SLUG: 1-00990 OTL - Civilization Against Terrorism
TYPE=ON THE LINE
TITLE=ON THE LINE: CIVILIZATION AGAINST TERRORISM
EDITOR=OFFICE OF POLICY 619-0037
THEME: UP, HOLD UNDER AND FADE
Anncr: On the Line a discussion of United States policy and contemporary issues. This week, "Civilization's Fight against Terrorism." Here is your host, Robert Reilly.
Host: Hello and Welcome to On the Line. President George W. Bush called the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City and part of the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., an attack on civilization. Over six-thousand people, including citizens of eighty other nations, were killed. This is not, said Mr. Bush, "just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight." President Bush made it clear that this is a war against terrorists and not against Islam. Islam, he said, is not the enemy. The enemy is a murderous ideology held by Islamist extremists who are traitors to their own faith." "They follow," said President Bush, "in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism."
Joining me today to discuss civilization's fight against terrorism are two experts. Jeane Kirkpatrick is director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. She served as U-S ambassador to the United Nations from 1981 to 1985. And Stephen Solarz is the vice-chairman of the International Crisis Group. As a U-S congressman, he served as the chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Welcome to the program.
Host: Ambassador Kirkpatrick, you are one of the principal diagnosticians of totalitarianism in the Cold War. You were an intellectual leader before you were a political leader in that struggle. The President has used some very powerful language in his address comparing this Islamist extremism to fascism, Nazism, and totalitarianism. Is that an apt analogy for what is being faced here?
Kirkpatrick: I think so. I have thought about it actually quite a bit since he did the speech. I think it is correct because this is an ideology. You know you can call it a religion, they call it a religion. But it is something rather different than a religion as well. It claims total control of the persons who are its faithful, total control of their lives and in all details. It also claims total control of the societies in which they live, and it seeks to eliminate any dissenters entirely. This effort at total control and elimination of alternatives and really, truly repressive effort at total control is fairly characteristic of what totalitarian political regimes undertook in fact. This is a theocracy. Rather, they would consider it a theocracy, rather than simply a political regime.
Host: Do you agree, Stephen Solarz? You have had a lot of experience in that part of the world.
Solarz: I do agree with Jeane as I usually do these days, but I would add two other things. First, like these other discredited ideologies, it represents a kind of perverted idealism, in the sense that what motivates these people, I think, among other things, is the desire to create what from that perspective is the ideal form of human existence. And, also like these other ideologies, it rejects any relationship between ends and means. It will do whatever it thinks it has to do, regardless of the human consequences, in order to advance its ideological objectives. And that is what I think makes them so dangerous.
Host: Well, how do you deal with that, particularly when an ideology contains such a massive distortion of reality? And that is manifested in some of the statements that these groups have made, both before and after the attack of September 11th. I would just invite your attention to one from Sami Haq, the cleric who heads a Pakistani party called Jamiyat Ulemai Islam Party, who said "this attack is a pretext for the United States to conquer all of Central Asia including China." He also says that it is clearly a Zionist plot because four-thousand Jews did not show up for work in the World Trade Center that morning. [He says] that proves that Israel was behind it. There are any number of statements like this that I could quote to you from extremist sources. How do you deal with people whose contact with reality has become so faint?
Kirkkpatrick: Carefully. Very, very carefully, I think. I think that their contact with reality is sufficiently distorted and sufficiently remote, really, that it is dangerous. I consider them - they are very dangerous people. We all know they are very dangerous people. They have killed a great many of our countrymen and they have destroyed a big piece of New York City and Washington, moreover. And so they are dangerous people. And you know our problem is not what they believe, it is what they want to do with anyone who does not share all their beliefs.
Solarz: I think we have to distinguish between those like the gentlemen you mentioned, then quoted, who believe these bizarre speculations and those who do not believe them, but might be persuaded to believe them if they are not offered alternative and more credible explanations for what happened. And here, if I may give you a gratuitous plug, I think there is a role for the V-O-A and other media outlets in presenting the facts to people. For example, this utterly ludicrous proposition that there were four-thousand Jews who worked in the World Trade Center who didn't show up for work that day, which is presumably designed to suggest that they knew in advance that the buildings were going to be attacked and were alerted so they could save their own skins. First of all, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to justify such a speculation. And secondly, the fact is that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Jews who did work in the World Trade Center who were killed as a result of these terrorist attacks. So, I think it is important not simply to dismiss the allegation by ignoring it on the grounds it is so ridiculous it does not deserve a response. I think it is essential to lay the facts out so that fair-minded people will be able to conclude that there is nothing to it.
Host: You also find within this frame of mind accusations that the United States is an imperial power that is trying to rule the Islamic world, and that it is responsible for, believe it or not, millions of deaths of Muslim women and children, another hysterical accusation without foundation. And they say that, ignoring the fact that the United States came to the defense of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Kosovo, and that the reason they are in the Holy Land of Saudi Arabia was to defend Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein. Why doesn't that, Steve Solarz, get through?
Solarz: It's a very good question, and I have to say that I have asked it myself. In addition to the instances you mentioned, we also came to the defense of Afghanistan itself when the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 and attempted to impose its own atheistic puppet regime on a nation of devout Muslims. But we appear not to be getting any credit for [that] these days either. Another interesting thing is that those who object to what they claim we are about to do in responding to these terrorist attacks, that could conceivably result in the deaths of some innocent people, have virtually nothing to say when Muslim governments kill their own Muslim populations. What objections did they make to what Hafez al-Assad did in Hama, in Aleppo, when he leveled the whole quarter of the city? Or what did they say about Saddam Hussein when he launched Operation Anfal, which was a genocidal campaign against the Muslim Kurds in northern Iraq? They were basically silent. And so, I think there is a huge double standard here.
Host: I think you might even be able to go further inside Afghanistan itself, because the Arab jihadists with Usama bin Laden there have probably killed more Afghan Muslims than he has killed anybody else. The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al-Faisal, made this statement earlier this week that the United States "should in no way follow the objectives of the terrorists themselves in creating an unbridgeable gap between the Western world and the Islamic world." How do we avoid doing that, Ambassador Kirkpatrick, in responding to the terrorists?
Kirkpatrick: Don't let them define our goals or our means and because we clearly differentiate ourselves from them in our pursuit of our goals. We have very different views than those of Usama bin Laden. We have many American Muslims. I hope we do not have many who share the world view of Usama bin Laden, frankly. Because what's worse is that his views lead him and his followers, of course, to violence, to violent acts, destructive acts, and that is what we really seek to avoid. And I think we seek, we always are trying to distinguish in the way of liberals and liberal democratic peoples, distinguish between opinions and acts. And we consider it very, very reprehensible for any government to seek to impose an orthodoxy that involves control of all the opinions and control of all the actions of the people who live under it.
Solarz: I think that we do it in precisely the way the President is attempting to do it. First, by making it clear that we are about to embark on a war not against Islam but against terrorism. Secondly, by trying to establish a coalition to fight international terrorism which includes many, indeed most, of the Muslim countries themselves. Thirdly, by making it clear here in the United States that we value and cherish the contribution the millions of American Muslims are making to our society. And, finally, to the extent that this effort will necessarily involve military action, to try to make it as targeted and selective as possible. I suspect there are a lot of people listening in, in the Middle East and elsewhere, who are afraid that we are going to carpet bomb Kabul in the way in which Dresden and Tokyo were bombed during the Second World War. I do not think that is going to happen. I think the administration realizes that would not be productive, but there will be undoubtedly very targeted effects directed against, not Mr. bin Laden alone, but against his entire terrorist apparatus, particularly in Afghanistan.
Host: Let me just take a moment to remind our audience that this is On The Line and I am Robert Reilly, and this week we are discussing civilization's fight against terrorism with Jeane
Kirkpatrick from the American Enterprise Institute and former Congressman Stephen Solarz. One of the injunctions in the Hippocratic oath for doctors is: first, do no harm. Now, approaching this fight against terrorism, the last thing the United States would wish to do is make a bad situation worse. And in Stephen Solarz's mention of the coalition that does include Islamic states, are not some of them being put in danger, of even disintegration, by joining in alliance that significant portions of their own population will possibly reject and even rebel against.
Solarz: I would say that there is a certain risk of instability in a number of the Islamic countries to the extent that they are part of this coalition. But I would argue that it would be even a greater risk if they were not part of the coalition, because at the end of the day, people like bin Laden are not simply against the United States. One of the main reasons they are against us is precisely because we support the moderate Arab regimes which from their perspective are not carrying out the true Islamic faith. And they would be quite happy to overthrow the government in Saudi Arabia and in a number of the other Gulf countries and certainly in Egypt.
Kirkpatrick: Or Morocco, right, Tunisia or Jordan. You are right.
Solarz: Unless we succeed in this effort to dismantle and destroy al-Qaida and its affiliated organizations, the time will come when they turn their wrath on these moderate Arab regimes and are likely to have quite an impact if they do so. So I think we are in this together.
Host: That indeed is one of the great ironies, isn't it, Ambassador Kirkpatrick, that one of bin Laden's stated objectives, aside from removing what he calls the crusader forces of the United States from Saudi Arabia, is to destroy these regimes. And that what has made America, the United States, the enemy of the Islamists is precisely their support of Islamic governments such as that of Egypt, which is supported with over two-billion dollars a year from the United States.
Kirkpatrick: We began by describing these people as totalitarian in character, and I think what we see here is fairly characteristic of totalitarian dictatorships. We see a dictator, someone who desires to control everyone, everything that they believe and everything that they think, seeking first to wholly conquer mentally and physically, socially his own people, his own country. That Usama bin Laden apparently does not have a country, but he has an area. We see the Taleban making a conquest of their own people first. The Taleban has really imposed a real tyranny on the Afghan people, who did not live under such a tyranny prior to the Taleban consolidation of power there. But this is what always happens. Real tyrants always first turn on their own people and conquer them. And then they turn out to the world.
Host: Let me ask you now because much of the analysis you made of totalitarianism and the Soviet Union prepared the groundwork, Ambassador Kirkpatrick, for President Reagan to make one of the most electrifying remarks in the history of the United States when he labeled the Soviet Union the "evil empire." In his speech to the joint session of Congress, President Bush used the same word "evil." Right on target?
Kirkpatrick: Right. Yes, I think that it is very typical of American presidents to detest and abhor real tyrants and real tyranny.
Host: But that word, the use of the word, "evil."
Kirkpatrick: And regard it as evil. I think that we think that good governments and good presidents and good people do not seek total conquest of their own people or anyone, in fact.
Solarz: If the attack on the World Trade Center wasn't an absolute manifestation of evil, then the word evil has lost its meaning.
Host: And the use of the word evil galvanized the
world and the support for the United States and the free world against totalitarianism at that time. Now, Mr. Solarz, you mentioned the advantages of this coalition that President Bush is carefully crafting. Are there any disadvantages in the sense that the broader the coalition gets, including a number of Muslim states, that it will constrain the actions that the United States should take and can't because it will endanger or displease them.
Solarz: You have put your finger on a very serious potential problem. And I think, clearly what the President and his administration have to do is to engage in a very delicate balancing act. On the one hand, we do want a very broad coalition, and it is essential to include Muslim countries in it, because part of this struggle -- and it is going to be a long-term struggle -- is to de-legitimize, especially within the framework of the Muslim world, the bin Ladens and those who believe in this kind of terrorism. But in the process of establishing that coalition, it is important that we not compromise our ability to do what we need to do from a military perspective to destroy and dismantle this network. It's quite clear that you can't solve this problem by military means alone, but you clearly can't solve it by diplomatic and economic means alone. It has to be part of a comprehensive approach of which, in my view, the military component is absolutely essential. And if we permit our hands to be tied behind our back and refrain from doing things that we believe are essential to do, I think that would be a disservice to our ultimate objective.
Kirkpatrick: We must not do that. But I see no inclination whatsoever on the part of the President to behave in that way. I think the President has made clear that he intends to do what needs to be done in order to confront this threat of world terrorism.
Host: You know one image within a good part of the Muslim world of the United States is that it is a decadent country, it is a faithless country, and that it does not believe in God. That it is sexually obsessed and so forth. Bin Laden himself in his analysis of us said, "We saw you run in Lebanon, we saw you run in Somalia, and you will run again." President Bush spoke to the American people and said, "Adversity introduces us to ourselves." What has that adversity displayed about the American people since this September 11th attack?
Kirkpatrick: I feel myself that the American people have faced squarely the character of this challenge, actually. I see no inclination whatsoever of anyone running. You know that makes me so angry, frankly, when I think about, oh, bin Laden saying that the American people ran in Lebanon. They bombed three-hundred of our Marines while they slept. They were there on a peacekeeping mission with the British and the Israelis, and they attacked them when they are unarmed and unaware and unwary, and not at war with anyone. And that of course is what happened again, it's what happened in New York. The people in the World Trade Center were not at war with anyone. They were not trying to stand firm. Once, you know, Americans when they are aroused, when they get our attention, I think are strong and determined and meet challenges with which we are confronted. And I believe we will meet the challenge of bin Laden, and I believe we will meet the challenge of extremist, fanatical, violent Islamicism as well, or any other kind of ism that has those qualities.
Host: I'm afraid that's all the time we have this week. I'd like to thank our guests -- Jeane Kirpatrick from the American Enterprise Institute and former U-S Congressman Stephen Solarz - for joining me to discuss civilization's fight against terrorism. This is Robert Reilly for On the Line.
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