Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Notes on what worries me about the contemporary world

The following is an outline of concerns I put together after trying (with little success) to explain to someone with a very different point of view why I am so concerned about the world situation at this time. I fear that many of the values that most Americans take for granted are at risk. This is my own list of worries. It does not include the kinds of things that many people would include. There is nothing here about the environment or homeland security, etc. The statement seems at this moment to have two foci: my problems with the American administration; my problems with circumstances in the Muslim world.

1. Why am I so troubled about the contemporary situation?

1.1 The Bush administration has not made a serious enough commitment to Afghanistan/Pakistan.

  • They secured Kabul [daytime] but much uncertainty remains.
  • They have not found a way to deal with tribal territory, which currently not only protects Osama but is still running madrassas that teach young men to hate the West.

1.2 The Bush administration invaded Iraq in such a clumsy way that we are sure to have trouble there for years

1.3 The administration flouted the advice and opinion of other state leaders and so created distrust among our closest friends.

1.4 They invaded preemptively, a very un-American action

1.5 They supposed that Saddam has WMD and could use them to shut down Saudi oil flows with nuclear blasts [and thereby cut world oil supplies by 12% [the worst we have seen so far was only 3%]]

1.6 They thought it would not cost much because the oil production of Iraq could pay for it.

1.7 They thought it was a way to break up money flows that nourish the radical movement against Israel

>They could shut down Iran’s support for Hizbullah and Iraq / Syria’s support for radical Sunni groups among the Palestinians

1.8 They used the attack on Afghanistan as a kind of model for the Iraqi attack

1.9 They expected the Iraqis to welcome us as the Afghans did

1.10 They thought we could set up a ruling council similar to that which was put in motion in Afghanistan

1.11 They seem to have underestimated Saddam’s radical supporters.

1.12 They seem to have prepared inadequately for the post-war situation

>The presence of American troops in Iraq is providing grounds for the radical Islamists to train young men for anti-Western war, just as they are being trained to fight against the Russians in Chechnia, and against the Indians in Kashmir, and against the Christians in the Moluccas, and against the Serbs in Bosnia.

1.13 In general, the approach of the Bush administration and the elected representatives in congress and the senate has been to defer all the big problems/ questions to later.They are spending money in huge amounts but have no idea how it is to be paid for.They are leaving all the fiscal issues to be dealt with by the next two generations – “as far as the eye can see”.

>In general the Bush administration seems essentially responsive to large business interests and are secretive about the way they have come to their policies [Chaney re energy; Bush/Chaney are known to have personal connections with Kenneth Lay, former head of Enron.]

>The religious communities within the United States [Christian; but also Jewish?] seem tragically misaligned with regard to the current dangers to Western values:The leadership of the main denominations [Christian, but also Jewish?] seem too fixed on local issues – abortion, gay marriage, gay ordination – to focus on the serious threats to our society.The evangelical leaders are likewise fixed on the same provincial issues and also on the “signs” that these are the “last times” before the return of Christ; thus, they are committed to Israel [whose rise is considered a fulfillment of prophecy] without regard to the abuses of the Israeli government or the Israeli policies that are fostering hatred of the West among many Muslims.

>The “left” in the West seems fixed on opposing Bush policy in Iraq and therefore seems blindly unaware of the threat to their own values by the radical Islamist movements.

>The American public is dangerously apathetic:we are still getting less than 50% of eligible voters to participate in elections.

>In the mean time moneyed interests exert controlling interests on the behavior of elected officials, whereas the ordinary public – many of whom have no institutions to lobby for them – are apathetic.

>In particular, there is a dangerous informal tie between the leaders of our country and those of Saudi Arabia, representing interests that in other contexts are inimical to American culture – that is, they are working against notions of tolerance, pluralism of institutions, democracy.

>There is a movement against the US and the West that is truly antithetical to western values.It is a committed and dedicated although it lacks a clear alternative ideology. (NYT 12/8/03 “Rebels without a cause”; Napoleoni, Modern Jehad)

>What I think about most Muslims:

>Most Muslims are not Arabs

>Most Muslims are not much concerned about theMiddle East.

>Most Muslims are not radical

>But many are enticed and/ or offended by Western culture [Pakistan: control of films but not of videos; every kind of smut is available on video]

>What I think about radical Islam

>This is an infinitesimal number (out of 1.4 billion) but they are politically active and dangerously committed

>Islamists are a creation of radical strains of Islamic doctrine, some of them very old [Wahhabism, Deobandism].Some are modern applications of old traditions in more modern form [Jamaat-IslamiPakistan; Napoleoni calls Maududi a Marxist/Leninist]

>Wahhabism [Saudi Arabia]

>Muslim Brethren [a modern movement in Egypt]

>Deobandism [a reactionary movement in India from mid-19th century]

>Sudanese Islam [a recrudescence of 19th c. Mahdism?]

>Islamists were emboldened by

>the Iranian Revolution, in which after an internal struggle Shi`ite clerics took over Iran.

>the war in Afghanistan, where CIA/ISI invited and trained zealous mujahedin to fight the Soviet Union

>ManyIslamists are being recruited from the ranks of the young and unemployed.In much of the region of the Middle East and Central Asia half of the population are under 20 years of age.

>Islamists are being created and perpetuated

>in Pakistan,

>where mujahedin are needed to wage a war in the name of Islam in Kashmir:

>where, in Peshawar and Quetta, Taliban are running free.

>whose tribal peoples have traditionally seen themselves as faithful defenders of Islam against the encroachments of outsiders and outside religions into their territory.Their people are protecting Osama and Mulla M. Omar.

>in the Middle East, where Palestinians [presumed to be Muslim] are fighting Israel

>in Saudi Arabia ,where many radical mullahs still preach war and hatred of the West [NYT 11/29/03]

>And they are being deployed in wars they take to be holy wars,

>in the Middle East

>in Pakistan and Afghanistan

>in Bosnia which was a secular Muslim movement originally and was then co-opted by radical Muslims,

>in Chechnia which was a secular Muslim movement originally and has become co-opted by radical Muslims,

>In Sudan where Muslims are fighting tribal peoples in south

>And there are other wars where radical Islamic fighters are likely contributing to local conflict:

>In the Moluccas, where Muslims and Christians are fighting,

>In the Philippines, where local resistance to the state on Mindanau has been co-opted by “Abu-Sayyaf”, a radical Muslim group funded by Saudi Arabia,

>In Nigeria where Muslims in the north are trying to establish sharia law vs a mainly Christian south.


>believe the existence of the oppressive regimes of the Middle East is enabled by US and Western powers

>believe their zeal won the war against the Soviet Union; the most radical of them believe that American support against the Soviets was incidental;

>believe Westerners are effete and will cut and run if warfare becomes too costly in lives:Examples are the flight of American Marines from Lebanon (after a suicide bomber killed 241 marines), Mogadishu (Somalia), Vietnam.

>are well funded by huge amounts of money:some of it in legal enterprises [oil industry, other local industries], some of it in illegal trade and barter [drugs, weapons, other contraband] (Napoleoni, Modern Jehad; Baer, Sleeping with the Devil)

>At the same time the peoples of the Muslim world are diverse and very divided

>Many of the most educated people in Middle East have been Christians, although many of them have left/ fled to the West

>Pan- Arabism (which held several states together, including Saddam’s Iraqi state) was a secular movement encouraged by Christians (Saddam’s PM [or foreign minister?] came from a Christian community)

>There is among the Muslim populaces a strong distrust between Shi`a and Sunni

>Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan preached that it was a religious duty to kill Shi`a

>Iranian Shi`a are distrusted by most other Muslim nations because of theirShi`ism:even Iraqi Shi`a distance themselves from the Iranian Shi`a

>However, at higher levels there seems to be a clandestine accommodation between leaders of the two sects:

>Son of Osama has been living in Teheran

>Saudi and Iranian regimes seem to have made an accommodation on some issues (at the highest levels)

>Virtually all the oil resources of the Middle East are in Shi`a occupied territories, which adds to the tensions between Sunni and Shi`a.

>In eastern Saudi Arabia, where Shi`a are predominant

>In southern Iraq

>In Iran

>In the Muslim world a struggle has been going on between secularists and Islamists.[Will it continue and become more serious within the Muslim community?]

>Egyptian government vs Muslim Brotherhood; the radical elements of the Muslim Brethren fled to Saudi Arabia after Sadat’s assassination

>Algeria, where Arab-Afghans battled for control of the country for several years

>Libya: where Islamists have wanted to assassinate Ghaddafi

>Turkey:where army stands guard over secularism

>Indonesia:where radicals have been considered benign, although they have blown up a bar in Bali

>Some important Muslim countries are divided in multiple ways

>Pakistan [said to have 50 nuclear warheads]:BarelvisvsDeobandis; rich, self serving oligarchy vs poor, landless; tribalsvs government; Baluchistan, Punjab, vs Tribal Pushtun areas.And a few women are in virtual slavery.

>Afghanistan:westernized secular Muslims are conduit of Western support and money vs localized (and mainly rural) coalitions; Kabulis and other urban communities [Herat, Mazar, Kandahar] vs rural peoples

>A question: Is the younger generation up to these challenges?They will have to do better than my generation has done.

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