Is the refusal of women to submit a ‘very real injustice’? If so, to whom, and according to whom?

It’s just magical thinking to assume that every passionately-held grievance is therefore a just one.

58

dsquared 09.07.04 at 9:56 pm

Future historians may end up concluding that one of the most baleful long-term consequences of the Second World War was the creation of the belief that a sensible peace settlement is “appeasement”.

59

BigMacAttack 09.07.04 at 10:11 pm

In the US following the civil war, some southern whites conducted a terrorist campaign against blacks.

What very real and institutionalized injustice caused this campaign of terror?

60

abb1 09.07.04 at 10:19 pm

OK, I guess I was talking about the suicidal or extremely dangerous for the perpetrator forms of terrorism, not whites bullying the blacks in the south or “terrorism on women to force them to submit”, whatever this means.

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J Thomas 09.07.04 at 10:21 pm

First — terrorism as a political or military strategy mostly does not work. It is something people do when they are too weak to accomplish much without it, and they aren’t willing to surrender.

If I sneak onto an enemy army base and manage to blow up an ammo dump and a hundred enemy soldiers, that’s a fine thing. But chances are they’ll kill me first and I won’t accomplish anything. If I kill a hundred enemy civilians that’s not nearly as useful but at least I’ve done something other than just die or surrender. People usually do terrorism when they’ve lost everything but the will to hit back.

Terrorists are secretive; they have to be or else their strong enemies will find them and kill them — or kill their parents, cousins, etc. It’s a rare terrorist who even uses a public key in their public messages so we can be sure the next message comes from the same organization. Given that, it makes no sense to let terrorists influence diplomacy at all. If we take a policy because a terrorist group has committed atrocities and orders us not to, how do we know the atrocities weren’t done by some other side? Hamas atrocities could be done by Mossad, Zarqawi atrocities could be done by Allawi, MEK atrocities could be done by iran, etc. Don’t let anonymous people decide your policies.

So for example Sharon can say “no negotiation until the terrorism stops”. Notice that each time he’s said this the IAF has gone right ahead bombing palestinians. And if the palestinians still refuse to hit back, he can stage a terrorist action himself and blame them. It’s a mug’s game. Any negotiations must be done ignoring terrorists, just as it ignores successful intelligence black ops.

When people are beaten but they refuse to surrender, what can you do with them? You can genocide them. Or you can figure that you’re powerful and they’re weak and mostly ignore them, and accept whatever terrorism they do. Or you can try to get a fair agreement that doesn’t depend on the fact that you won and they lost. Maybe they won’t agree to any agreement that you can agree to, and then you’re stuck killing them or ignoring them.

Why do we pretend that these losers are a giant threat? Maybe they could get nukes, if they get a lot of money, or if they’re bold enough about stealing them. They can definitely do biowarfare and maybe chemical stuff. Why haven’t they? It’s easy to see why the palestinians haven’t. They want to hit israel just hard enough to show they can’t be shuffled off onto tiny reservations and ignored like native americans. If they sabotaged an israeli chemical plant and killed half a million people they could reasonably expect to be exterminated, and they aren’t ready for that.

What about al qaeda? Al qaeda is basicly a saudi (and pan-arab) political party. But saudi political parties are illegal, so they hit back. They do spectacular attacks as publicity stunts. They don’t want anything in particular from the USA, they care about the audience back home. Since nobody else can oppose the saudi monarchy, when the house of saud falls they can expect to win by default, and in the meantime they keep their name in the public eye by doing stunts around the world. If the USA wasn’t unpopular among their target audience they’d do stunts against somebody else.

I’ve overstated my case a little, for emphasis. I can’t prove it’s true but I believe there is very little evidence against it. You can’t prove me wrong. I could be right, even so overstated.

If I am right, what does that say about current policies?

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kevin donoghue 09.07.04 at 10:32 pm

Dan – I think your suggestion, of keeping terrorism and the causes which terrorists espouse in distinct compartments, really isn’t workable – even in comments threads. Terrorists need the support of a discontented population and counter-measures usually include political moves to deprive them of that support. So abstaining from discussion of the background politics means ignoring relevant material. Of course, if politicians really adhered to certain principles – negotiating only with moderates, refusing to be influenced by bombs – then we could keep these topics in distinct threads. But we know they won’t.

I take your point that people often present a proposal as a pragmatic response to terror when in truth they favour it for moral or other reasons. I don’t think you can ever get away from that sort of thing in discussions of politics. Even Machiavelli was plugging an agenda dear to his heart – the liberation of Italy – in the guise of a cold-blooded analysis of politics. It isn’t like geometry; we push our ideas not just because we believe in their intellectual merits, but because we hanker after certain outcomes. I’m no philosopher, but I presume that is what Hume meant about intellect being the slave of the passions.

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J Thomas 09.07.04 at 10:38 pm

Abb1, what the KKK and similar groups used to do in the american south was terrorism. They just didn’t have that name for it then.

The US Army was stationed to stop them. They made anonymous attacks on civilians. The intention was to terrorise the civilian population, to keep blacks from voting or getting above themselves and to prevent whites from behaving equitably.

It was successful for a long time. Once I was riding with a bunch of medical workers outside Knoxville Tennessee, we’d been sightseeing and we got lost. We stopped at a nearby farmhouse to get directions. The man came to the door, looked at us, left, and came back with his shotgun. I was gawking at it, wondering what was going on, when the driver of the car backed us out very fast. The black girl had curled up on the floorboards before the guy came back. She was still shaking half an hour later. I hadn’t thought of her as black, but she had the reflexes to survive.

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BigMacAttack 09.07.04 at 10:49 pm

Please detail the very real and institutionalized injustice that caused kamikaze attacks.

When you are done, please detail the very real and institutionalized injustice that lead to the terrorist attacks of the Irgun and Lehi.

Oh wait my bad. The attack must be both an act of terrorism and suicidial.

Oh I finally see it. The Palestinian cause is just because Palestinian children slaughter themselves and Jewish children.

Either act of brutality alone would not convince us the perpetrators where the victims of injustice but when combined we can be sure this is the case.

Purification through beastiality.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 09.07.04 at 11:32 pm

“Notice that each time he’s said this the IAF has gone right ahead bombing palestinians. And if the palestinians still refuse to hit back, he can stage a terrorist action himself and blame them.”

I’ve never heard of an instance when the Palestinians refuse to ‘hit back’ and I’ve definitely never heard of the time Sharon staged a terrorist action himself.

When did these things happen?

66

John Quiggin 09.07.04 at 11:46 pm

Dan, in saying that the Palestine issue is the most important, I didn’t mean to make a moral judgement about whether, say, Darfur ought to matter more. I intended the factual claim that it is this issue which is the biggest single grievance of the Muslim and Arab world against the West and the US in particular.

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John Quiggin 09.07.04 at 11:48 pm

Dan, to continue, I think the anger of a billion Chinese over Taiwan and Catholics over abortion is essentially hypothetical. People purporting to speak for these billions may feel the anger, and the billions may assent, but not that many really care.

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Dan Simon 09.08.04 at 12:19 am

I intended the factual claim that it is this issue which is the biggest single grievance of the Muslim and Arab world against the West and the US in particular.

John–well, let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that you’re factually correct on this score. That still doesn’t clarify your prescriptive advice to the world. Do the world’s citizens get to vote on what irks them the most about “the West and the US in particular”, so that TWatUSIP can address each with an urgency proportional to the number irked? (As I pointed out, that might well drive Taiwan’s independence to the top of the West’s agenda.) Or do we take into account Western moral considerations (in which case any number of ongoing massacres surely trump any of the Islam-related conflicts you mentioned)?

To put it another way, there’s a whole heck of a lot of really horrible stuff going on in the world, and the threshold for Western action has again and again proven to be both very high and heavily biased according to narrow national and regional political and economic interests. So when you say, “we should deal with the various national grievances as best we can”, do you mean to take into account this history of reluctant, biased involvement–in which case TWatUSIP are most probably already dealing “as best [they] can” with all the world’s problems, including the ones you mentioned–or do you mean to bump certain issues up on the list from their current levels of benign Western neglect? And if the latter is what you are advocating, what is your reason for doing so, if not the fact that certain scary terrorist groups are championing those particular issues?

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Dan Simon 09.08.04 at 12:28 am

Dan, to continue, I think the anger of a billion Chinese over Taiwan and Catholics over abortion is essentially hypothetical. People purporting to speak for these billions may feel the anger, and the billions may assent, but not that many really care.

Funny–I’d have said exactly the same thing about the alleged outrage of Muslims against Israel, the US and India. I’m curious–what convinces you otherwise?

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self 09.08.04 at 2:15 am

A proposal for format change:
Some comments on controversial topics have become so strained for logic that it may be a good move to place the by-lines at the top of the comment. This would save some of us valuable time to read those comments that respectfully consider their discussants’ views as opposed to parse and attack methods. Reading arguments based on what individuals believe others think is a bit of a bore.

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J Thomas 09.08.04 at 2:37 am

“I’ve never heard of an instance when the Palestinians refuse to ‘hit back’”

I’m not surprised, why *would* you have heard of it? The context I particularly remember, they were starting peace talks, and the israelis demanded a moratorium on terror for a set time before they would agree to talk. The palestinians did not make any attacks for that time, though the israelis did make airstrikes on them. So when the time was up and the palestinians had not made any attacks, the israelis then demanded a *longer* moratorium on terror before they would agree to talk, and they went on making airstrikes during that time. ;)

“…and I’ve definitely never heard of the time Sharon staged a terrorist action himself.

When did these things happen?”

I was speaking hypothetically about the Sharon-ordered attack on israel; if the palestinians agreed to a moratorium and Sauron did fake a terror attack, how would the palestinians prove it was him? (Unless it went wrong and israeli agents were captured and confessed, that is.)

Shin Bet agents have a lot of experience posing as palestinians to assassinate palestinian leaders. It wouldn’t take much to pose as palestinians to stage an attack on israel. I didn’t mean to imply that Sharon had been caught doing it, yet. My point is that there is no way for palestinians to prevent terror attacks from being attributed to them, no matter how hard they might try.

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Donald Johnson 09.08.04 at 2:52 am

Sebastian’s challenge to state when Sharon has staged a terrorist attack presumably meant “staged a terrorist attack against fellow Israelis and tried to pass it off as a Palestinian attack.” There’s no evidence Sharon has ever done that. He’s certainly murdered a fair number of Arab civilians, beginning in 1953.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 09.08.04 at 3:21 am

“I’m not surprised, why would you have heard of it? The context I particularly remember, they were starting peace talks, and the israelis demanded a moratorium on terror for a set time before they would agree to talk. The palestinians did not make any attacks for that time, though the israelis did make airstrikes on them. So when the time was up and the palestinians had not made any attacks, the israelis then demanded a longer moratorium on terror before they would agree to talk, and they went on making airstrikes during that time”

Once again when did this happen? So far as I remember Palestinian leaders have always complained about the idea of such a moratorium being the beginning of peace talks because Arafat pretends he has no influence over the ‘real terrorists’ just like OJ Simpson wanted to look for the ‘real murderer’.

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J Thomas 09.08.04 at 4:12 am

“Once again when did this happen?”

I started to google israel/palestine history and I got depressed before I found it. Maybe some other time, just now I value my state of mind too much.

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JamesW 09.08.04 at 8:37 am

Other instances of religious terrorism: Bhindranwale and the Golden Temple of Amritsar (ex Sihkism); Aum Shinri Kyo and Taiping Rebellion (ex Asiatic syncretism). Further back in time, Christia millenarians like Thomas Munzer, documented in Norman Cohn’s “Pursuit of the Millennium”, Assassins, Thugs, Sicarii. I can’t think offhand of any Buddhist terrorist movement.
The Christian link to the Holocaust is however pretty indirect; Nazism was a clearly post- and even anti-Christian movement and its anti-semitism was racial not religious.

76

Tracy 09.08.04 at 5:16 pm

Me: Why not reward oppressed groups that don’t resort to terrorism?

Andrew: In short, the reason why – I’m speaking on a causal/historical level and not in terms of ethics or rights – we don’t reward oppressed groups before they resort to terrorism is because there is far more oppression in the world than the non-oppressed are willing to compensate. So it’s a sweet sentiment, but I don’t think this duck is going to fly.

I obviously very badly wrote my statement above. After firstly having to distinguish between oppression and desires for my shoes, I must now distinguish between what I meant by reward, and giving people lots of money because their ancestors suffered losses. I expect next someone will manage to misinterpret ‘groups’. Or ‘Why’.

To cover your examples – American blacks are no longer enslaved and have the vote.

The Australian government managed not only to eventually recognise that Aborigines were citizens of Australia, but actually obliges them, along with every other Aussie, to vote.

Ireland is now a sovereign nation, with theor own government with a strong history of independence from the UK government.

While Africa is generally depressing, Botswana proves that democracy and other liberal rights are not inherently impossible for Africans. South African non-whites have also recently seen a major lifting in oppression.

In other words, just because a people are oppressed doesn’t mean that they are doomed to be so for all eternity. And, to the best of my knowledge, in at least some of these cases, the people struggling for oppression received assistance from others not directly oppressed by the same people. E.g. white abolitionists in the fight against slavery, international condemnation of the South Africa apartheid state. Offering compensation for historical wrongs may well be impossible (how could you compensate for the misery one set of my great-grandparents managed to make of each other lives?), but the lifting of oppression now falls well within the range of human possibilities. By ‘reward’ I meant assist oppressed peoples in becoming unoppressed. And BTW, I still mean oppressed in the sense of genuine oppression, not in the sense of anyone who thinks they’re oppressed because they don’t have a pair of slightly worn ogg boots.

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JamesW 09.08.04 at 5:27 pm

PS. If your aim is to disrupt a causally complex system like Islamic terrorism or cancer so the probability of a bad outcome tends to zero, how about using “snakes and ladders” as a toy model. Intuitively, the probability of reaching the end depends on the ratio between snakes and ladders. Suppose snakes are good and ladders bad. What is the ratio of snakes to ladders that will reduce the risk of getting to the end to 1%?

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