Olivier Roy wrote recently in the International Herald Tribune:
Conflicts in the Middle East have a tremendous impact on Muslim public opinion worldwide. In justifying its terrorist attacks by referring to Iraq, Al Qaeda is looking for popularity or at least legitimacy among Muslims. But many of the terrorist group's statements, actions and non-actions indicate that this is largely propaganda, and that Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are hardly the motivating factors behind its global jihad.
Roy goes on to refute the current meme that "occupation" or Iraq is what fuels Islamic terrorism:
From the beginning, Al Qaeda's fighters were global jihadists, and their favored battlegrounds have been outside the Middle East: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Kashmir. For them, every conflict is simply a part of the Western encroachment on the Muslim ummah, the worldwide community of believers.
Hat tip: Donklephant.
Roy's argument is one that needs to be reiterated as many times as possible for those who would look for root causes that have more to do with Western crimes than jihadist motives. The enemy has no claim to legitimacy. Their dream of a global ummah is one that by their own admission could only be brought about by widespread bloodshed. The forced imposition of Fiqh (Muslim jurisprudence) is what they seek and what they will never get. This frustrates the jihadis and makes them that more dangerous.
So how to fight this? The New Republic's J. Peter Scoblic says that the Bush Administration is enabling nuclear terrorism because, as like supposedly all conservatives, the president looks more at intentions than capabilities. In other words, the administration ignores, or at least neglects real hazards in North Korea and Iran because those regimes can not be directly attacked and thus must be handled through diplomacy and threat. There is much truth to that, and the great gaping hole in the Bush Doctrine is the failure to address directly not only those two examples, but also the looming yet silent problem with nuclear material smuggled from Russia. (Some experts, however, don't see Russian "suitcase bombs" as a threat on par with warheads from other nuclear proliferators, if only because they have by now degraded to the point of uselessness and probably never worked very well in the first place).
Mr. Scoblic contends that the president's fixation on regime change and not on nuclear weapons is making us vulnerable to a nuclear attack by terrorists--which is a great concern and one that needs to be addressed and quashed. But Mr. Scoblic relies so much on the notion that diplomacy can combat lunacy that he ends up leaving the most important point on the table: a time comes when negotiation ceases to work. It's possible that renewed talks with Kim Jong Il will yield some fruit, but history has shown us that the North Korean regime tends to negotiate just about when its getting ready to engage in more deception.
Still, Mr Scoblic had me at hello. But then he had to go and bring out the worst argument for diplomacy: The Agreed Framework. Opponents of the Iraq war and Clinton partisans like to hold this well-intentioned but ultimately failed attempt at corralling North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Mr Scoblic even goes so far as to say:
Even the fact that North Korea eventually cheated on the agreement by starting a parallel program to enrich uranium does not change the fact that it made the world safer for eight years. The Bush administration's disgust with Pyongyang's behavior is understandable, and its reluctance to engage may be morally satisfying, but, pragmatically, the standard for arms control agreements ought simply to be that we gain more from them than we lose. The Agreed Framework met that standard.
Get that? Somehow the fact that Jong Il cheated on the agreement doesn't mean that it was a failure. What's worse, Mr. Scoblic wants the US to returned to engaging in more failures, because making nice sentences on paper and allowing tyrant to arm on the sly somehow makes us..."safe."
There are problems with the administration's policies on Iran and North Korea that must be addressed immediately. Diplomacy can play a role, but diplomacy has not yet shown to work well with these two regimes.
Mr Scoblic scoffs at Bush's "reflexive answer" to terrorism, democracy and says that we should fixate on bombs rather than regimes; who is capable of harming us, instead of merely desiring to harm us.
The solution, says Victor Davis Hanson, is a civil war in the Middle East.
Quite simply, Islam is not in need of a reformation, but of a civil war in the Middle East, since the jihadists cannot be reasoned with, only defeated. Only with their humiliation, will come a climate of tolerance and reform, when berated and beaten-down moderates can come out of the shadows.
The common theme is not the Koran, but the constant pathology of the Middle East — gender apartheid, polygamy, religious intolerance, tribalism, no freedom, a censored press, an educational system of brainwashing rather than free inquiry — that lends itself to the next cult to explain away failure and blame the West, which always looms as both whore and Madonna to the Arab Street.
Iraq has inadvertently become the battleground of a long overdue reckoning, a bellwether of the future of the Middle East. If the constitutionalists win, then the jihadists will be in retreat and there will be at last a third way between radical Islam and dictatorship.
I'm not exactly sure whether Mr Hanson is so much advocating a ME civil war as he is predicting it. And this doesn't directly address the nuclear component or North Korea. Still, Mr. Hanson makes a compelling argument that indeed the pressure exerted by the Iraq war on tyrannies in the region is frustrating the like of bin Laden and Bashir Assad.
I would hope, and assume, that the administration is capable of chewing gum and negotiating at the same time. It is frustrating to see so little progress on Iran and North Korea. For whatever reason, the Jong Il government wants to come back to the table, so it would be wise to take the opportunity to assess the situation.
As for Iran, I think that the Bushies are mistakenly counting on internal pressures to bring down the regime. That appears more unlikely each day that we hear of protests and nothing. Iran is not Lebanon. The mullahs will not give up without a fight.
We are playing a kind of high-stakes waiting game, hoping that the tide has turned against Islamofascism and thus will save us all from having to do battle while New York or London smolders.