The biggest political story of the post-9/11 era may be the degree to which
To make a very complex and poorly understood story as concise as possible, the worsening situation in
military tactics inflame hostility; U.S. or proxy military campaigns in one country exacerbate violence later in another country; U.S. or proxy military campaigns in one country cause refugee flows that destabilize the society of other countries; U.S.
- Quick to judgment,
supports the very repressive regimes that were the source of the problem; Washington
- Addressing the symptom of militant protest rather than the cause of popular dissatisfaction,
undermines its own interests; Washington
- Using its military hammer to address the radicals’ talking points;
- Trusting local leaders who speak English and sport official titles,
fails to perceive the interests they share with local militants; Washington
- Viewing the world through
eyes, U.S. fails to appreciate local regime priorities. Washington
Again, the point here is not to claim to have “discovered” something new but to point out that, with
Building on the abstract discussion of Muslim radicalization presented earlier, below are a few details about the Yemeni case.
War Crime Chickens Come Home to Roost. Following military attacks in December, which the Yemeni press is condemning as “massacres,” “dozens of Qaeda family members and local residents were killed, increasing anti-government sentiment.”
Military Campaigns Spread Chaos. Yemenis who fought in Iraq after the US invasion are now back in Yemen supporting radicalism there, duplicating a similar flow out of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. Militant leaders in
Supporting Repression. With people angry at misgovernment and radicals quick to exploit it, supporting a corrupt and repressive regime plays right into radical hands; in
Symptoms, not Causes. With poverty, civil war that has left 100,000 homeless, and a growing water shortage far more characteristic of
Failing to Address the Radical Critique of the West. In “44 Ways to Support Jihad,” Yemeni-American imam Anwar al Aklaki made several points that
The danger of the Western media stems from the fact that it puts on the cloak of truth and objectivity when in reality it is no more than the mouthpiece of the devil. Can’t you see that the Western media is constantly trying to underplay the atrocities committed by the West…
Trusting Local Leaders.
Misunderstanding Regime Priorities.
These dynamics interact in complex ways that should be carefully studied before any decision to intervene is even considered. It is hard to imagine an al Qua’ida recruiting technique that could be more effective than having the
intervention in the region on false pretexts.
In essence, two conflict are occurring. One is a domestic struggle between a regime desiring power and people desiring better governance. The secon d is a global struggle between jihadis and the West. For the West to win, it must prevent the two struggles from becoming mixed. For violent jihadis to win, they must convince the populace that the struggle for liberty and justice means combating the West. To the degree that the West can use judicial means to combat jihadis while either remaining aloof from the domestic struggle for liberty or—better—in some way becoming identified as a supporter, it gains. To the degree that the West becomes associated in popular perceptions with a repressive regime, the jihadis become the symbol of liberty, and they gain. To a great extent, the story of the post-9/11 world is the story of
One pitfall for the U.S. is for the reform movement and general population to perceive the U.S. as their enemy. The U.S. will almost inevitably fall into this pit if it attempts a military solution to the problem of eliminating terrorism because military means, especially those employed by the U.S., are unsuited to attacking militants hidden in a civilian population. The true believers will gladly sacrifice the lives of innocent civilians in order to win the war against the U.S. Emphasizing judicial methods not only reaffirms American principles but protects U.S. interests by minimizing the number of enemies it will make.
Another pitfall for the U.S. is allowing a regime the U.S. is cooperating with against jihadis to exploit that cooperation in its domestic struggle to defeat reformers and retain control. If the regime succeeds in doing so by playing on U.S. confusion between jihadis claiming the patriotic mantle and genuine reformers, the jihadis may seize control of the opposition movement.