Wednesday, June 21, 2006 06/21/06-9/11

In today's excerpts-9/11. In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden was a fundamentalist who rejected the oppression of Middle East dictators and their increasing concessions to the secular world. He and his fundamentalist organization were using terrorist tactics because to make their voice heard:

"Fundamentalism--whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim--rarely arises as a battle with an external enemy; it usually begins, instead, as an internal struggle in which traditionalists fight their own coreligionists who, they believe, are making too many concessions to the secular world." Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God, Ballantine, 2000, pp. 110-1

"The mechanism of violent insurgency runs like this: The world is full of terrorist entrepreneurs; Osama bin Laden is merely among the most ambitious. To accomplish their aims, they first have to recruit foot soldiers, who are almost always young men. One recruiting tactic is to stage spectacular acts of aggression that make the insurgency appear to be powerful and exciting. What the entrepreneur wants to have happen next is a big, indiscriminate counterattack, which, in effect, means that the enemy has been put to work as his chief recruiter. This initiates what ETA, the Basque separatist organization in Spain, calls the action-reprisal-action cycle, and the insurgency takes off. A good example of this dynamic comes from ETA's own history. In 1973, ETA assassinated Luis Carrero Blanco, the Spanish premier. Generalissimo Francisco Franco sent in troops hell-bent on punishment, and in so doing he set off a lengthy and violent regional war. Much the same thing happened in Sri Lanka, where the Tamil Tigers were small-scale terrorists until 1983, when they killed thirteen government soldiers. This set off a series of anti-Tamil pogromswhich in turn had the effect of starting a true civil war, one that is still going on. Bin Laden has added a new wrinkle: take action against, and draw reprisal from, an especially powerful third party; namely, the United States." Nicholas Lemann, "What Terrorists Want," The New Yorker, October 29, 2001, pp. 38-9

"...Bin Laden found himself, by the mid-1990's, bottled up in the Afgan badlands, having been stripped of his Saudi nationality and booted out of ostensibly "Islamist"-ruled Sudan. Among his camp mates, the ragtag leftovers of the Muslim foreign legion of Afghanistan, the fire of armed jihad still burned. But their passion lacked a satisfactory immediate outlet. Radical insurgencies had been defeated, or severely constrained, across a number of local fronts, from Egypt to Algeria to the Southern Phillipines. Most ordinary Muslims in these countries, as Randal observes, had not merely failed to join in the fight but questioned its very premises.

"With these so-called "near enemies" in Asia and the Middle East proving inconveniently resilient, the idea emerged of transferring jihadist zeal instead to the "far enemy". Hitting the United States would in itself score points, considering that America was seen as a pillar of support for compromised Muslim regimes, such as Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's, that bin Laden had as his target. The boldness of attacking the strongest world power would propel Islam (or rather, the jihadists' version thereof) onto the geopolitical stage as a force demanding equal stature. This would not only inspire reluctant jihadists to join in the fight. It would also help cement the broader, and growing, Muslim sense that their faith was somehow under threat, and needed vigorous defense. This strategy is not original." Max Rodenbeck, The Truth About Jihad, The New York Review of Books, August 11, 2005, p. 52


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