THE MUSLIM WORLD AFTER BIN LADEN
Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2011
The killing of Osama bin Laden comes at a propitious moment in the history of the Middle East. The “Arab Spring” [threatens to] remake the region in [new] ways.… The best hope is that the Mideast will use this moment to take the region past the ideology of Islamist terror, but this can only happen if its new leaders take it there. On that score, the jury is out.
Certainly the wave of popular upheavals had already signalled al Qaeda’s waning appeal among Muslim masses. Starting in Tunisia and spreading to Egypt, Syria and elsewhere, demonstrators have been energized by opposition to corruption and repression and a keen desire for jobs.… As such, these movements contradict the aims of bin Laden and al Qaeda, whose goals are harsh and immovable…Islamic societies.…
Yet al Qaeda’s decline doesn’t mean Muslim countries will embrace a recognizable form of liberal democracy or resist the pull of politicized Islam. Egypt offers an unsettling preview of what could emerge.
Less than three months after the fall of the Mubarak regime, the caretaker government in Cairo has surprised with its radical shifts in foreign policy. Egypt has extended its hand to Iran and to the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Its relations with the U.S. and Israel have cooled markedly.
Last week, the Egyptians brokered a surprising deal on a unity government between Tehran-backed Hamas in the Gaza strip and its rivals in Fatah, which rules over the West Bank. Cairo didn’t bother to inform either the U.S. or Israel about the talks. The foreign ministry abruptly announced plans to reopen the Egyptian border crossing into Gaza, an easy supply point for arms for Hamas. Cairo also plans to establish diplomatic relations with Iran. Indeed, an Iranian destroyer recently was allowed to pass through the Suez Canal for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.…
A budding Arab democracy that wants the world to take it seriously should have little time for Hamas, much less the world’s leading terror sponsor in Tehran. Hamas showed its true, if predictable, colors yesterday in its leader Ismail Haniyeh’s response to bin Laden’s killing: “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior.” The Muslim Brotherhood, the best organized political group in Egypt, also condemned the bin Laden killing.…
The U.S. most likely will face some tough choices [in Egypt]. If Cairo’s desire for a more “independent” foreign policy translates into warmer ties with terrorists, America’s own long-standing support for the Egyptian military may eventually need to be reconsidered. We trust that the U.S. has sent this blunt message to the ruling military council and to Egypt’s politicians.
The death of bin Laden disrupts but doesn’t bring the death of bin Ladenism.… While bin Laden’s death at least raises the possibility of the most extremist forms of Islam fading in the region, the early signs out of bellwether Egypt show how much close attention an interested world must still pay to these volatile nations.
BIN LADEN IS DEAD AND HIS CAUSE GOES MARCHING ON
Pajamas Media, May 2, 2011
Osama bin Laden is dead. But revolutionary Islamism is very much alive and stronger than ever. Thinking that bin Laden is the main problem and his death is the solution is very dangerous indeed and might well intensify the policies that have been leading toward the victory of his cause, though not his specific movement.
It is easy to forget that when bin Laden came on the scene revolutionary Islamism was in retreat. True, Iran was ruled by a revolutionary Islamist regime but that government had failed to extend the revolution overseas very much despite its best efforts. Another such regime, the Taliban, came to power in remote Afghanistan.
But by the end of the 1990s, revolutionary Islamism wasn’t doing so well. The reason was that its strategy was to overthrow Arab governments from within. There had been civil wars in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, and to a lesser extent in other places. The existing dictatorships, however, had repressed them.
So bin Laden came along with a different approach. If direct attacks on non-Islamist governments in Muslim-majority countries didn’t work, he proposed an international movement that would raise revolutionary enthusiasm by attacking the West.… The West represented democracy and modernity, a licentious freedom and secularism that bin Laden and his comrades detested. They also hated Western policies, especially the support of Middle Eastern regimes to which these Islamists attributed their own inability to win.…
So bin Laden formed al-Qaida and took the road to September 11. It is important to understand that al-Qaida failed as a movement but succeeded in the broadest sense as an idea. Since al-Qaida was relatively small and eschewed political action and base building for the sole tactic of terrorism it was relatively easy to repress, though not to eliminate entirely.
The U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan drove it from its home base and killed or captured many of its leaders. Al-Qaida scattered but that was not such a great disadvantage given its strategy. From Morocco to Somalia, from Indonesia to Western Europe it continued to stage…bloody attacks. Yet that was the most it could do. In revolutionary terms, al-Qaida was equivalent to the terrorist’s of late nineteenth century Europe, the assassins and bomb throwers of anarchism and Russian social revolutionary tradition.
Ah, but who, then, is the Lenin of our day? Just as the anarchist bomb-throwers were a sideshow—however horrific, bloody, and needing to be repressed—the same is true of today. Al-Qaida stages individual acts of terrorism. Hamas, Hezbollah, the AKP in Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhoods seize state power. And they do so with the help of Iran and Syria.
That’s power that…far exceed[s] blowing up of a café or embassy. To take control over the lives of millions of people, to hold assets amounting to billions of dollars, to rule over whole territories and launch full-scale wars, that is [real] power. That is a threat to Western interests, to world stability.…
Since September 11, 2001 we could [explicitly] list the terrorist attacks [undertaken] by al-Qaida, [as well as] the [resulting] casualties. Or we can list the following not by al-Qaida:
–An Islamist regime rules Turkey and has seized control of most institutions and is gradually crushing democracy. This regime has aligned itself with Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, and Syria.
–An Islamist regime rules the Gaza Strip and has already set off one war and will no doubt do so again. Its patrons are Iran, Syria, and now Egypt. This government now exercises veto power over any Israel-Palestinian peace which means there won’t be an Israel-Palestinian peace.
–An Islamist-oriented regime rules Lebanon, backed by Iran and Syria. It has already set off one war and will no doubt do so again.
–The Iranian regime has weathered a major internal upheaval and is heading full-speed ahead toward nuclear weapons.
–With Western help the regime in Egypt—one of the main bulwarks against revolutionary Islamism has fallen—and whether or not Islamists there take over they will be a lot stronger, able to act freely, and direct a movement of millions seeking to Islamize and eventually make Islamist the largest Arab country of all.
–Revolutionary Islamism is also a serious threat…in countries like Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan while in other parts of the world it has spread to places like Chechnya, the northern Caucasus, the Balkans, Nigeria, Somalia, southern Thailand and the southern Philippines, and Indonesia. The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan seems far from impossible as does a revolutionary Islamist upheaval in Pakistan.
–Serious Islamist movements have gained political hegemony over growing Muslim communities all over the West. While many Muslims are indifferent to the movement and a few courageous dissidents combat it, Western governments and elites often blindly favor the Islamists. In fact, the degree that Western governments, elites, and societies are blind to the actual threat defies belief. The far left—which is a lot nearer than it used to be—often makes common cause with revolutionary Islamism.
Many of these other movements are “smarter” than bin Laden, which is to say they know how to be more tactically flexible. They can smile, and smile and be a villain. They understand far better how to be patient, conceal their plans, use elections, sponsor social services to win supporters, run youth camps to train suicide bombers, take Western aid and assistance, hang out with Western journalists to prove they’re cool guys, produce satellite television networks, and play Western democracies for all they are worth. Oh, and they can still throw bombs with the best of them.
Or, to put it in Iranian terms, bin Laden was the “little Satan” and the “big Satan,” the real revolutionary Islamist movement, couldn’t care less about his death. Indeed, his death serves a useful purpose. If the West thinks the “war on terror” is over and it’s time to celebrate, all the better. Countries can go on trading with Iran, engaging Syria and Hezbollah, and acting as if there’s no big threat in Egypt. All the better to eat you up.
So bin Laden is dead and September 11 is, in a sense, avenged. But his cause goes marching on. It is marching forward. And as the West cheers at the good news of bin Laden’s death it may go back to sleep thereafter, snoring as the bin Laden’s of the world advance.
(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center,
and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Mr. Rubin will be a featured speaker at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research’s
upcoming Gala, scheduled for June 15, 2011.)
TARGETED KILLING VINDICATED
Huffington Post, May 2, 2011
The decision to target and kill Osama Bin Laden is being applauded by all decent people. Approval to capture or kill this mass-murdering terrorist leader was given by Presidents Obama and Bush. It was the right decision, both morally and legally.
Although Bin Laden wore no military uniform and held no official military rank, he was an appropriate military target. As the titular and spiritual head of Al Qaeda, he was the functional equivalent of a head of state or commander in chief of a terrorist army.… Yet there are those who claim that all targeted killings are immoral and illegal. These critics characterize such actions as “extrajudicial executions” and demand that terrorist leaders and functionaries be treated as common criminals who must be arrested and brought to trial.
The operation that resulted in Bin Laden’s death was a military action calculated to kill rather than to “arrest” him.… Indeed, a U.S. national security official has confirmed to Reuters that “this was a kill operation” and there was no desire to capture Bin Laden alive.… Nonetheless, our government felt it necessary to announce that Bin Laden was shot after he allegedly resisted thus suggesting he was not killed in cold blood. But it is clear that he would have been killed whether or not he resisted…and it is unlikely he was ever given the opportunity to surrender.…
Accordingly, those who have opposed the very concept of targeted killings should be railing against the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Among others, these critics include officials in Britain, France, Italy, Russia, the EU, Jordan, and the United Nations. Former British Foreign Secretary once said, “The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called targeted assassinations of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counterproductive.” The French foreign ministry has declared “that extrajudicial executions contravene international law and are unacceptable.” The Italian Foreign Minister has said, “Italy, like the whole of the European Union, has always condemned the practice of targeted assassinations.” The Russians have asserted that “Russia has repeatedly stressed the unacceptability of extrajudicial settling of scores and ‘targeted killings.’“ Javier Solana has noted that the “European Union has consistently condemned extrajudicial killings.” The Jordanians have said, “Jordan has always denounced this policy of assassination and its position on this has always been clear.” And Kofi Annan has declared “that extrajudicial killings are violations of international law.”
Yet none of these nations, groups or individuals have criticized the targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden by the U.S. The reason is obvious. All the condemnations against targeted killing was directed at one country. Guess which one? Israel, of course.
Israel developed the concept of targeted killings and used it effectively against the “Osama Bin Laden’s” of Hamas, who directed terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, killing and wounding more Israelis, as a percentage of its population, than the number killed by Bin Laden. It was when Israel managed to kill the head of Hamas, that the international community, with the striking exception of the United States, decided that targeted killing was illegal and immoral.
But now that it has been used against an enemy of Britain, France, Italy and other European nations, the tune has changed. Suddenly targeted killing is not only legal and moral, it is praiseworthy.… Well the truth is that when used properly, targeted killing has always been deserving of approval—even when employed by Israel, a nation against which a double standard always seems to be applied.
Indeed, in Israel, the use of targeted killings has been closely regulated by its Supreme Court and permitted only against terrorists who are actively engaged in ongoing acts of terrorism. In the United States, on the other hand, the decisions to use this tactic is made by the President alone, without any form of judicial review. So let the world stop applying a double standard to Israel and let it start judging the merits and demerits of military tactics such as targeted killing. On balance, targeted killing, when used prudently against proper military targets, can be an effective, lawful, and moral tool in the war against terrorism.
THWARTING BIN LADEN AMID MEMORIES OF SHOAH
Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2011
On Sunday evening in the presence of survivors, I attended a stirring Holocaust memorial service at a prestigious New York synagogue that included video footage of Nazi crimes, testimonies, prayers and the recital of harrowing poetic works.
Following the service I approached one of the survivors, whom I have known for quite some time, and remarked on the moving nature of the ceremony. “This is nothing,” he responded with torment in his eyes. “One moment in the camps could not be captured by a thousand such events.”
Shortly afterward, President Barack Obama announced that American troops in Pakistan had killed Osama bin Laden in a covert operation earlier in the day. While I listened to the TV pundits updating viewers on the emerging details, and watched images of jubilant and triumphant crowds gathering in Washington and New York, I couldn’t help but think of the event within the wider context of world peace and the eternal Jewish promise, “Never Again.”
Of course, the obliteration of evil and its perpetrators is a profoundly Jewish concept, as it is also an American one. This is yet another ideal that intimately binds the fabric of American society with the Judaic moral code and its keepers. The Holocaust prayers and literature are riddled with calls to avenge the blood of the slain innocents and extend the arm of justice where it is due.… Yet while justice and vengeance may have their place, it is the eradication of evil as the path to securing our safety and our future that serves as the greatest Jewish motivation for hunting down the Osamas of this world and systematically destroying them.
What is therefore a matter of great concern is that it appears Israel is by no means afforded the same enthusiastic moral support in its effort to hunt down its own bin Ladenesque enemies. Of course Osama bin Laden was as much an enemy of Israel as he was of all the free world. However, the aggression of Israel’s local enemies, with similar maniacal dispositions, necessitates that Israel act firmly, decisively and swiftly to protect its citizens and secure its future.
Yet it was only last week that international leaders, including the secretary-general of the United Nations, accepted a new amalgamation of the Palestinian leadership, which placed a local al-Qaida-style incarnation, Hamas, in a position of quasi-diplomatic acceptance. The hands of Hamas’s leaders are drenched with innocent blood; the terrorists they have dispatched have sought to rival bin Laden in the killing of innocents. Yet they enjoy if not international impunity, then at least a certain tolerance.
President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s regime in Iran, meanwhile, has murdered many, and is developing the tools to cause unthinkable devastation. Yet much of the world continues to look on in placid apathy and indifference.…
Bin Laden embodied the face of evil, but he was by no means alone; his ideology survives him. Even as the jubilant crowds gathered to hail his demise, there was talk of heightened security alerts. Dozens of fanatical groups have made their wretched mark on countries, communities and families since September 2001 and show little promise of ceasing. The leader is dead, but his perverse legacy lives on.
The juxtaposition of Holocaust Memorial Day and the killing of Osama bin Laden should be seen as no coincidence. The lesson is clear; the free world must be consistent in supporting the eradication of such evil, in all its forms, wherever it is found. The efforts of the West must be uniform and relentless. Justice and vengeance will not suffice, only continuous striving to eradicate this depraved inhumanity. Never again.
(Dovid Efune is the director of the Algemeiner Journal—www.algemeiner.com.)