If you are looking for good news out of Iraq, there are glimmers. Last weekU. S.
troops accompanied by Iraqi forces regained control of Samarra in arelatively quick and clean operation. A city that was run by anti-Americaninsurgents is now in the hands of the Iraqi government. American officialshope that this will be the beginning of the stabilization of the SunniTriangle. But for this latest campaign to work, what will matter most arepostwar operations.
U. S. troops will have to work with Iraqi forces tocreate a stable, law-abiding environment in Samarra (and other cities) andjump-start economic reconstruction. Recall that the U. S. invasion of Iraqwas relatively quick and clean, only to be undone by disastrous postwaroperations.
Paul Bremer has now admitted what has been obvious to many since the weekBaghdad fell. “We never had enough troops,” he said at a conference, addingthat he should have insisted that more were needed. Senior officials whoworked with Bremer at the time have told me the Pentagon’s civilianleadership staunchly opposed adding more troops and would not allowexisting troops to do police work. That explains why American forces didnot stop widespread looting and failed to secure ammunition dumps and othercritical sites.
(Similarly, American troops were not permitted to stop theburgeoning drug trade in Afghanistan. )Bremer did not mention the second major mistake of the occupation. TheUnited States failed to recognize strong nationalist feelings in Iraq thatquickly turned into anti-American sentiment. As a result, it did not seethe insurgency coming, and when it came, Washington did not recognize therebels’ strength and appeal: “A fewdead-enders,”DonaldRumsfeldrepeatedly called them. Convinced that Iraqis would see the United Statesonly as liberators, the administration insisted there was no insurgency,that foreign fighters were the main culprits and that the guerrillas wereall “terrorists. ” This misreading of reality-to fit an ideological template-persists.
Only two weeks ago, President Bush described Iraq as a country onthe road to democracy being thwarted by a “handful of terrorists. ” The factis that foreign nationals comprise only 300 of the 5,000 insurgents beingheld in Iraqi prisons. Gen. John Abizaid, the head of Central Command, hassaid that “it’s not correct to say that there are floods of foreignfighters coming in. “Washington’s plan for postwar Iraq, such as it was, was modeled on theoccupation of Germany after World War II. But Germany and Japan were highlyunusual cases.
They had launched aggressive wars against alltheirneighbors, were totally defeated and had lost all legitimacy in the eyes ofthe world. At the same time as those occupations, the dominant trend aroundthe world was the rise of nationalismforcing Britain, France and othercolonial powers to abandon their empires. This anti-imperial feeling wasparticularly strong in the Middle East. Iraqi resentment of, and resistanceto, a naked American occupation was predictable. In 1991 the RAND Corporation produced a study on the lessons of Britain’smany counterinsurgency operations.
One of its central conclusions was thatrecognizing an insurgency late is very costly. It gives insurgents time tomobilize and entrench themselves within the civilian population. It alsogives them time to sow insecurity and instability which makes civilianslose faith in the standing Army and police force. General Abizaid now calls the current conflict in Iraq a “classic guerrilla-type campaign. ” But as Bruce Hoffman points out in a RAND study, that’s notcorrect. Unlike classic insurgencies, there is no center of gravity, noheadquarters to the operation.
Hoffman terms Iraq the first example of”netwar,” a war waged by “small groups who communicate, coordinate, andconduct their campaigns in an internetted manner, without a precise centralcommand” (as originally defined by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt). TheIraqiinsurgencycomprisesdisparategroupsBaathists,Islamists,nationaliststhat work loosely together, united byacommonanti-Americanism. In such a war, even more than in most insurgencies, military victory playsan important but small part. The primary struggle is political: to win thesupport of the local population, defang the ideology that fuels theinsurgency, win over militants to the government’s side and slowly drainthe rebel movement of its strength. It will take a political and militarystrategy to win a netwar. THE PROBLEM OF BEING ONLY SUPER POWERYears from now, when historians try to explain the world of the earlytwenty-first century, they might mention the Parsley crisis.
It took placein July, when the government of Morocco sent twelve soldiers to a tinyisland called Leila, a few hundred feet off its coast, in the Strait ofGibraltar, and planted its flag there. The island is uninhabited, exceptfor some goats, and all that thrives on it is wild parsley, hence itsSpanish name, Perejil. But its sovereignty has long been contested byMorocco and Spain, and the Spanish government reacted forcefully to theMoroccan “aggression. ” Within a couple of weeks, seventy-five Spanishsoldiers had been airlifted onto the island. They pulled down the Moroccanflag, hoisted two Spanish flags, and sent the Moroccans home. The Moroccangovernment denounced the “act of war” and organized rallies, where scoresof young men chanted, “Our souls and our blood are sacrifices to you,Leila!” Spain kept its military helicopters hovering over the island andits warships off the coast of Morocco.
Absurd as the affair was, someonewas going to have to talk the two countries down. That role fell not to the United Nations, or to the European Union, or to afriendly European country like France, which has good relations with bothsides. It fell to the United States. Once it became clear that nothing elsewas working, Secretary of State Colin Powell began a hectic round oftelephone diplomacy, placing more than a dozen calls to the Moroccan kingand foreign minister. After a few days, both countries agreed to leave theisland unoccupied and begin talks, in Rabat, about its future status.
Bothgovernments issued statements thanking the United States for helping toresolve the crisis. It is a small example but a telling one. The United States has no interestsin the Strait of Gibraltar. Unlike the European Union, it has no specialleverage with Spain or Morocco.
Unlike the United Nations, it cannot speakfor the international community. But it was the only country that couldresolve the dispute, for a simple, fundamental reason. In a unipolar world,it is the single superpower. A world with just one major power is unprecedented. For several centuriesbefore 1945, European states of roughly equivalent standing dominatedglobal affairs in a multipolar system.
Many powers jockeying for advantagemeant shifting alliances and almost constant war. It fixed in people’sminds the image of international politics as Realpolitik, a ruthless, ever-changing game of might. Eventually, the system tore itself apart in the twoworld wars of the twentieth century. Throughout the Cold War, from 1945until 1991, the world was bipolar. Because there were only two camps, thesystem was less chaotic, but every confrontation got tied back to thecontest between the United States and the Soviet Union. Even isolated flashpoints-Quemoy and Matsu, Congo, Angola, Nicaragua-quickly became tests ofthe two superpowers’ resolve.
Most nations-including the United States-are still unsure of the characterand the consequences of the unipolar world. The confusion has increaseddramatically since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which formany Americans revealed the country’s vulnerability: America’s overwhelmingmilitary power cannot keep it safe. The attacks underscored the point thatHarvard’s Joseph S. Nye, Jr. , made in his recent book, “The Paradox ofAmerican Power,” which argues that while American power is unmatched, ithas its limits in a modern, globalized age.
Much of the Western world haslived for some decades with the knowledge that terrorism can plague an opensociety. But the September attacks were more nihilistic, more deadly thanany that had come before. And they were, in a sense, a consequence of thenew unipolar world. Americans like to think that this country was attackedbecause it is free. But so are Italy and Denmark, whose cities standundisturbed.
America was attacked because it is the master of the modernworld, deploying its economic, political, and military powers across theglobe. Because America is “No. 1,” it is also target No. 1. The immediate effect of the attacks, however, has been a reassertion ofAmerican dominance.
As the rest of the world watched, Washington movedterror to the top of the global agenda; ousted a regime in Afghanistan,almost entirely from the air; and increased its annual defense budget byalmost fifty billion dollars, which is more than the total defense spendingof Great Britain. It is now maneuvering, despite initial opposition fromalmost every other country, to get the United Nations to force Iraq todisarm or face war. America’s relative position in the world has no real historical precedent. Imperial Britain, which at its peak reigned over a quarter of the world’spopulation, is the closest analogy to the United States today, but it isstill an inadequate one. To take an example, the symbol of Britain’ssupremacy was its Navy, which-at great cost to the British treasury-waskept larger than the next two largest navies combined. The United Statesmilitary today is bigger, in dollars spent on it, than the militaries ofthe next largest fifteen countries combined-and those expenditures amountto only about four per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
America’s dominance now seems self-evident, but most policy experts wereslow to see it. In 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, MargaretThatcher expressed a commonly held view that the world was moving towardthree regional groups, “one based on the dollar, one based on the yen, oneon the Deutsche mark. ” The Gulf War changed the atmosphere, but onlymomentarily. Beset by a recession and mounting deficits, President GeorgeH. W. Bush sent his Secretary of State, James Baker, to raise funds fromthe allies to pay for the war.
American economic troubles played a part-“Wehave more will than wallet,” Bush had declared in his Inaugural address-butmostly everyone assumed that unipolarity was a passing phase. Talk of America’s weakness dominated the 1992 Presidential election. “TheCold War is over: Japan and Germany won,” the late Paul Tsongas saidthroughout his campaign for the Democratic nomination. Henry Kissinger, inhis 1994 book, “Diplomacy,” predicted the emergence of a new multipolarworld, as did most scholars. Foreigners concurred: Europeans believed thatthey were on the path to unity and world power, and Asians spokeconfidently of the rise of “the Pacific Century.
“Despite these claims, however, foreign problems, no matter how distant,seemed to end up in Washington’s lap. When the crisis in the Balkans began,in 1991, the President of the European Council, JacquesPoos,ofLuxembourg, declared, “This is the hour of Europe. If one problem can besolved by the Europeans it is the Yugoslav problem. This is a Europeancountry and it is not up to the Americans. ” It was not an unusual or ananti-American view. Most European leaders, including Thatcher and HelmutKohl, shared it.
But several bloody years later it was left to America tostop the fighting. By the time Kosovo erupted, Europe let Washington takethe lead. During the East Asian economic crisis, East Timor’s struggle forindependence, successive MiddleEastconflicts,andLatin-Americandefaults, the same pattern emerged. In many cases, other countries werepart of the solution, but unless America intervened the crisis persisted.
During the nineteen-nineties, American action, with all its flaws, proved abetter course than inaction. In the same period, the American economy wentinto its longest postwar boom and, in the process, reversed a decades-oldand seemingly normal relative decline. In 1960, the United States’ share ofworld output was thirty per cent; by 1980 it had dropped to twenty-threeper cent; today it is twenty-nine per cent. The American economy is nowlarger than the next three largest economies-those of Japan, Germany, andGreat Britain-combined. American Presidents, however, were slow to embrace their imperial destiny.
Bill Clinton came into office promising to stop worrying about foreignpolicy and to focus “like a laser beam” on the economy. But the pull ofunipolarity is strong. By his second term, he had become a foreign-policyPresident. George W. Bush, in his campaign, reacting to what he saw as apattern of overinvolvement in international affairs-from economic bailoutsto nation-building-promised to scale back America’s commitments.
Today, thePresident who urged that America be “a humble nation” issues diktats to theworld community, supports nation-building and bailouts, and is increasingAmerica’s foreign-aid budget by fifty per cent. The shift was made completelast month, with the publication of the White House’s “National SecurityStrategy,” an unapologetic acceptance of American hegemony. As America’s power became more apparent, foreign governments voiced theirgrowing distaste for it. Clinton’s chief economic advisers, Robert Rubinand Lawrence Summers, and their de-facto subordinates at the InternationalMonetary Fund were frequently accused of arrogance as they travelled indeveloping nations.
Diplomats like Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrookewere disparaged in Europe for acting as if America were, in Albright’sphrase, the “indispensable nation. ” The French foreign minister, HubertVedrine, devised the term “hyperpower” to describe Bill Clinton’s America. The complaints have risen to aclamorduringthecurrentBushAdministration, which has shown a disdain for allies, treaties, andinternational organizations. In its first two years it has reneged on moreinternational treaties than any previous Administration.
Often its actionsseem gratuitous. The Kyoto treaty on global warming, for example, wasmoribund before the Administration loudly pronounced it dead. (Few Europeancountries are close to meeting their goals, and by leaving out China andIndia the treaty forfeited the possibility of having any real effect. ) Butby withdrawing in such confrontational tones the Administration sent asignal that the world’s largest consumer of energy was unconcerned aboutthe environment. American allies-even, on occasion, Great Britain-complainthat they are informed of, rather than consulted about, American policy.
Even when the Administration has ended up pursuing policies multilaterallyit has done so muttering and grumbling-as it has in taking its case againstIraq to the United Nations-so that much of the good will it might havegenerated has been lost. Some neoconservative writers assert that such rancor is an unavoidable by-product of hegemony. In an influential article published this summer in thejournal Policy Review, Robert Kagan argues that European and Americandifferences over multilateral cooperation are a result of their relativestrengths. When Europe’s big countries were the world’s great powers, theycared little for international cooperation, and celebrated Realpolitik. Europe is now weak, he writes, so it favors rules and restraints.
America,for its part, wants complete freedom of action: “Now that the United Statesis powerful, it behaves as powerful nationsdo. “Butthisviewmisinterprets history and misunderstands the unique place that Americaoccupied in twentieth-century diplomacy. America was the most powerfulcountry in the world when it proposed the creation of an internationalorganization, the League of Nations, to manage international relationsafter the First World War. It was the dominant power at the end of theSecond World War, when it founded the United Nations, created the BrettonWoods system of international economic cooperation, and launched most ofthe world’s key international organizations. For much of the twentiethcentury, America embraced international cooperation not out of fear andvulnerability but from a position of confidence and strength.
If the BushAdministration rejects this approach, it is indeed, as Richard Holbrookehas charged, making “a radical break with fifty-five years of a bipartisantradition that sought international agreements and regimes of benefit tous. “But unilateralism is also a reversion to an older American reflex. It is,perhaps, the most venerable tradition in American foreign policy, rooted inthe belief that the United States is an exceptional country, set apart fromthe scheming nations of the Old World. Most American statesmen agreed withThomas Jefferson when he warned against “entangling alliances. ” The fearwas, quite simply, that associating with European powers would be morallycorrupting. John Quincy Adams, in his famous July 4th speech of 1821,declared, “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.
” Hethen explained why: “She well knows that by once enlisting under otherbanners than her own . . . she would involve herself . .
. in all the warsof interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition. . . .
She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer theruler of her own spirit. ” Unilateralism did not mean isolationism. Americastarted as thirteen colonies nestled east of the Allegheny Mountains andbecame a vast continental empire through aggressive diplomacy, financialdeals, and, on several occasions, war. Foreign policy has always beenworthwhile whenthegoalwastransformation-inthiscase,theAmericanization of new lands.
But diplomacy as usual was to be shunned. International politics was to be transcended, not engaged in. Unilateralism still has a popular appeal, especially in the South, which isnow the base of the Republican Party. But it cannot be an organizingprinciple of foreign policy. It is a disposition, or, at most, a means.
Thefundamental questions about America’s approach to the world are about ends. The Bush Administration has often used America’s extraordinary powereffectively, getting its way on a host of specific issues, from the A. B. M. treaty to Iraq’s weapons production. But what do these issues add up tomore broadly? What are the purposes of American hegemony?The historical answer to that question is to be found in the Britishmissionary movement of the nineteenth century, whose statedaims-tocivilize developing countries, abolish the slave trade, act against human-rights abuses, and ostracize despotic governments-were adopted by theliberals, most prominently William Gladstone.
In modern times, this Anglo-American vision of an idealistic foreign policy is most closely associatedwith President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was, in many ways, a failure as a politician. A stern man with fewskills at negotiation or mediation, he was unable to get his own country toaccept his most important project, the League of Nations. The Senate killedit, unwilling to commit America to the defense of something as vast and asvague as world order.
But, for all his practical failings, his ideas haveendured, indeed triumphed. Today, when someone argues in favor of humanrights and democracy, advocates self-determination for minority populationsor the dismantling of colonial empires, criticizes secret and duplicitousdiplomacy, or supports international law and organizations, he is rightlycalled Wilsonian. And while the particular mixture of ingredients hasvaried, almost every American President in the past half century has been,at least rhetorically, a Wilsonian. Of course, like every powerful nation, the United States has pursued itsown interests, often harshly-for instance, in Central America.
And when theCold War seemed most threatening-during the Vietnam War and amid risingSoviet expansion in the Third World-Americans turned to calculation andRealpolitik, carried out most intensively by Henry Kissinger. This raisond’etat is still evident in our support of dictatorships from Saudi Arabiato Turkmenistan. But when the United States’ position in the world has feltsecure its goals have been the broad, idealistic ones that Wilson embodied. “We have it in our power,” Ronald Reagan often used to say, quoting ThomasPaine, “to begin the world over again.
” George H. W. Bush is often seen asa narrow-minded realist, and he would certainly not accept the label”Wilsonian. ” Yet, when searching for a way to describe his hopes for theworld after the Cold War and the Gulf War, he grasped for one of Wilson’smost famous ideas. “What is at stake,” Bush said, “is a big idea-a newworld order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause toachieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom,and the rule of law.
” A few weeks later, in a speech to a joint session ofCongress, Bush evoked “a world where the United Nations, freed from ColdWar stalemate, is poised to fulfill the historic vision of its founders. Aworld in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among allnations. “George W. Bush, in the first months of his term, did not speak much aboutthe broad goals toward which his Administration’s foreign policy was aimed.
Some of his pre-September 11th obsessions-particularly missile defense-suggested a notion of national security geared toward staying safe andaloof from the world (though missile defense is ineffective againstterrorism). But in what was billed as an important speech, delivered inJune at the West Point commencement, Bush began to outline a world view. Hedescribed the dangers of the new era and then asserted that “America has,and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby makingthe destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, andlimitingrivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace. ” It is a breathtakingstatement, promising that American power will transform internationalpolitics itself, making the millennia-old struggle over national securityobsolete. In some ways, it is the most Wilsonian statement any Presidenthas made since Wilson himself, echoing his pledge to use American power tocreate a “universal dominion of right.
” This claim is at the center ofBush’s new National Security Strategy document, which says on its firstpage, “Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled militarystrength and great economic and political influence. In keeping with ourheritage and principles, we do not use our strength to press for unilateraladvantage. We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors humanfreedom. “Many of Bush’s recent proclamations are Wilsonian.
He advocates democracyin Palestine and wants to build a modern, democratic state in Iraq as partof a wider effort to democratize the Arab world. Last month, at the UnitedNations, in explaining why Iraq was a threat to world peace, he said that”open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. ” But while headopts some of Wilson’s loftiest ideals, Bush is also following some of hismost fatal practices. Wilson’s means were often highly unilateral.
When hetook the United States into the war, in 1917, he insisted that although itfought alongside France and England, it was not an ally but an “associatedpower. ” His entire approach to the war and its aftermath was to dissociatethe United States from the sordid desires of its allies. Impatient withother countries’ cultures and uninterested in their views, Wilson tended toissue declarations for the whole world. He believed strongly in therighteousness of his cause, and that was enough to allay any concerns hemight have had about the reaction of foreign countries. In fact, hethought, their hostility was often proof of the revolutionary nature of hisideas. Some of this may have been true-just as some of Bush’s frustrationwith European and United Nations diplomacy is understandable-but it insuredthat Wilson was a practical failure.
Bush’s high-handedness also promisesto make his policies ineffective. Yet there is a way to conduct a robustand visionary foreign policy without triggering an avalanche of anti-Americanism around the world. It’s called diplomacy. The American who best understood how to balance idealism and power wasFranklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt adopted so many stances during histenure-from isolationism in the early nineteen-thirties to bargains withStalin in the nineteen-forties-that he could just as easily be termed arealist, an idealist, a pacifist, and an opportunist.
But at the end of theSecond World War he faced a challenge unlike any faced by a world leaderbefore. Chief among the victors, presiding over a world in ruins, he had todecide what the postwar world should look like. He set in motion a seriesof international organizations-dealing with international security, trade,economic policy, food and agriculture, civil aviation-that had Wilsoniangoals. Unlike Wilson’s projects, however, the most important ones were tobe run not as democracies but, rather, by the countries that had realpower.
That gave them a reason to support the system. The United Nationswas to be run by those who had won the war-the United States, the SovietUnion, France, Britain, and China. The Bretton Woods system-the I. M. F.
andthe World Bank-was to be run by the country providing most of the cash,which was America. Thus, when America was even more powerful than it istoday-by some measures it had fifty per cent of world output-it put intoplace a series of measures designedtorebuilditsadversaries,institutionalize international cooperation on dozens of global issues, andalleviate poverty. No other nation would have done this: Churchill andStalin were busy carving out spheres of influence. And few Presidents otherthan F. D. R.
could have done it successfully. It is difficult to recall today how expansive the American vision was. Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman, has a reputation as a combative coldwarrior; he is the man who founded NATO and launched America into theKorean War. But, from the time he was in high school until the day he died,Truman carried in his wallet lines from Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall,” whichread, in part, “In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
/There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe, / And thekindly earth shall slumber, lapped in universal law. ” Roosevelt and Trumanknew that to transform the world one had to engage in it. Roosevelt thoughtpoorly of many of his wartime allies and their goals-he despised French andBritish colonialism, for example-but he understood that those countries hadto be accommodated. Truman understood that the United States could bestcombat Soviet Communism by creating permanent, entangling alliances withother countries. As a result, these two Presidents and their successorscreated the conditions for the triumph of a world quite different from anythat existed in the past. Today, there is an international consensus infavor of democracy, some version of open markets and capitalism, and someinternational norms, rules, and restraints.
This has happened because ofthe inherent strength of these ideas but also because they have beenhitched to American power. Perhaps most important, Roosevelt and Truman, having lived through thenineteen-thirties, knew how fragile the international system was andbelieved that it needed support. Having reaped the fruits of this system-upheld by all successive Presidents of both parties-we have come to believethat stability is natural. But the world order put into place by the UnitedStates in the past half century-an order based on alliances, organizations,and norms-functions largely because of the respect paid to it by itssuperpower creator. Without that support, it will crumble into chaos. America can uphold the international system by itself.
That would certainlygive it the most freedom of action. But America is not an imperial power. Acountry that will not provide security fifty miles outside Kabul-one yearafter September 11th-is not going to take on the burdens of intervention,occupation, and nation-building in crisis after crisis around the world. And why should it, when there is another way? So far, we have handed these”imperial” missions over to the veryalliesandorganizations-theinternational community-of which we are often so skeptical.
Today, thereare roughly as many non-American as American troops in Afghanistan, andmost of the costs of Balkan reconstruction have been borne by the EuropeanUnion. In the past five years, the United Nations has engaged in nation-building in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Cambodia, and parts of Africa, andhas done better than anyone might have expected. When the internationalsystem is given help from America-most crucially, in the establishment ofpeace and order-it can work surprisingly well. The Bush Administration isright to recognize that consensus is not an end in itself. And someAmerican concerns about international organizations are valid.
Within theseorganizations, America faces a special challenge: the United States hasonly one vote in most international organizations, and when other countrieswant to gang up on it they use these organizations to do so. But these arethe kinds of problems that skillful diplomacy can resolve. Working to a greater extent through allies and organizations would alsomake the United States more secure. This week we may snub Germany, but nextweek we will need its help in arresting suspects and shutting down bankaccounts. We will need information from foreign governments on goodsshipped from all over the world to insure that something dangerous-say,enriched uranium-does not sail into New York Harbor. In fact, the onlysustained protection against the threat of terrorism will come from a newglobal process of customs and immigration controls which checks people andcargo around the world, using the same standards and sharing databases-inother words, a new international organization.
Otherwise, America’s borderswill become the choke point of global traffic-something that would be badfor the economy as well as for the society. As important, American hegemonywould gain the legitimacy thatcomesfromoperatingthroughaninternational consensus. Without this cloak of respectability, America will face a growing hostilityaround the world. During the Cold War, many nations disliked or disagreedwith America-over Vietnam, for example-but they despised the Soviet Union. The enemy of their enemy was, in the end, their friend.
But today, with noalternative ideology and no competitors, America stands alone in the world. Everyone else sits in its shadow. This doesn’t mean that other countrieswill form military alliances against America; that would be pointless. Butcountries will obstruct American purposes whenever and in whatever way theycan, and the pursuit ofAmerican interests will have to be undertaken through coercion rather thanconsensus.
Anti-Americanism will become the global language of politicalprotest-the default ideology of opposition-unifying the world’s discontentsand malcontents, some of whom, as we have discovered, can be verydangerous. “It is better to be feared than loved,” Machiavelli wrote. But he waswrong. The Soviet Union was feared by its allies; the United States wasloved, or, at least, liked. Look who’s still around. Americahastransformed the world with its power but also with its ideals.
When China’spro-democracy protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square, they builtamakeshift figure that suggested the Statue of Liberty, not an F-16. Americaremains the universal nation, the country people across the world believeshould speak for universal values. Its image may not be as benign asAmericans think, but it is, in the end, better than the alternatives. Thatis what has made America’s awesome power tolerable to the world for solong. The belief that America is different is its ultimate source ofstrength.
If we mobilize all our awesome powers and lose this one, we willhave hegemony-but will it be worth having?ESSAY -3: The Politics of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us?To the question “Why do the terrorists hate us?” Americans could bepardoned for answering, “Why should we care?” The immediate reaction to themurder of 5,000 innocents is anger, not analysis. Yet anger will not beenough to get us through what is sure to be a long struggle. For that wewill need answers. The ones we have heard so far have been comforting butfamiliar. We stand for freedom and they hate it. We are rich and they envyus.
We are strong and they resent this. All of which is true. But there arebillions of poor and weak and oppressed people around the world. They don’tturn planes into bombs. They don’t blow themselves up to kill thousands ofcivilians.
If envy were the cause of terrorism, Beverly Hills, Fifth Avenueand Mayfair would have become morgues long ago. There is something strongerat work here than deprivation and jealousy. Something that can move men tokill but also to die. Osama bin Laden has an answer–religion.
For him and his followers, this isa holy war between Islam and the Western world. Most Muslims disagree. Every Islamic country in the world has condemned the attacks of Sept. 11.
To many, bin Laden belongs to a long line of extremists who have invokedreligion to justify mass murder and spur men to suicide. The words “thug,””zealot” and “assassin” all come from ancient terror cults–Hindu, Jewishand Muslim, respectively–that believed they were doing the work of God. The terrorist’s mind is its own place, and like Milton’s Satan, can make ahell of heaven, a heaven of hell. Whether it is the Unabomber, AumShinrikyo or Baruch Goldstein (who killed scores of unarmed Muslims inHebron), terrorists are almost always misfits who place their own twistedmorality above mankind’s. But bin Laden and his followers are not an isolated cult like Aum Shinrikyoor the Branch Davidians or demented loners like Timothy McVeigh and theUnabomber.
They come out of a culture that reinforces their hostility,distrust and hatred of the West–and of America in particular. This culturedoes not condone terrorism but fuels the fanaticism that is at its heart. To say that Al Qaeda is a fringe group may be reassuring, but it is false. Read the Arab press in the aftermath of the attacks and you will detect anot-so-hidden admiration for bin Laden. Or consider this from the Pakistaninewspaper The Nation:”September 11 was not mindless terrorism for terrorism’s sake.
It wasreaction and revenge, even retribution. ” Why else is America’s response tothe terror attacks so deeply constrained by fears of an “Islamic backlash”on the streets? Pakistan will dare not allow Washington the use of itsbases. Saudi Arabia trembles at the thought of having to help us publicly. Egypt pleads that our strikes be as limited as possible. The problem is notthat Osama bin Laden believes that this is a religious war against America.
It’s that millions of people across the Islamic world seem to agree. This awkward reality has led some in the West to dust off old essays andolder prejudices redicting a “clash of civilizations” between the West andIslam. The historian Paul Johnson has argued that Islam is intrinsically anintolerant and violent religion. Other scholars have disagreed, pointingout that Islam condemns the slaughter of innocents and prohibits suicide.
Nothing will be solved by searching for “true Islam” or quoting the Quran. The Quran is a vast, vague book, filled with poetry and contradictions(much like the Bible). You can find in it condemnations of war and incitements to struggle,beautiful expressionsoftoleranceandsternstricturesagainstunbelievers. Quotations from it usually tell us more about the person whoselected the passages than about Islam.
Every religion is compatible withthe best and the worst of humankind. Through its long history, Christianityhas supported inquisitions and anti-Semitism, but also human rights andsocial welfare. Searching the history books is also of limited value. From the Crusades ofthe 11th century to the Turkish expansion of the 15th century to thecolonial era in the early 20th century, Islam and the West have oftenbattled militarily. This tension has existed for hundreds of years, duringwhich there have been many periods of peace and even harmony.
Until the1950s, for example, Jews and Christians lived peaceably under Muslim rule. In fact, Bernard Lewis, the pre-eminent historian of Islam, has argued thatfor much of history religious minorities did better under Muslim rulersthan they did under Christian ones. All that has changed in the past few decades. So surely the relevantquestion we must ask is, Why are we in a particularly difficult phase rightnow? What has gone wrong in the world of Islam that explains not theconquest of Constantinople in 1453 or the siege of Vienna of 1683 but Sept. 11, 2001?Let us first peer inside that vast Islamic world. Many of the largestMuslim countries in the world show little of this anti-American rage.
Thebiggest, Indonesia, had, until the recent Asian economic crisis, beendiligently following Washington’s advice on economics, with impressiveresults. The second and third most populous Muslim countries, Pakistan andBangladesh, have mixed Islam and modernity with some success. While bothcountries are impoverished, both have voted a woman into power as primeminister, before most Western countries have done so. Next is Turkey, thesixth largest Muslim country in the world, a flawed but functioning seculardemocracy and a close ally of the West (being a member of NATO). Only when you get to the Middle East do you see in lurid colors all thedysfunctions that people conjure up when they think of Islam today. InIran, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, the occupied territories and the PersianGulf, the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism is virulent, and a raw anti-Americanism seems to be everywhere.
This is the land of suicide bombers,flag-burners and fiery mullahs. As we strike Afghanistan it is worthremembering that not a single Afghan has been tied to a terrorist attackagainst the United States. Afghanistan is the campground from which an Arab army is battling America. But even the Arab rage at America is relatively recent. In the 1950s and1960s it seemed unimaginable that the United States and the Arab worldwould end up locked in a cultural clash.
Egypt’s most powerful journalist,Mohamed Heikal, described the mood at the time: “The whole picture of theUnited States. . . was a glamorous one. Britain and France were fading, hatedempires. The Soviet Union was 5,000 miles away and the ideology ofcommunism was anathema to the Muslim religion.
But America had emerged fromWorld War II richer, more powerful and more appealing than ever. ” I firsttraveled to the Middle East in the early 1970s, and even then the image ofAmerica was of a glistening, approachable modernity: fast cars, Hiltonhotels and Coca-Cola. Something happened in these lands. To understand theroots of anti-American rage in the Middle East, we need to plumb not thepast 300 years of history but the past 30. Chapter I: The RulerIt is difficult to conjure up the excitement in the Arab world in the late1950s as Gamal Abdel Nasser consolidated power in Egypt. For decades Arabshad been ruled by colonial governors and decadent kings.
Now they wereachieving their dreams of independence, and Nasser was their new savior, amodern man for the postwar era. He was born under British rule, inAlexandria, a cosmopolitan city that was more Mediterranean than Arab. Hisformative years were spent in the Army, the most Westernized segment of thesociety. With his tailored suits and fashionable dark glasses, he cut anenergetic figure on the world stage. “The Lion of Egypt,” he spoke for allthe Arab world. Nasser believed that Arab politics needed to be fired by modern ideas likeself-determination, socialism and Arab unity.
And before oil money turnedthe gulf states into golden geese, Egypt was the undisputed leader of theMiddle East. So Nasser’s vision became the region’s. Every regime, from theBaathists in Syria and Iraq to the conservative monarchies of the gulf,spoke in similar terms and tones. It wasn’t that they were just apingNasser. The Middle East desperately wanted to become modern.
It failed. For all their energy these regimes chose bad ideas andimplemented them in worse ways. Socialism producedbureaucracyandstagnation. Rather than adjusting to the failures of central planning, theeconomies neverreallymovedon. Therepublicscalcifiedintodictatorships.
Third World “nonalignment” became pro-Soviet propaganda. Arab unity cracked and crumbled as countries discovered their own nationalinterests and opportunities. Worst of all, Israel humiliated the Arabs inthe wars of 1967 and 1973. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, hedestroyed the last remnants of the Arab idea.
Look at Egypt today. The promise of Nasserism has turned into a quietnightmare. The government is efficient in only one area: squashing dissentand strangling civil society. In the past 30 years Egypt’s economy hassputtered along while its population has doubled. Unemployment is at 25percent, and 90 percent of those searching for jobs hold college diplomas.
Once the heart of Arab intellectual life, the country produces just 375books every year (compared with Israel’s 4,000). For all the angry proteststo foreigners, Egyptians know all this. Shockingly, Egypt has fared better than its Arab neighbors. Syria hasbecome one of the world’s most oppressive police states, a country where25,000 people can be rounded up and killed by the regime with noconsequences. (This in a land whose capital, Damascus, is the oldestcontinuously inhabited city in the world. ) In 30 years Iraq has gone frombeing among the most modern and secular of Arab countries–with womenworking, artists thriving, journalists writing–into a squalid playpen forSaddam Hussein’s megalomania.
Lebanon, a diverse, cosmopolitan society witha capital, Beirut, that was once called the Paris of the East, has become ahellhole of war and terror. In an almost unthinkable reversal of a globalpattern, almost every Arab country today is less free than it was 30 yearsago. There are few countries in the world of which one can say that. We think of Africa’s dictators as rapacious, but those in the Middle Eastcan be just as greedy. And when contrasted with the success of Israel, Arabfailures are even more humiliating.
For all its flaws, out of the samedesert Israel has created a functioning democracy, a modern society with anincreasingly high-technology economy and thriving artistic and culturallife. Israel now has a per capita GDP that equals that of many Westerncountries. If poverty produced failure in most of Arabia, wealth produced failure inthe rest of it. The rise of oil power in the 1970s gave a second wind toArab hopes.
Where Nasserism failed, petroleum would succeed. But it didn’t. All that the rise of oil prices has done over three decades is to produce anew class of rich, superficially Western gulf Arabs, who travel the globein luxury and are despised by the rest of the Arab world. Look at anycartoons of gulf sheiks in Egyptian, Jordanian or Syrian newspapers.
Theyare portrayed in the most insulting, almost racist manner: as corpulent,corrupt and weak. Most Americans think that Arabs should be grateful forour role in the gulf war, for we saved Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Most Arabsthink that we saved the Kuwaiti and Saudi royal families. Big difference.
The money that the gulf sheiks have frittered away is on a scale that isalmost impossible to believe. Just one example: a favored prince of SaudiArabia, at the age of 25, built a palace in Riyadh for $300 million and, asan additional bounty, was given a $1 billion commission on the kingdom’stelephone contract with AT&T. Far from producing political progress, wealthhas actually had some negative effects. It has enriched and empowered thegulf governments so that, like their Arab brethren, they, too, have becomemore repressive over time. The Bedouin societies they once ruled havebecome gilded cages, filled with frustrated, bitter and discontented youngmen–some of whom now live in Afghanistan and work with Osama bin Laden. (Bin Laden and some of his aides come from privileged backgrounds in SaudiArabia.
)By the late 1980s, while the rest of the world was watching old regimesfrom Moscow to Prague to Seoul to Johannesburg crack, the Arabs were stuckwith their aging dictators and corrupt kings. Regimes that might haveseemed promising in the 1960s were now exposed astired,corruptkleptocracies, deeply unpopular and thoroughly illegitimate. One has to addthat many of them are close American allies. Chapter II: Failed IdeasAbout a decade ago, in a casual conversation with an elderly Arabintellectual, I expressed my frustration that governments in the MiddleEast had been unable to liberalize their economies and societies in the waythat the East Asians had done.
“Look at Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul,” Isaid, pointing to their extraordinary economic achievements. The man, agentle, charming scholar, straightened up and replied sharply, “Look atthem. They have simply aped the West. Their cities are cheap copies ofHouston and Dallas. That may be all right for fishing villages.
But we areheirs to one of the great civilizations of the world. We cannot becomeslums of the West. “This disillusionment with the West is at the heart of the Arab problem. Itmakes economic advance impossible and political progress fraught withdifficulty. Modernization is now taken to mean, inevitably, uncontrollably,Westernization and, even worse, Americanization. This fear has paralyzedArab civilization.
In some ways the Arab world seems less ready to confrontthe age of globalization than even Africa, despite the devastation thatcontinent has suffered from AIDS and economic and political dysfunction. Atleast the Africans want to adapt to the new global economy. The Arab worldhas not yet taken that first step. The question is how a region that once yearned for modernity could rejectit so dramatically. In the Middle Ages the Arabs studied Aristotle (when hewas long forgotten in the West) and invented algebra. In the 19th century,when the West set ashore in Arab lands, in the form of Napoleon’s conquestof Egypt, the locals were fascinated by this powerful civilization.
Infact, as the historian Albert Hourani has documented, the 19th century sawEuropean-inspired liberal political and social thought flourish in theMiddle East. The colonial era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries raised hopes ofBritish friendship that were to be disappointed, but still Arab elitesremained fascinated with the West. Future kings and generals attendedVictoria College in Alexandria, learning the speech and manners of Britishgentlemen. Many then went on to Oxford, Cambridge andSandhurst–atradition that is still maintained by Jordan’s royal family, though nowthey go to Hotchkiss or Lawrenceville. After World War I, a new liberal ageflickered briefly in the Arab world, as ideas about opening up politics andsociety gained currency in places like Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
Butsince they were part of a world of kings and aristocrats, these ideas diedwith those old regimes. The new ones, however, turned out to be just asWestern. Nasser thought his ideas for Egypt and the Arab world were modern. Theywere also Western. His “national charter” of 1962 reads as if it werewritten by left-wing intellectuals in Paris or London. (Like many ThirdWorld leaders of the time, Nasser was a devoted reader of France’s Le Mondeand Britain’s New Statesman.
) Even his most passionately held project, Pan-Arabism, was European. It was a version of the nationalism that had united Italy and Germany inthe 1870s–that those who spoke one language should be one nation. Americathinks of modernity as all good–and it has been almost all good forAmerica. But for the Arab world, modernity has been one failure afteranother.
Each path followed–socialism, secularism, nationalism–has turnedinto a dead end. While other countries adjusted to their failures, Arabregimes got stuck in their ways. And those that reformed economically couldnot bring themselves to ease up politically. The Shah of Iran, the MiddleEastern ruler who tried to move his country into the modern era fastest,reaped the most violent reaction in the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Buteven the shah’s modernization–compared, for example, with the East Asianapproach of hard work, investment and thrift–was an attempt to buymodernization with oil wealth. It turns out that modernization takes more than strongmen and oil money. Importing foreign stuff–Cadillacs, Gulfstreams and McDonald’s–is easy. Importing the inner stuffings of modern society–a free market, politicalparties, accountability and the rule of law–is difficult and dangerous. The gulf states, for example, have gotten modernization lite, with thegoods and even the workers imported from abroad.
Nothing was homegrown;nothing is even now. As for politics, the gulf governments offered theirpeople a bargain: we will bribe you with wealth, but in return let us stayin power. It was the inverse slogan of the American revolution–notaxation, but no representation either. The new age of globalization has hit the Arab world in a very strange way. Its societies are open enough to be disrupted by modernity, but not so openthat they can ride the wave. They see the television shows, the fast foodsand the fizzy drinks.
But they don’t see genuine liberalization in thesociety, with increased opportunities and greater openness. Globalizationin the Arab world is the critic’s caricature of globalization–a slew ofWestern products and billboards with little else. For some in theirsocieties it means more things to buy. For the regimes it is an unsettling,dangerous phenomenon. As a result, the people they rule can look atglobalization but for the most part not touch it. America stands at the center of this world of globalization.
It seemsunstoppable. If you close the borders, America comes in through the mail. If you censor the mail, it appears in the fast food and faded jeans. If youban the products, it seeps in through satellite television.
Americans areso comfortable with global capitalism and consumer culture that we cannotfathom just how revolutionary these forces are. Disoriented young men, with one foot in the old world and another in thenew, now look for a purer, simpler alternative. Fundamentalism searches forsuch people everywhere; it, too, has been globalized. One can now find menin Indonesia who regard the Palestinian cause as their own. (Twenty yearsago an Indonesian Muslim would barely have known where Palestine was.
)Often they learned about this path away from the West while they were inthe West. As did Mohamed Atta, the Hamburg-educated engineer who drove thefirst plane into the World Trade Center. The Arab world has a problem with its Attas in more than one sense. Globalization has caught it at a bad demographic moment. Arab societies aregoing through a massive youth bulge, with more than half of most countries’populations under the age of 25.
Young men, often better educated thantheir parents, leave their traditional villages to find work. They arrivein noisy, crowded cities like Cairo, Beirut and Damascus or go to work inthe oil states. (Almost 10 percent of Egypt’s working population worked inthe gulf at one point. ) In their new world they see great disparities ofwealth and the disorienting effects of modernity; most unsettlingly, theysee women, unveiled and in public places, taking buses, eating in cafes andworking alongside them. A huge influx of restless young men in any country is bad news.
Whenaccompanied by even small economic and social change, it usually produces anew politics of protest. In the past, societies in these circumstances havefallen prey to a search for revolutionary solutions. (France went through ayouth bulge just before the French Revolution, as did Iran before its 1979revolution. ) In the case of the Arab world, this revolution has taken theform of an Islamic resurgence.
Chapter III: Enter ReligionNasser was a reasonably devout Muslim, but he had no interest in mixingreligion with politics. It struck him as moving backward. This becameapparent to the small Islamic parties that supported Nasser’s rise topower. The most important one, the Muslim Brotherhood, began opposing himvigorously, often violently.
Nasser cracked down on it in 1954, imprisoning more than a thousand of itsleaders and executing six. One of those jailed, Sayyid Qutub, a frail manwith a fiery pen, wrote a book in prison called “Signposts on the Road,”which in some ways marks the beginnings of modern political Islam or whatis often called “Islamic fundamentalism. “In his book, Qutub condemned Nasser as an impious Muslim and his regime asun-Islamic. Indeed, he went on, almost every modern Arab regime wassimilarly flawed. Qutub envisioned a better, more virtuous polity that wasbased on strict Islamic principles, a core goal of orthodox Muslims sincethe 1880s.
As the regimes of the Middle East grew more distant andoppressive and hollow in the decades following Nasser, fundamentalism’sappeal grew. It flourished because the Muslim Brotherhood and organizationslike it at least tried to give people a sense of meaning and purpose in achanging world, something no leader in the Middle East tried to do. In his seminal work, “The Arab Predicament,” Fouad Ajami explains, “Thefundamentalist call has resonance because it invited men to participate. . .
in contrast to a political culture that reduces citizens to spectatorsand asks them to leave things to their rulers. At a time when the future isuncertain, it connects them to a tradition that reduces bewilderment. “Fundamentalism gave Arabs who were dissatisfied with their lot a powerfullanguage of opposition. On that score, Islam had little competition.
The Arab world is a politicaldesert with no real political parties, no free press, few pathways fordissent. As a result, the mosque turned into the place to discuss politics. And fundamentalist organizations have done more than talk. From the MuslimBrotherhood to Hamas to Hizbullah, they actively provide social services,medical assistance, counseling and temporary housing.
For thosewhotreasure civil society, it is disturbing to see that in the Middle Eastthese illiberal groups are civil society. I asked Sheri Berman, a scholar at Princeton who studies the rise offascist parties in Europe, whether she saw any parallels. “Fascists wereoften very effective at providing social services,” she pointed out. “Whenthe state or political parties fail to provide a sense of legitimacy orpurpose or basic services, other organizations have often been able to stepinto the void. In Islamic countries there is a ready-made source oflegitimacy in the religion.
So it’s not surprising that this is thefoundation on which these groups have flourished. The particular form–Islamic fundamentalism–is specific to this region, but the basic dynamicis sim- ilar to the rise of Nazism, fascism and even populism in the UnitedStates. “Islamic fundamentalism got a tremendous boost in 1979 when AyatollahRuhollah Khomeini toppled the Shah of Iran. The Iranianrevolutiondemonstrated that a powerful ruler could be taken on by groups withinsociety. It also revealed how in a broken society even seemingly benignforces of progress–education and technology–can add to the turmoil.
Untilthe 1970s most Muslims in the Middle East were illiterate and lived invillages and towns. They practiced a kind of street-Islam that had adapteditself to the local culture. Pluralistic and tolerant, these people oftenworshiped saints, went to shrines, sang religious hymns and cherishedreligious art, all technically disallowed in Islam. (This was particularlytrue in Iran. ) By the 1970s, however, people had begun moving out of thevillages and their religious experience was not rooted in a specific place. At the same time they were learning to read and they discovered that a newIslam was being preached by the fundamentalists, an abstract faith notrooted in historical experience but literal, puritanical and by the book.
It was Islam of the High Church as opposed to Islam of the village fair. In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini used a powerful technology–the audiocassette. His sermons were distributed throughout the country and became the vehicleof opposition to the shah’s repressive regime. But Khomeini was not alonein using the language of Islam as a political tool.
Intellectuals,disillusioned by the half-baked or overrapid modernization thatwasthrowing theirworldintoturmoil,werewritingbooksagainst”Westoxification” and calling the modern Iranian man–half Western, halfEastern–rootless. Fashionable intellectuals, often writingfromthecomfort of London or Paris, would critique American secularismandconsumerism and endorse an Islamic alternative. As theories like thesespread across the Arab world, they appealed not to the poorest of the poor,for whom Westernization was magical (it meant food and medicine). Theyappealed to the half-educated hordes entering the cities of the Middle Eastor seeking education and jobs in the West.
The fact that Islam is a highly egalitarian religion for the most part hasalso proved an empowering call for people who felt powerless. At the sametime it means that no Muslim really has the authority to question whethersomeone who claims to be a proper Muslim is one. The fundamentalists, fromSayyid Qutub on, have jumped into that the void. They ask whether peopleare “good Muslims. ” It is a question that has terrified the Muslim world.
And here we come to the failure not simply of governments but intellectualand social elites. Moderate Muslims are loath to criticize or debunk thefanaticism of the fundamentalists. Like the moderates in Northern Ireland, they are scared of what wouldhappen to them if they speak their mind. The biggest Devil’s bargain has been made by the moderate monarchies of thePersian Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime has played adangerous game.
It deflects attention from its shoddy record at home byfunding religious schools (madrasas) and centers that spread a rigid,puritanical brand of Islam–Wahhabism. In the past 30 years Saudi-fundedschools have churned out tens of thousands of half-educated, fanaticalMuslims who view the modern world and non-Muslims with great suspicion. America in this world view is almost always evil. This exported fundamentalism has in turn infected not just other Arabsocieties but countries outside the Arab world, like Pakistan. During the11-year reign of Gen. Zia ul-Haq, the dictator decided that as he squashedpolitical dissent he needed allies.
He found them in the fundamentalists. With the aid of Saudi financiers and functionaries, he set up scores ofmadrasas throughout the country. They bought him temporary legitimacy buthave eroded the social fabric of Pakistan. If there is one great cause of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, it isthe total failure of political institutions in the Arab world. Muslimelites have averted their eyes from this reality.
Conferences at Islamiccenters would still rather discuss “Islam and the Environment” than examinethe dysfunctions of the current regimes. But as the moderate majority looksthe other way, Islam is being taken over by a small poisonous element,people who advocate cruel attitudes toward women, education, the economyand modern life in general. I have seen this happen in India, where I grewup. The rich, colorful, pluralistic and easygoing Islam of my youth hasturned into a dour, puritanical faith, policed by petty theocrats andreligious commissars. The next section deals with what the United Statescan do to help the Islamic world.
But if Muslims do not take it uponthemselves to stop their religion from falling prey to medievalists,nothing any outsider can do will save them. Chapter IV: WHAT TO DOIf almost any Arab were to have read this essay so far, he would haveobjected vigorously by now. “It is all very well to talk about the failuresof the Arab world,” he would say, “but what about the failures of the West?You speak of long-term decline, but our problems are with specific, cruelAmerican policies. ” For most Arabs, relations with the United States havebeen filled with disappointment. While the Arab world has long felt betrayed by Europe’s colonial powers,its disillusionment with America begins most importantly with the creationof Israel in 1948. As the Arabs see it, at a time when colonies werewinning independence from the West, here was a state largely composed offoreign people being imposed on a region with Western backing.
The angerdeepened in the wake of America’s support for Israel during the wars of1967 and 1973, and ever since in its relations with the Palestinians. Thedaily exposure to Israel’s iron-fisted rule over the occupied territorieshas turned this into the great cause of the Arab–and indeed the broaderIslamic–world. Elsewhere, they look at American policy in the region ascynically geared to America’s oil interests, supporting thugs and tyrantswithout any hesitation. Finally, the bombing and isolation of Iraq havebecome fodder for daily attacks on the United States. While many in theArab world do not like Saddam Hussein, they believe that the United Stateshas chosen a particularly inhuman method of fighting him–a method that isstarving an entire nation. There is substance to some of these charges, and certainly from the pointof view of an Arab, American actions are never going to seem entirely fair.
Like any country, America has its interests. In my view, America’s greatestsins toward the Arab world are sins of omission. We have neglected to pressany regime there to open up its society. This neglect turned deadly in thecase of Afghanistan.
Walking away from that fractured country after 1989resulted in the rise of bin Laden and the Taliban. This is not the gravesterror a great power can make, but it is a common American one. As F. ScottFitzgerald explained of his characters in “The Great Gatsby,” “They werecareless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed things up and creatures andthen retreated back into their money, or their vast carelessness. .
. and letother people clean up the mess. ” America has not been venal in the Arabworld. But it has been careless. Yet carelessness is not enough to explain Arab rage.
After all, if concernfor the Palestinians is at the heart of the problem, why have their Arabbrethren done nothing for them? (They cannot resettle in any Arab nationbut Jordan, and the aid they receive from the gulf states is minuscule. )Israel treats its 1 million Arabs as second-class citizens, a disgrace onits democracy. And yet the tragedy of the Arab world is that Israel accordsthem more political rights and dignities than most Arab nations give totheir own people. Why is the focus of Arab anger on Israel and not thoseregimes?The disproportionate feelings of grievance directed at America have to beplaced in the overall context of the sense of humiliation, decline anddespair that sweeps the Arab world. After all, the Chinese vigorouslydisagree with most of America’s foreign policy and have fought wars withU. S.
proxies. African states feel the same sense of disappointment andunfairness. But they do not work it into a rage against America. Arabs,however, feel that they are under siege from the modern world and that theUnited States symbolizes this world.
Thus every action America takes getsmagnified a thousandfold. And even when we do not act, the rumors of ourgigantic powers and nefarious deeds still spread. Most Americans would notbelieve how common the rumor is throughout the Arab world that either theCIA or Israel’s Mossad blew up the World Trade Center to justify attacks onArabs and Muslims. This is the culture from which the suicide bombers havecome.America must now devise a strategy to deal with this form of religiousterrorism. As is now widely understood, this will be a long war, with manyfronts and battles small and large. Our strategy must be divided alongthree lines: military, political and cultural. On the military front–bywhich I mean war, covert operations and other forms of coercion–the goalis simple: the total destruction of Al Qaeda. Even if we never understandall the causes of apocalyptic terror, we must do battle against it. Everyperson who plans and helps in a terrorist operation must understand that hewill be tracked and punished. Their operations will be disrupted, theirfinances drained, their hideouts destroyed. There will be associated coststo pursuing such a strategy, but they will all fade if we succeed. Nothingelse matters on the military front.The political strategy is more complex and more ambitious. At the broadestlevel, we now have a chance to reorder the international system around thispressing new danger. The degree of cooperation from around the world hasbeen unprecedented. We should not look on this trend suspiciously. Mostgovernments feel threatened by the rise of subnational forces like AlQaeda. Even some that have clearly supported terrorism in the past, likeIran, seem interested in re-entering the world community and reformingtheir ways.We can define a strategy for the post-cold-war era that addresses America’sprincipal national-security need and yet is sustainedbyabroadinternational consensus. To do this we will have to give up some cold-warreflexes, such as an allergy to multilateralism, and stop insisting thatChina is about to rival us militarily or that Russia is likely to re-emergeas a new military threat. (For 10 years now, our defense forces have beenaligned for everything but the real danger we face. This will inevitablychange.)The purpose of an international coalition is practical and strategic. Giventhe nature of this war, we will need the constant cooperation of othergovernments–to make arrests, shut down safe houses, close bank accountsand share intelligence. Alliance politics has become a matter of highnational security. But there is a broader imperative. The United Statesdominates the world in a way that inevitably arouses envy or anger oropposition. That comes with the power, but we still need to get thingsdone. If we can mask our power in–sorry, work with–institutions like theUnited Nations Security Council, U.S. might will be easier for much of theworld to bear. Bush’s father understood this, which is why he ensured thatthe United Nations sanctioned the gulf war. The point here is to succeed,and international legitimacy can help us do that.Now we get to Israel. It is obviously one of the central and most chargedproblems in the region. But it is a problem to which we cannot offer theArab world support for its solution–the extinction of the state. We cannotin any way weaken our commitment to the existence and health of Israel.Similarly, we cannot abandon our policy of containing Saddam Hussein. He isbuilding weapons of mass destruction.However, we should not pursue mistaken policies simply out of spite. Ourpolicy toward Saddam is broken. We have no inspectors in Iraq, thesanctions are–for whatever reason–starving Iraqis and he continues tobuild chemical and biological weapons. There is a way to reorient ourpolicy to focus our pressure on Saddam and not his people, contain himmilitarily but not harm common Iraqis economically. Colin Powell has beentrying to do this; he should be given leeway to try again. In time we willhave to address the broader question of what to do about Saddam, a questionthat, unfortunately, does not have an easy answer. (Occupying Iraq, even ifwe could do it, does not seem a good idea in this climate.)On Israel we should make a clear distinction between its right to exist andits occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. On the first we should be asunyielding as ever; on the second we should continue trying to construct afinal deal along the lines that Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak outlined. Isuggest that we do this less because it will lower the temperature in theArab world–who knows if it will?–than because it’s the right thing to do.Israel cannot remain a democracy and continue to occupy and militarily rule3 million people against their wishes. It’s bad for Israel, bad for thePalestinians and bad for the United States.But policy changes, large or small, are not at the heart of the struggle weface. The third, vital component to this battle is a cultural strategy. TheUnited States must help Islam enter the modern world. It sounds like animpossible challenge, and it certainly is not one we would have chosen. ButAmerica–indeed the whole world–faces a dire security threat that will notbe resolved unless we can stop the political, economic and culturalcollapse that lies at the roots of Arab rage. During the cold war the Westemployed myriad ideological strategies to discredittheappealofcommunism, make democracy seem attractive and promote open societies. Wewill have to do something on that scale to win this cultural struggle.First, we have to help moderate Arab states, but on the condition that theyembrace moderation. For too long regimes like Saudi Arabia’s have engagedin a deadly dance with religious extremism. Even Egypt, which has alwaysdenounced fundamentalism, allows its controlled media to rant crazily aboutAmerica and Israel. (That way they don’t rant about the dictatorship theylive under.) But more broadly, we must persuade Arab moderates to make thecase to their people that Islam is compatible with modern society, that itdoes allow women to work, that it encourages education and that it haswelcomed people of other faiths and creeds. Some of this they will do–Sept. 11 has been a wake-up call for many. The Saudi regime denounced andbroke its ties to the Taliban (a regime that it used to glorify asrepresenting pure Islam). The Egyptian press is now making the case formilitary action. The United States and the West should do their own work aswell. We can fund moderate Muslim groups and scholars and broadcast freshthinking across the Arab world, all aimed at breaking the power of thefundamentalists.Obviously we will have to help construct a new political order inAfghanistan after we have deposed the Taliban regime. But beyond that wehave to press the nations of the Arab world–and others, like Pakistan,where the virus of fundamentalism has spread–to reform, open up and gainlegitimacy. We need to do business with these regimes; yet, just as we didwith South Korea and Taiwan during the cold war, we can ally with thesedictatorships and still push them toward reform. For those who argue thatwe should not engage in nation-building, I would say foreign policy is nottheology. I have myself been skeptical of nation-building in places whereour interests were unclear and it seemed unlikely that we would stay thecourse. In this case, stable political development is the key to reducingour single greatest security threat. We have no option but to get back intothe nation-building business.It sounds like a daunting challenge, but there are many good signs. AlQaeda is not more powerful than the combined force of many determinedgovernments. The world is indeed uniting around American leadership, andperhaps we will see the emergence, for a while, of a new global communityand consensus, which could bring progress in many otherareasofinternational life. Perhaps most important, Islamic fundamentalism stilldoes not speak to the majority of the Muslim people. In Pakistan,fundamentalist parties have yet to get more than 10 percent of the vote. InIran, having experienced the brutal puritanism of the mullahs, people areyearning for normalcy.InEgypt,foralltherepression,thefundamentalists are a potent force but so far not dominant. If the West canhelp Islam enter modernity in dignity and peace, it will have done morethan achieved security. It will have changed the world.