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Pfaff on Kissinger

 Pfaff on Kissinger

Dr. Kissinger and the Jihad

William Pfaff

Paris -- Henry Kissinger has joined the debate over NATO's future with an analysis that curiously but characteristically overestimates the threats that are supposed to hang over the United States and Western Europe


His analysis is a sweeping one but hinges on the supposed threat of radical Islam to the Middle East and implicitly to the international balance. He says that it is a revolutionary threat to the feeble nation-state system in the region, which was created only after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the first world war. 


He seems to think that because of radical Islam, national governments risk being replaced by some form of fundamentalist Arab-Iranian unification. However the "Arab Nation" has been pursuing union since 1919, and today is farther from it than ever, and al Qaeda can't even unite Iraq, which is itself newly splintered, thanks to the U.S. intervention. And the Shia-Sunni division remains.


He also sees jihadism as a menace to the "security and well-being of the industrial states," since the radical Islamic ambition is to create "a universal political organization," and its influence reaches wherever "significant populations profess the Muslim faith." 


Radical Islam might wish to establish a "universal" organization, but what possible chance does it have of actually doing so? None of the non-Moslem states in which Moslems are a significant minority has any desire to have the Moslems take over. All or nearly all have large non-Moslem police and security forces, armies, etc. What does Dr. Kissinger have in mind?


He has always had a predilection for dramatic warnings of geopolitical menace, which get the attention of Congress and White House. This article happened to be published internationally on the same day as a New York Times report that the predicted terrorist threat to Western Europe has failed to arrive. (For that matter, it has also failed to arrive in America, where there has been no terrorist outrage since September 11, 2001.)



The French domestic security service, the DST, in 2004 passed to the Times an analysis saying that young European Moslems who went abroad to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan would return to Europe from their foreign terrorist experience "strongly indoctrinated and trained in the handling of arms and explosives." They would obviously "constitute a grave threat" to national security. 


Similar warnings were current in other countries, and certainly in the United States, where according to the administration, and some Republican political candidates, Americans are still fighting the terrorists in Iraq so they won't have to fight them at home.


Such terrorist crimes as have been committed in Europe have nearly all been home-made. As an American terrorism specialist wrote several years ago in the scholarly journal Terrorism and Political Violence, the risk of being killed by a terrorist in America or Europe has proven to be statistically lower then the risk of drowning in one's own bathtub. 


It seems that young European Moslems have not been rushing to join the fight abroad. First, it takes serious money to get there. Second, the young volunteers usually don't have contacts there, don't have military training, and don't speak the local languages. They are useless to the professionals unless they want to volunteer as suicide-bombers. Moreover, European police work is good and most of those talking to their pals about joining the jihad are arrested before they leave home. Finally, their families and their communities don't approve.


The American neo-conservatives have convinced themselves that the jihad is a global threat that will conquer the Middle East by overturning the existing states there and then attack Europe by way of its Moslem minorities. Do they really think that these people in Europe want to import to their new countries the bleak authoritarianism, lack of opportunity, and chaotic politics they left behind?


With respect to countering the supposed Moslem threat, Dr. Kissinger talks mainly about military intervention. He believes that if the United States leaves Iraq, Washington and its allies would only "be obliged to resist from new positions." Resist what? "A resurgence of Al Qaeda or radicalism." Why do we have to resist them? Surely it is up to the Moslems themselves to resist what is happening in their own society.


It would not seem too much of an exaggeration to compare Dr. Kissinger's view with that of a 16th century counselor to the Turkish Sultan urging that the Empire's janissaries be sent into Europe to put down the Protestant Reformation. 


If Kissinger really thinks al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist movement are so powerful that they ultimately can overturn the established global nation-state system, as he says, surely keeping a weary U.S. Army in Iraq is not enough to stop them. They are not even a threat to western oil supplies from the Middle East. That fantasy was laid to rest by the failure of the 1973 OPEC oil blockade.


There is a major upheaval of cultural identity and religion in the Middle East and Central Asian portions of the Islamic world. It results from relations with the West, certainly, since colonial and imperial times, and it has been brought to a crisis at the present time by economic globalization and international communications and media. 


The United States has blundered into it because of oil and Israel, but is totally incapable of contributing to its resolution because America's very presence intensifies it. Military force makes it worse. The Moslem countries lack the power to harm the West. The only constructive course for the western nations is an orderly, if guarded, disengagement. 


© Copyright 2008 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.
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