Friday, August 25, 2006

Scary Stuff

Democracy Versus Terrorism
Post 9/11 and particularly post-Madrid 2004, events have led to a hardening of positions in Europe among the majority population and, at the same time, there are more second and third generation Muslim youth finding their way to jihad. The stereotype of the jihadi coming from the Arab world is changing. Post-September 11, recruits are just as easily to be found in poly-techniques, high schools and university campuses in Europe. (...) Post-World War II European liberalism, that had tolerated other religions and political beliefs, is today threatened with an immigrant Muslim population that constitutes four to five per cent of the population (European census usually does not ask for religion). This is expected to go up to ten per cent by 2025, and the indigenous population is expected to decline. So long as multi-culturalism did not affect Europe's way of life, immigration was acceptable, but once it became clear that this being taken advantage of by the immigrant and seen as encouraging terrorism, restrictions have begun to be applied. This push of immigrants from Asia brings its own social problems. This aspect is going to be a major cause for concern in Europe in the years ahead. (...) The problem is not in the Pakistani madrassas alone. Jihad continues to be taught in mainstream schools even today. Hatred towards other religions and towards India is a common diet. The worry is that while most of the madrassa alumni end up in the caves of Tora Bora or the heights of Parachinar, those from mainstream schools go to mainstream colleges and end up with main line jobs at home or abroad. Assuming that three million school children are added to Pakistan's schools every year, an unknown number of the 70 million young persons have already imbibed jihadi leanings in the last 25 years. (...) The Taliban, resurgent in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in the turbulent Waziristan of Pakistan, have been sending their volunteers to Iraq for training in suicide terrorism and arms. Waziristan is also a sanctuary for Chechens and Uzbek Islamic insurgents. The recent spectacular comeback of the Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan, operating from their sanctuaries in Pakistan where they have declared an Islamic Republic of Waziristan, has been achieved with help from al Qaeda operatives, Gulbuddin Hikmetyar's Hizb-e-Islami and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. (...) Groups like al Qaeda and LeT cannot be controlled by a purely non-military response because they seek the establishment of Caliphates, through violence if necessary, and this is not acceptable in the modern world. It is necessary to militarily weaken these forces, starve them of funds and bases and then to tackle long-term issues by providing them better education, employment and so on. While discussing the roots of terrorism in his book No End to this War, Walter Laqueur says Muslims have had a problem adjusting as minorities, be it in India, the Philippines or Western Europe. Similarly, they find it difficult to give their own minorities, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, a fair deal in their own countries the Berbers in Algeria, the Copts in Egypt or the Christians or Shias in Pakistan or Sudan being examples. (...) There is a naive assumption that if local grievances or problems are solved, global terrorism will disappear. The belief or the hope that, if tomorrow, in Palestine, or Kashmir or Chechnya or wherever else, the issues were settled, terrorism will disappear, is a mistaken belief. There is now enough free-floating violence and vested interests that would need this violence to continue. There has been a multifaceted nexus between narcotics, illicit arms smuggling and human trafficking, that seeks the continuance of violence and disorder. Modern terrorism thrives not on just ideology or politics. The main driver is money, and the new economy of terror and international crime has been calculated to be worth US $1.5 trillion (and growing), which is big enough to challenge Western hegemony. This is higher than the GDP of Britain, and ten times the size of General Motors. (...) In today's world of deregulated finance, terrorists have taken full advantage of systems to penetrate legitimate international financial institutions and establish regular business houses. Islamic banks and other charities have helped fund movements, sometimes without the knowledge of the managers of these institutions that the source and destination of the funds is not what has been declared. Both Hamas and the PLO have been flush with funds, with Arafat's secret treasury estimated to be worth US $ 700 million to US 2 billion. It is not easy, but the civilized world must counter the scourge of terrorism. In a networked world, where communication and action can be in real time, where boundaries need not be crossed and where terrorist action can take place on the Net and through the Net, the task of countering this is increasingly difficult and intricate. (...) The rest of the world cannot afford to see the US lose the war in Iraq, however ill-conceived it might have been. If the US cuts and runs, then the jihadis will proclaim victory over the sole superpower. If the US stays or extends its theatre of activity, this will only produce more jihadis. That is the dilemma for all of us. Unfortunately, given the manner in which the US seeks to pursue its objectives, one is fairly certain that the US cannot win. What one is still not certain is whether or not there is a realization of this in Washington, or whether there is still a mood of self-denial and self-delusion. It has to be accepted that there can be no final victory in any battle against terrorism. Resentments real or imagined, and exploding expectations, will remain. Since the state no longer has monopoly on instruments of violence, recourse to violence is increasingly a weapon of first resort. Terrorism can be contained and its effects minimized, but it cannot be eradicated, anymore than the world can eradicate crime. An over-militaristic response or repeated use of the armed forces is fraught with long-term risks for a nation and for its forces. Military action to deter or overcome an immediate threat is often necessary, but it cannot ultimately eradicate terrorism. This is as much a political and economic battle, and also a battle to be fought long-term by the intelligence and security agencies, increasingly in cooperation with agencies of other countries. Ultimately, the battle is between democracy and terrorism. The fear is that in order to defeat the latter, we may be losing some of our democratic values. By Vikram Sood