Monday, October 03, 2005

Strong Condemnation

Not to be all "on" Christopher Hitchens, but he has a strong op-ed today on Slate. The ending is worth quoting at length.
Consider this, look again at the awful carnage in Bali, and shudder if you ever said, or thought, that the bombs in London in July, or the bombs in Baghdad every day, or the bombs in Bali last Friday, are caused by any "policy" but that of the bombers themselves. Note the following:

1) East Timor was for many years, and quite rightly, a signature cause of the Noam Chomsky "left." The near-genocide of its people is an eternal stain on Indonesia and on the Western states that were complicit or silent. Yet Bin Ladenism wants not less of this killing and repression but more. Its demand to re-establish the caliphate is a pro-imperialist demand, not an anti-imperialist one.

2) Random bombings are not a protest against poverty and unemployment. They are a cause of poverty and unemployment and of wider economic dislocation.

3) Hinduism is considered by Bin Ladenists to be a worse heresy even than Christianity or Judaism or Shiism, and its adherents, whether in Bali or Kashmir, are fit only for the edge of the sword. So, it is absurd to think of jihadism—which murders the poor and the brown without compunction—as a movement against the rich and the "white."

So, what did Indonesia do to deserve this, or bring it on itself? How will the slaughter in Bali improve the lot of the Palestinians? Those who look for the connection will be doomed to ask increasingly stupid questions and to be content with increasingly wicked answers.
I don't totally agree with Hitchens here. Western imperialism combined with Islamic fanaticism certainly has played a role in increasing terrorism since 9/11. In most of Bin Laden's communiques to the outside world, he asserts the presence of U.S. troops throughout the Middle East and support for corrupt dictatorships as provocation for his attacks. So, naturally, there is a political element to all of this. The question "why?" is still a good one, if it allows the West, specifically the U.S., to formulate policies that dilute the legitimate hatred and rage caused by Western interference throughout the Middle East for the last century. Essentially this means the U.S. needs to lean on Saudi Arabia and Egypt to become more democratic while assuring both Iraqis and the broader Middle East that they have no plans for permanent military bases on Iraqi soil.

My problem though, which makes me continuously lean to Hitchen's side, is that if U.S. foreign policy was geared around promoting democratization and economic integration (and this a sketchy subject because the U.S. does promote liberal democracy in some places, most of the time much too late ex. East Timor and now Lebanon)Bin Laden and his fanatical Islamist cohorts would still be our enemies. As Hitchens argues rightly, Bin Laden and al Qaeda are seeking to resurrect the caliphate, which would cover the region associated with the Ottoman Empire. Being the humanitarian that he is, Bin Laden, or whatever miscreant that climbed Holy War Inc.'s ladder, would govern the caliphate according to sharia law. Basically, you so don't want to be born gay or as a woman and I'd argue that whoever or whatever you are, you wouldn't want to be born at all.

So if the choice is between an iffy democratic capitalist world lorded over by the United States or a brutal, reactionary imperial theocracy bent on retaking the Middle East and beyond, I'm pretty sure much of the world would pick the former, not the latter. Therefore, it's incumbent upon the United States now to show the world why an U.S. led international system is better -- more stable, more tolerant, more prosperous -- than any of their competitors, whether it be China or the delusional fanatics of Islamic franchise terror.