The root causes for modern Islamic militancy are the myriad reasons for grievances that are the first step for the road to terrorism. It is not a question of absolute deprivation but of how deprivation is perceived. Yet social and economic problems, though the link to terrorism is indirect, are critical as a pre condition. Such problems are growing more, not less, widespread and profound throughout the Islamic world...But these problems alone do not cause terrorism. If individuals have faith in a political system, a belief that they can change their lives through activism that is sanctioned by the state or understand and accept the reasons for the hardships, they are unlikely to turn to militancy.1
We need to remember that everytime force is used it provides more evidence of a 'clash of civilizations' and a 'cosmic struggle' and aids the militants in their efforts to radicalize and mobilize. By strengthening the warped vision of the world that is becoming so prevalent, every use of force is a small victory for bin Laden and those like him.2
Burke wrote the above in 2003. He wrote from the perspective that terrorists are made, not born. So is his analysis correct?
To answer that question, consider all that the West, the U.S. in particular, has done to combat Islamic terrorism along with the terrorist attacks that have been occurring.
But before we go on, we should note how Eurocentric the title and contents of this post have been. For in the last few days, Paris is not the only city that has been hit hard by terrorism. Beirut was suffered from a double suicide bombing the day before the Paris attacks killing 43 people and injuring hundreds while Baghdad was attacked by a suicide bomber killing 18 and injuring 41 (click here). In addition, Kenya has been suffering from terrorist attacks throughout at least the first half of the year including an attack in early April that killed over 140 people (click here and there).
So how should we respond to the Paris attacks? For starters, we can start reflecting on our own actions and terrorist practices, such as using drones to assassinate designated targets. We should note that for too long, we've taken our own actions, as well as those of our closest allies, for granted so that we don't think that the recipients of those attacks have the right to feel offended and deeply angered.
We should note here that two of the reasons for the 9-11 attacks were our support for Israel's brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories as well as our bombing of infrastructure during the first Persian Gulf war and the following sanctions that were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.
What about plight of Palestinians who live in land coveted by either the nation of Israel and/or Jewish settlers? When one looks at the progression of land settled on and controlled by Palestinians vs. the land settled on and controlled by Israel, one can't help but come to the conclusion that ethnic cleansing is occurring there (click here for the maps). And this remains true despite any Israeli attempt to discredit the results displayed by those maps (click here for one such defense). That since 1967, Israel has been occupying Palestinian land and has taken much of that land for its Jewish settlers. In a personal conversation I had with one settler, that land which is being taken from the Palestinians is called their inheritance. In other words, they feel entitled to take the land on which others live. And while Israeli apologists rightly complain about Palestinian terrorism, they take their own occupation of Palestine and entitlement to that land for granted as if their actions should not anger those who are being removed from their homes and watch those same homes be demolished.
And we could add to the above our support for dictators in the Middle East such as in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And that does not include past dictators such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq up until the time when he invaded Kuwait. Here we should think again about how Burke's words, quoted above provide an accurate assessment to our situation.
Our deliberate blindness to how our actions affect others enabled us to sincerely believe that those who attacked us on 9-11 did so because they hate our freedoms. And thus, we responded as if 9-11 was a first strike rather than a retaliation. If we add to that the fact that we consider our actions, such as the invasion of Iraq, to be above international scrutiny, we see a perfect storm of how a seemingly endless war could be started except for one fact: no war is endless because, eventually, one side runs out of resources.
The above brings us to the recent terrorist attacks in Kenya, Beirut, Baghdad, and Paris. How much have we spent in both lives and resources to fight our war on terror? We need to ask that question because the recent terror attacks of 2015 show us what we have gained in our war. In fact, these most recent attacks challenge the idea that we have gained anything at all. Rather, they point to the fact that while we have invested much in this war, and we have the profits garnered by the military industrial complex to document our investment, and despite the kill lists we have compiled and checked off and the territories we have conquered militarily, we've lost ground in our war against terror--that is the terror practiced by others, not ourselves.
So what do current events tell us about Burke's analysis? If they confirm what he said, then we find ourselves in a most unwanted dilemma. For according to what Burke stated above, the more violence we show, the more the other side wins. But the violence that the other side continually shows seems to require a violent response. And when we add to that the fact that we cannot financially afford to fight this war forever and that our military expenses are higher than those of our enemies, then logic and facts dictate that we must change how we are to fight this war if we are to survive.
But can our leaders and nation change their approach to our war when we all prefer to define the solution to our conflicts with others through the colored lenses of our greatest strength: our military? And how can the American people change when such requires that we admit to the horrible wrongdoings performed of our foreign policies when such an admission gives reason for the anger in our enemies? Stay tune for the answers to those questions; but only if you dare.
- Al-Qaeda: The True Story Of Radical Islam, by Jason Burke, Penguin Books, pg 284-285
- ibid, pg 290