Archive for the ‘terrorism’ tag
While President Obama continues the “war on terror” under a different name and different guise, it’s interesting to consider the causes of terrorism. One theory I’d never heard before:
Rather than exploiting the denizens of “remote tribal regions” as Obama’s speech proclaimed, the terrorist activities associated with al-Qaeda and its affiliates are actively engaging the responses of tribal peoples (the thistles of Tolstoy’s metaphor) whose cultures are facing destruction from the forces of modern society—including national governments—currently led by the United States.
The theory being that is tribe, not “global jihad”, as the primary mover of sentiment for prospective terrorists. The review is clear about the limits of the theory, but it makes at least enough sense to keep in mind.
This story is first and foremost a good yarn. It’s entertaining and unknown enough to keep you interested, while it teached you some valuable things about the seldom regarded infrastructure that keeps human civilization pushing foreword, and the risks of nuclear terrorism within that system.
(via Hacker News)
Even if soon-to-be-president Obama wants to close the prison at the naval base, he’s got a nearly Hereculean set of problems ahead of him. Just one example:
Where should the remaining detainees be held? The new administration will presumably have to hold the remaining suspected terrorists in facilities in the United States. But where? They will likely end up in a prison on a military base, since it would be unsafe to hold them in normal prison populations. But few states will want to house Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his friends. And members of Congress will give NIMBY-ism a whole new meaning when it comes to keeping them out of their districts.
I wasn’t quite sure how to read a recent story in The Economist about demonstrations in Kashmir. Pankaj Mishra says that its clear evidence that if the Indian government doesn’t change its ways, it risks creating a new generation of motivated international terrorists.
A new generation of politicized Kashmiris has now risen; the world is again likely to ignore them — until some of them turn into terrorists with Qaeda links. It is up to the Indian government to reckon honestly with Kashmiri aspirations for a life without constant fear and humiliation. Some first steps are obvious: to severely cut the numbers of troops in Kashmir; to lift the economic blockade on the Kashmir Valley; and to allow Kashmiris to trade freely across the line of control with Pakistan.
The Big Picture has a great set about China’s recent “Great Wall 5” drills. Included is the already well-known snap of an armed SWAT team advancing on Segways.
Remember that hubbub about how radical Islam was fracturing? Count The Economist as a doubter:
There is no denying that al-Qaeda has damaged its own cause by killing so many Muslims. That is why even Sunni Arabs in Iraq have for now joined the American side. A report from Simon Fraser University in Canada notes an extraordinary drop in support for terrorist groups in the Muslim world.
And yet the impact of this on global terrorism may, alas, be small. Al-Qaeda has compensated for its strategic setback in Iraq by creating a sanctuary in the tribal areas of Pakistan. As for its ideological problems, these may well be outweighed by the continuing current of anti-Americanism in the Islamic world. Besides, the organisation has a simple remedy. It just needs to kill more Westerners and fewer Muslims. For this it does not have to attract millions of people to its cause: a small number of disaffected souls in the right places is all it takes.
Well not really. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, widely called “the mastermind of 9/11,” is refusing to take a lawyer because the United States allows same-sex marriage. He explained:
I will not accept anybody, even if he is Muslim, if he swears to the American Constitution,” he said, vowing to follow Islamic shariya and scorning the U.S. Constitution “because it allows for same sexual marriage.”
Why refrain from calling terrorists jihadis?
First, to call a terrorist a “jihadist” or “jihadi” effectively puts any campaign against terrorism into the framework of an existential battle between the West and Islam. This feeds into the worldview propagated by Al Qaeda. It also serves to isolate the tens of millions of Muslims who condemn the violence that has been perpetrated in the name of Islam.
Second, these words locate the ideological battle exactly where the extremists want it to be. The terms of discussion are no longer about the murder of innocents in terrorist acts; they are about theology.
Third, when American leaders use this language it sends a confusing message to the Muslim world, showing ignorance on basic issues and possibly even raising doubts about American motives. Why, after all, would we call our enemy a “holy warrior”?
The Reformed Jihadis
When two publications simultaneously carry what is essentially the same — rather long — story, it’s got to be worth noting.
- In The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright has an exhaustive — 14 internet pages — profile of “Dr. Fadl”, who recently published a book admonishing Al Qaeda for it’s tactics.
- The New Republic’s (slightly) briefer article sees a trend of people like Dr. Fadl, who dissent from Al Qaeda’s tactics even if they share some of their aims.
The essential point of both, as stated in TNR:
Although Benotman’s public rebuke of Al Qaeda went unnoticed in the United States, it received wide attention in the Arabic press. In repudiating Al Qaeda, Benotman was adding his voice to a rising tide of anger in the Islamic world toward Al Qaeda and its affiliates, whose victims since September 11 have mostly been fellow Muslims. Significantly, he was also joining a larger group of religious scholars, former fighters, and militants who had once had great influence over Al Qaeda’s leaders, and who — alarmed by the targeting of civilians in the West, the senseless killings in Muslim countries, and Al Qaeda’s barbaric tactics in Iraq — have turned against the organization, many just in the past year.
Malise Ruthven has an interesting review of the theories about what makes people become Islamic terrorists. One theory:
Sageman pays close attention to family networks, with about one fifth of his sample having close family ties with other global Islamic activists. His point is strongly reinforced by Bilveer Singh in The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, his study of jihadist groups in Southeast Asia. Singh sees kinship as being a vital element in the makeup of al-Jamaat al-Islamiyah—the organization responsible for the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002. The people who form terror groups have to know and trust one another. In most Muslim societies it is kinship, rather than shared ideological values, that generates relations of trust.