Think Globally, Act Locally
Although the fight against terrorism has been called the Global War on Terror, in practice it is being fought locally, often over specific issues, in a variety of countries. Reuters reports on Thailand:
July 18 (Reuters) - Suspected Muslim militants killed a Buddhist school principal in Thailand's Muslim south on Monday as security officials met to decide how to use new emergency powers. The principal was shot on the way to school in Pattani, one of the three southern provinces hit by daily killings, arson and explosions in which more than 800 people have died since January last year. Twenty-six of those have been teachers and schools have been a frequent target as symbols of the government of overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand in faraway Bangkok. Militants also tried and failed to kill teachers in nearby Narathiwat province, police said.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that the war is not entirely one-sided.
The evening sky was fading to darkness as the nearby mosque sounded the call to prayer. Inside his house, Abdullah knelt to pray. Minutes later, he heard a noise from outside. "It was the sound of a hammer hitting a snake, many times," he recalls. His ritual over, he walked outside to investigate. As he peered inside the open door of his neighbor's blue-roofed bungalow, Abdullah fainted. Inside the house, three young Muslim men lay slumped on the concrete floor, their bodies riddled with bullets fired at close range - presumably using silencers - as they prayed. The killings were the latest in an increasingly brutal conflict that has claimed over 800 lives in Thailand's Muslim-dominated south since January 2004. But the murder of the three men, one of whom was being sought by police over alleged insurgent training, has aroused the suspicions of local Muslims and relatives of the deceased. They say gunmen equipped with silencers were behind the killings, most likely members of Thailand's security forces. Few are prepared to speak publicly, for fear of reprisals.
Across the world in Europe, Spain and Germany, two countries which have been not notably supported President Bush's decision to invade Iraq were pursuing a terrorism suspect for their own reasons. Attempts to arrest an Al Qaeda suspect on the strength of a European warrant at the instance of a Spanish judge were rebuffed by Germany's high court.
A German court today refused to extradite an al-Qaeda suspect to Spain after ruling that Europe’s new wide-ranging arrest warrant is invalid under German law. The ruling, a blow to Europe’s post-September 11 counter-terrorism plans, upheld an appeal by Mamoun Darkazanli, a German-Syrian dual national, whom Spanish authorities accuse of providing the al-Qaeda terror network with logistical and financial support. The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that the European warrant violated the German constitution and the suspect’s basic rights, and was thus invalid.
In Iraq, 170 civilians were killed by suicide bombers over the weekend, the majority at a Shi'ite mosque south at Baghdad. Just how local the conflict can become was underscored by calls from Iraqi parliamentarians to form militias -- notably Shi'ite militias -- to fight the suicide bombers, though in all probability, these calls were made with a view to improving the power positions of the political factions themselves.
Shiite parliamentarian Khudayr al-Khuzai called on the government Sunday to "bring back popular militias" to protect vulnerable Shiite communities. "The plans of the interior and defense ministries to impose security in Iraq have failed to stop the terrorists," he told the National Assembly. ... Following Mr. Khuzai's outraged speech in parliament, other members of the Shiite-led majority bloc said they also wanted militias to help stop such attacks. "We need militias to provide protection," said Saad Jawad Kandil, a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a key party in the Shiite-led alliance that dominates parliament.
The fight against Islamic terrorism is often yoked to other and less desirable goals. Whether used to promote a national ID card, the European Union, the cause of British New Labor, or certain Israeli political parties the fight against terror rarely rises to the pure vision expressed by President George Bush: to overthrow the corrupting influence within a world religion and to bring freedom to the dysfunctional societies of the Middle East and South Asia. But then, Islamic militants have used a variety of local issues -- from Kashmir to Timor; from Mindanao secession to returning to Granada -- to advance their own agenda. Viewed up close the "bloody borders of Islam" consist as much of local political conflict as they do of the worldwide issues like Iraq or the restoration of the Global Caliphate. On the level of ideology the fight may have been between an 8th century religious creed and the democratic ideal, but its local manifestation is always going to be Bush against Kerry; Aznar against Zapatero.
But not only has radical Islamism stirred up local mischiefs, it has also functioned as a bellows to fan the flames across other smoldering divides: the conservatives versus the Left; Europe versus America; the Third World versus the First World. It is almost as if the historical narrative, after seeming to settle into the smooth patch of the 1990s, had been reanimated across its entire spectrum by the Islamic disturbance, which shook things loose from their momentary stoppage and got things flowing again. Although the War on Terror is ostensibly a fight against the nihilism of radical Islam, it is probably much more: just how much more history will presently tell us. Radical Islam may find they are in the grip of larger forces whose power they have unleashed, which in their arrogance they sought to control only to find that events have acquired a dynamic of their own.
One factor in particular which Osama Bin Laden and his ideologues may have overlooked is the power of extremism to organize disparate forces against extremism itself. If Al Qaeda has failed to gather all Islam beneath its flag it has increasingly succeeded in getting an absurdly disparate coalition of nations and ethnic groups to regard Islam as Public Enemy Number One. If all politics and extremism is local it follows that all opposition to it will be local too. Thai hit men, British football hooligans and Shi'ite militias may never have heard of the Global War on Terror, but they all know the word opportunity.