Wednesday, January 10, 2007

From the West, the Twilight

Big Ideas from all over. First, David Frum thinks the European Jihad is homegrown and self-inflicted. The more general way to phrase this thought -- and I will get to it in a moment -- is that Islamism is partly, but not wholly, a product of the same European self-hatred that created Communism.

Between 2001 and 2003, a French academic named Farhad Khosrokhavar interviewed terror detainees in French prisons, including 10 suspected members of al Qaeda and 4 other Islamic radicals. His interviews and commentary have now been published in a French book, Quand Al-Qaida Parle, "When al Qaeda Speaks." Khosrokhavar's research suggests that al Qaeda has something very different to say from what most of us would expect to hear.

  • Europeans across the political spectrum share a belief that their comfortable lives have been jeopardized by an American-imposed "war on terror" that has radicalized their Muslim populations. Khosrokhavar's research suggests exactly the opposite conclusion: It is the failure of European societies to assimilate their Muslim migrants that creates a security threat for America.
  • Here's the second conclusion: the French media play an astoundingly important - and incredibly irresponsible - part in stoking the anti-American and anti-Israel prejudices of French Muslims.

These ideas are particularly striking because the deadliest threat to the 16 regional heads of state scheduled to attend the ASEAN meeting in Manila comes from what may be a fusion group combining Communist and Islamist ideologies in the Philippines: the Rajah Soliman Revolutionary Movement (RSRM). It is the melding of the two ideological forces Frum thinks feed on each other. This group specializes in large explosive and VBIED devices and has been responsible for sinking an oceangoing ferry with great loss of civilian life. It should come as no surprise that the most recently captured RSRM leader was found in Tagkawayan, Quezon, a Communist rebel stronghold near where Left and the Islamists were observed exchaging military technology some years ago. The Manila Times Internet edition reported.

May 26, 2003 -- For several weeks early this year, the forests of Mount Banahaw in Sariaya, Quezon, provided refuge not only to the usual communist guerrillas but to some unlikely personalities: about 100 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The jungle rendezvous, which police intelligence officials said they confirmed from rebel contacts, brought together the country’s largest insurgent groups in an alliance that could presage more trouble to a country already struggling with serious law and order problems. “They came in groups, through various routes, at different times,” an intelligence officer said, describing how the Muslim sepa­ratists had traveled from their bases in Mindanao to trade fighting skills with their communist counter­parts. ...

The MILF has superior knowledge of jungle warfare but would learn from the communist New People’s Army’s (NPA) vast experience in urban combat. They could trade contacts and networks and share jungle strongholds to confuse and evade government troops perpetually chasing them across Mindanao. “Whenever they attack us in Mindanao, it leaves the forces in Luzon and the Visayas vulnerable,” MILF vice chairman for military affairs, Al Haj Murad, told The Manila Times in a telephone interview. Murad cited an unwritten understanding with the NPA for diversions and sympathy attacks when the military steps up operations against the MILF.

It's dangerous to assume that the Communist and Islamist threats, at least in the Philippines, will remain separable forever. Little wonder then, that the Philippine Left has been trying to cancel the Visting Forces Agreement between the US and the Philippines by drumming up hysteria against the rape suspect Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, USMC even though US forces have been concentrating against Islamist forces and not the Communists. The Left's nourishment of Islamism may have deep historical roots. Niall Ferguson's piece in the Atlantic, "A War to End All Wars" (subscription only) argues that historical Europe and the Middle East were both a palette of conflicting tribal and ideological interests. The affinity between Marxism and Islamism, both religions in rebellion against the faiths and cultures from which they sprung, in form may spring from the fact that they share the same function. Karen Armstrong in her book, The Battle for God, about the rise of religious extremism in the 21st century observes that "Western materialism" and "fundamentalism" egg each other on. Ferguson provides the historical ground to support this speculation: the Middle East is essentially what Europe was, but a century delayed. In radical Islamism, Marxism may unconsciously see its youthful self. Ferguson writes:

Sixty years ago, Central and Eastern Europe was entering the final phase of a succession of wars and civil wars that originated with the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Before 1914, the Habsburg lands had been characterized by high levels of ethnic heterogeneity. Consequently, the transition from empire to the nation-states of the post-World War I era proved painful in the extreme. ... The aftermath of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire (also dealt its death blow during World War I) has taken a different, more protracted course. The Turks did not submit to the breakup of empire as readily as the Austrians. Having already murdered the Armenian Christians under the Young Turk regime, they expelled the Orthodox Greeks from Asia Minor and consolidated their Turkish nation-state (albeit retaining a substantial Kurdish minority, whose strivings for autonomy they ruthlessly crushed).

But the rest of what had been the Ottoman Empire did not immediately adopt the model of the nation-state, as Europe had done. Instead, the victors of the First World War established "mandates" (de facto colonies) in the losers' former possessions—Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria. Independence did not come to most of the Middle East until after 1945, and it was seldom accompanied by democracy (Israel being the exception). Instead the multiethnic states of the region were ruled by either feudal monarchs or fascist strongmen. And a new empire—which preferred to be known as a superpower—generally helped keep these rulers in place, and the region static, if only to hold another superpower at bay.

Only in our time, then, has the Middle East reached the political stage that Central and Eastern Europe reached after the First World War. Only now are countries like Iraq and Lebanon experimenting with democracy. The lesson of European history is that this experiment is a highly dangerous one, particularly at times of economic volatility and chronic insecurity, and particularly where tribes and peoples are mixed up geographically, both within and across borders. The minorities fear—with good reason—the tyranny of the majorities. People vote their ethnicity, not their pocketbook or ideology. And even before the votes are counted, the shooting begins.

An earlier post noted how both the former Yugoslavia and Iraq were the Western and Eastern bookends of the Ottoman Empire, both unnaturally preserved from the disintegration that visited the rest of it by the accession of strongmen like Marshall Tito and recently hanged Saddam Hussein. What Ferguson may insufficiently emphasizes in his Atlantic article is what the comparison between the pre-Great War Europe and the today's Middle East implies for the stakes of failing to manage this civilizational upheaval now shaking the Middle East. It was "some damned fool thing in the Balkans" which led to the Great War and the near-death of Western civilization. Policy makers who are indifferent to the outcomes in Iraq or who see it as an extension of domestic politics should ask themselves: what might be the price of some "damned fool thing in Tel Aviv", perhaps in the shape of an Iranian nuclear warhead upon our unshakable and Proud Tower?


Blogger crosspatch said...

Didn't the whole Islamic Republic idea of Ayatollah Khomeini originate while he was in France? I seem to remember that his agitation against the Shah was coming from his bunch of "students" in France.

1/10/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Sorry to change the subject, but it looks like Bush & Iraq are going all out, telling al-Sadr to disarm or face all out war!

article quotes in bold below:

Iraq's prime minister has told Shiite militiamen to surrender their arms or face an all-out assault by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, senior Iraqi officials said Wednesday, as President Bush said he will commit an additional 21,500 American combat troops to the war.

Under pressure from the U.S., Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has agreed to crack down on fighters controlled by his most powerful political ally, Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric, according to officials. Previously, al-Maliki had resisted the move.

"Prime Minister al-Maliki has told everyone that there will be no escape from attack," a senior Shiite legislator and close al-Maliki adviser said. "The government has told the Sadrists: 'If we want to build a state we have no other choice but to attack armed groups.'"

1/10/2007 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Prime Minister al-Maliki has told everyone that there will be no escape from attack," a senior Shiite legislator and close al-Maliki adviser said.

No escape...unless they go through The Streets Formerly Configured With Roadblocks Which Were Removed On Maliki's Orders.

1/10/2007 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger sfrcook said...

Why the Islamic REPUBLIC of Iran? If consensual government and Islam are antithetical, why not dispense with the theatrics of Iranian elections, eliminate any reference to such a misbegotten Western delusion, and call it the Caliphate of Iran or something to that effect. Why deign to even consider that anything but the word of Allah can grant legitimacy to a government?

1/10/2007 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

You could make a long list of terrorists and mass murderers in the third world who picked up their ideologies from French leftists in journalism and academia. Starting, if my memory is correct, with one of the worst: Pol Pot.

Sure enough, Wkipedia has him studying in France 1949-1953, member of the French Communist party (PCF) from 1950, where his "poor academic record was a considerable advantage within the anti-intellectual PCF, and helped him to quickly establish a leadership role for himself among the Cercle Marxiste."

1/10/2007 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> ... Roadblocks Which Were Removed On Maliki's Orders

Bush is going to say tonight that one of the problems was Iraqi government interference with military operations, and it won't be tolerated.

At this point Bush has nothing to lose. This is the last chance, so there would be no harm in ignoring Maliki even if he did try to stop us.

1/10/2007 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Dent said...

If I was alive one hundred years ago I can imagine myself being a communist, a socialist.

It works for families.

The divide between East and West Germany (during the wall), North and South Korea, Taiwan vs. mainland China, India vs. Pakistan, Israel vs. pan-Islam (on and on) says everything one needs to know about economics and politics.

The French threw NATO out during the Cold War, EUrope is united behind the idea of flushing winning strategies in favour of failure.

1/10/2007 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Bleepless said...

"Islamic Republic"? Sure. "Dehydrated water".

1/10/2007 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, if at first you don't succeed, give up:

"This is the third time we are going down this path. Two times it has not worked and we wanted to know why there was any prospect that it would be successful now. Why are they doing this now? That question remains," said California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives.

1/10/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


Of course there is a linkage between red and green piracy. It's piracy! For the past century, Communism was economic piracy in the name of a grand ideology of empowering the masses. And now, Islamism is economic piracy in the name of a grand theology of a protection racket. It's piracy, and there is a certain exhiliration that comes from a campaign of looting according to an ideology that allows one to be sanctimonious about committing armed robbery.

"Building Socialism" is one thing, but self-confessed socialists almost never bother to encourage any economic enterprise that is organized in a socialist manner. Instead, men like Hugo Chavez nationalize private corporations and call it "socialism".

There was a time when "socialism" could have referred to credit unions, worker-owned businesses, and grassroots control over the economy. In the meantime, socialism has been taken over by pirates.

Look at what happened to National Syndicalism in 1930's Spain. It was an insignificant ideology with much in common with the Anarcho-Syndicalists until some of its members got beaten up on college campuses. This attracted a bunch of thugs who liked the excitement of National Syndicalism (the Falange) and its Fascist overtones, and the rest is history. A minor syndicalist faction -- the Falange -- became a popular rallying symbol for the Right and a major source of right-wing death squads. Likewise, when labor and business turned to organized crime for muscle in labor disputes, the result was labor racketeering.

Just as the ideological component of the Spanish Falange was overwhelmed by its role as a flag of convenience for right-wing death squads, the ideological component of socialism has become overwhelmed by modern day piracy. And now, a new "gold standard" of piracy has emerged in Islamism. For those whose principal interest is to loot, rape, and pillage, the ideology of al-Qaeda may very well be far more promising than the old ideals of the Left, especially when those bandits merely regarded the Left as a flag of convenience in the first place.

1/10/2007 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

About France, I distinctly remember reading French newspapers in 2003. Their concern wasn't over whether liberating Iraq would work. It was that "the United States is too big". I kid you not!

The French political establishment takes it as a matter of course that the EU must be a "counterbalance" against the United States -- hardly a sign of friendship. Sure, France would approve of American blood and treasure getting spilt when French interests are at stake. Did the French defense minister say "war is always the worst solution" in 1776? 1812? 1917? 1940? 1944? No, it was in 2003. The French government surely wasn't going to tell Americans that "war is always the worst solution" when the fate of France was at stake.

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if France's vilification of America comes out of an effort to scapegoat Americans so French Islamists will kill us rather than them. It's like the story of two men and a man-eating bear. One of the men starts running. The other asks, "Why are you running? You can't outrun the bear." The reply -- "I know. I don't need to outrun the bear. I need to outrun you."

1/10/2007 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Meislin said...

the French media play an astoundingly important - and incredibly irresponsible - part in stoking the anti-American and anti-Israel prejudices of French Muslims.

Well, yes, of course this has been---and continues to be---true.

(And it's not just French Muslims who are being repeatedly and successfully stoked.)

But even if the French media may---perhaps---be the most egregious example, it has a whole lot of "illustrious" company, and not just in Europe.

So yes, one can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time---for a long, long time. Though the truth will finally out....even if those with entrenched ideological POV will do their best not to be persuaded by Reality.

Thus, it's going to continue to be very nasty, as animus against the Israel and the US will continue to be the motivation for "truth," (even if Mearsheimer and Walt---and Jim Baker & Co.---go that extra mile to try to pry US support for Israel's existence off of US foreign policy, as a means of insulating it against such animus).

"Just win, baby."

1/11/2007 01:08:00 AM  
Blogger Roland Hulme said...

What a fascinating article!

1/11/2007 01:59:00 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

I'm getting my guess down right now on the War:

1) It will end in a nuclear exchange, which

2) we will win.

Can anyone suggest a plausible better outcome? "We win without using nukes" is, although highly desirable, not very likely.

1/11/2007 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger fred said...

Some ideas simply will not die. And on the blogosphere and in mainstream politics and the media, the idea that oppression undergirds jihad simply will not be dissuaded by fact and by Islamic theology. It is disgraceful that we continue to enable the longevity of this fiction by advancing the idea that the West's failures are the cause of jihad. It is as if many of you think that jihad is an ancillary, secondary, and obscure theme in Muslim scripture and history that our malfeasance has caused Muslims to select and enhance jihad. Plus, you mistake the last three centuries of relative quiescence of jihad for the entire period going back to the 7th century. Oh, and by the way, it was those eeeeevil, cruel Crusaders who caused the invention of militant jihad as purely a defensive posture.

I have no patience with this mythology.

1/11/2007 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger john marzan said...

I don't think "Philippine Left" and Islamic Jihadists are in it together. Even the duplicitous Arroyo or her officials do not make that claim.

(And they would have, if there's even remotely a possible link between the two.)

What Arroyo and her allies likes to claim was that there's a link between the Left and the Right, the communist and the military (i kid you not).

it happened before, where arroyo benefitted from such alliances. But now, obviously she's against it.

Meanwhile, the assasinations continue. I'm no lefty, and i disagree with many of the things they stand for. but this is terrible. but not surprising. even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the prestigious Phil. Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) organization and NUJP were on arroyo's "enemies list". no wonder the philippines was second only to iraq in the most number of journalists killed, for two years in a row now.

1/11/2007 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger john marzan said...

OTOH, there's some evidence of collusion between some of Arroyo's corrupt military officials and the Abu Sayyaf and the MILF seperatist group.

Remember how Fatur Roman al Ghozi (mastermind of the Rizal day bombing) "escaped" easily from our "maximum" security prison (snicker) with the help of corrupt jail officials during Arroyo's time?

The Abu Sayyafs kidnap foreigners and rich Filipino locals, and their military handlers get a cut from the ransom money the Abu Sayyafs receive. In return, the military provides protection to the Abu Sayyafs. A clear example of this is the Lamitan incident, where the Abu Sayyaf terrorists were clearly outnumbered and surrounded inside a hospital compound, but they managed to "escape" the military dragnet with their kidnap victims when the soldiers guarding the area there had all been called in to a "briefing". That left the hospital compound unguarded and allowed the Abu Sayyaf rebels to walk out of the compound with their hostages unhindered.

Not surprisingly, no punishment were meted out to military officers involved in the Lamitan incident because Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the person who succeeded President Joseph Estrada, owed her presidency to the military who installed her as "president" after Edsa Dos and she fears angering the military might lead to another military coup similar to Edsa that could be fatal to her administration.

So she allowed the whitewashing of the Lamitan scandal to avoid any more troubles with her highly-politicized and adventurous military.

You could say that our military-Abu Sayyaf connection is similar to the Taliban-ISI connection in Pakistan. ISI is Pakistan's Military Intelligence Service.

My hope is for the US troops to stay in the Philippines indefinitely because I don't trust our own military (after their participation in Edsa dos mutiny and installing an unelected person to the presidency) and a pullout of US troops from the Philippines will only revive the Abu Sayyafs, with the help of the corrupt Philippine military, of course.

And like the author of this NYT article in 2003 pointed out, it's better for the US to spend it's own money to help rebuild the Philippines instead of throwing money at our own local officials and letting them decide where to spend the money on… because the money will only end up in the pockets and in the Swiss bank accounts of those corrupt officials.

Here's a snippet from that NYT article:

A Fair Fight in the Philippines

Published: October 18, 2003

President Bush is in Manila today to visit his ally in the war against terror, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines. Mr. Bush has already announced some $340 million in aid to the Philippines this year, and President Arroyo has said she plans to request additional military assistance to fight terrorism. There's only one problem with this alliance: American aid hasn't improved the Philippine military so far, and in many ways it has benefited the Islamic militants it seeks to combat.

In August, Gen. Narciso Abaya, chief of the Philippine armed forces, made an alarming statement about the condition of his military: "I admit there is graft and corruption at all levels." A significant share of the military budget is lost to graft. Selling military hardware on the black market is another common practice. Recent raids of bases of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front have turned up caches of arms with Philippine military markings.

Even American assistance is siphoned away. Testimony before the Philippine Congress in the past several months revealed that American M-16's provided to the Philippine armed forces have been recovered in camps belonging to Abu Sayyaf, a band of guerrillas and kidnappers. Assault rifles, grenade launchers and other American arms have been used by Muslim radicals against Philippine troops — the very troops United States funds are supposed to assist.

American aid to help fight Islamic radicals is often offset by bribes soldiers take from terrorists to let them get away. Operatives affiliated with Al Qaeda have escaped from maximum-security military prisons, once using a helicopter.

I say Read the Whole Thing.

To this day, i'm still flabbergasted when I recall Arroyo labeling the superferry attack, which i consider the deadliest terror attack on Philippine territory since jemaah islamiya, abu sayyaf and the RSIM have been in business, the "work of pranksters". what an outrageous statement then (cuz 116 lives were lost), and even more now in hindsight.

1/11/2007 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger john marzan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/12/2007 12:15:00 AM  

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