Saturday, August 13, 2005

From Paul Berman

Some people have emphasized that, so far as we know, not one of the national states in the Middle East or anywhere else seems to have been directly responsible for the attacks. Thus it is said that without the involvement of a national state, we cannot properly speak of something as capacious as war (as if wars can take place only between national states--when the great majority of wars in recent years have been, in fact, civil wars, meaning, conflicts in which only one side possesses a state). This is another way of making the same minimizing point: that we are not facing any kind of substantial or well-organized enemy, even if we have suffered a disastrous blow. But we are facing a substantial and well-organized enemy. Our enemy is the combat wing of radical and Islamist movements that are genuinely enormous.

Those movements are supported by clerics and businessmen. They are protected by the apologies of the shrewdest of intellectuals. They deploy worldwide networks of organizations. They enjoy popular support not just in one or two remote places--a support that is strong enough to have pushed one state after another into an ambiguous attitude toward those movements: not willing to endorse, and not willing to suppress, either. The few dozen people who are thought to be responsible for September 11 could be arrested or killed, and Osama bin Laden could end up captured or strung from a tree--and even so, with popular enthusiasm and political and intellectual structures to back them up, the terrorist assaults would very likely continue. For the assaults were already under way before bin Laden entered the scene, and there is no reason they could not continue without him.

There is a great deal of liberal and left-wing naïveté about this matter in the United States, and not just there. But there is also a conservative and right-wing naïveté, which may be still greater and is much graver in its possible consequences. (And I'm not even bothering with the Jerry Falwells of this world.) It should be remembered that George Bush the Elder was anything but astute about the dangers in Arab radicalism. Saddam Hussein would never have been able to invade Kuwait in 1990 if Bush the Elder had been on his guard. And Saddam would never have been able to survive his eventual military defeat if Bush the Elder had not decided to let him go. I have always wondered why the elder Bush was so easily taken in by Saddam. Maybe the Texas oil connection had something to do with it. Perhaps Bush had too many friends in Saudi Arabia, instead of too few, and the Saudi friends (being halfway implicated in these movements themselves) advised him to go easy. I don't know; I am speculating.
-from the below link


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