by Austin Bay
Osama Bin Laden has given us notice he believes the future liesin the past, or at least his highly edited and Bowdlerized version of thelast thousand years.
Meanwhile, back on the Potomac, American leaders mutter wonkterms like "strategic endstate" -- Pentagon and State-speak for what theworld ought to look like after the guns fall silent and the economic aid isdispensed.
In soundbite format, the strategic collision between BinLaden-type extremists and America may well be one of "imperialrestorationist" versus "liberating reform."
Bin Laden has complained of the terrible "80 years" of Muslimindignation and suffering since the end of the Islamic caliphate. Turkey'sreforming general and political genius, Kemal Ataturk, must rate a specialplace in any Hell designed by Bin Laden. Ataturk, as part of a program toreplace Ottoman political structures and modernize Turkey, ended thecaliphate in 1924.
In the angry babble of his psyche, Bin Laden just knows thatshould not have happened. History, going wrong for Islamic expansionists atleast since the 16th century, really failed when the caliphate went poof.
In Bin Laden's future, the caliphate is restored. The decadentmodern world fades as American power dies, though techy bits of modernityare OK, such as videophones and nuclear weapons. Global rule of BinLaden-interpreted Islamic law follows.
Don't snicker. Violent "imperial restorationists" have an uglytrack record. Benito Mussolini and his Italian Fascists dreamed of restoringthe Roman Empire. The obvious choice for caesar was Benito. Who but BinLaden serves as caliph? Add that title to Osama's "end state." It underlinesthe autocratic and despotic motives that lie behind the schemes of variousreligious absolutists, ethnic zealots, ultra-nationalists and eco-craziesaround the world who reject the moderation and compromise that participationin the global system requires. Remember, violent eco-crazies battle for the"restoration of nature" -- a green empire.
But what of American strategic goals?
We intend to eradicate terror networks and punishterrorist-harboring nations. To reach those goals takes years of effort andperseverance -- Churchillian blood, sweat, and tears. Numerous pundits, however, argue that to truly defeat globalterrorism, America must ultimately focus on "the root causes" that seedterrorist appeal. The usual "roots" are poverty and inequality.Unfortunately, many of the pundits advocating this "reformist" goal aretrapped in utopian socialist amber, with buzzwords like "North-South"divide. They treat American wealth as something despicable, instead of anasset. In so many hard corners of the world, autocratic rule (thedenial of individual political voice and economic opportunity) and systemiccorruption are the real "roots" of local poverty. The same corrupt politicaland economic practices that feed terror networks are the ones that createconditions of endemic suffering and embittered resentment. The localautocrats have an investment in encouraging their people to blame America.It deflects the heat from them. Liberty (the right to responsibly pursue happiness) is thecreative source of American wealth and power. For all but a handful ofAmerican citizens, the "futures" presented by the planet's Bin Ladens paleutterly when compared with the opportunity to pursue "the American Dream."Certainly, examples of American excess and silliness abound, but examples ofAmerican success and largesse are even more abundant. Here's the fact at thethroat of America's enemies: When the vast majority of Earth's oppressed geta chance to vote with their feet, the destination isn't Baghdad, it'sBroadway. Extending political and economic opportunity into the world'shard corners, by curbing the power of corrupt autocracies, should bestrategic goals of America's war on terror. It's pragmatic, not grandiose.Squeezing corrupt banks and financial networks (a key Bush administrationendeavor) is the starting point. Increased financial transparency andaccountability exposes kleptocrats. Eliminating terrorists ultimately reduces the daily fearexperienced by political moderates -- men and women who vastly outnumber theextremists but live, literally, under the gun. In the hard corners thatharbor terror, moderate voices are silenced by the threat of assassination.These moderates are the "reformationists" in their own lands, theentrepreneurs who can expand wealth and the political activists able toadapt democracy to local conditions. The reformists are America's strategic allies in ourcounter-terror war. A well-waged counter-terror war will help free them fromfear. A well-formed political strategy will encourage them to pursue theirliberty.