“[T]his country of ours is kidnapped, hijacked by groups that call themselves Islamic but in truth use Islam as a cover and a garb for political goals.” So says Shaikh Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s former oil minister, information minister, and ambassador to the United States. Yes, indeed, but where did these groups come from? And who else in Kuwait has used Islam as a cover and a garb for political goals while in the process creating the monsters that so distress Shaikh Saud today?
Weapons, from handguns to fighter jets, are a profitable business. Generous government contracts, huge profit margins, and inevitable cost over-runs ensure spectacular dividends for weapons producers. Conflicts burning throughout the world guarantee plenty of buyers. After a post-cold war decline, global weapons purchases rose in 2000 to $800 billion. In the aftermath of the September 11 tragedies, arms production and sales worldwide will likely continue their upward trajectory–encouraged by national policies and supported by multilateral economic institutions.
Don’t Short-Change Nuclear Safety: Tightening Security Around Nuclear Storage Facilities Should Be an Urgent National Priority
As the horror of September 11 unfolded, the nation’s 103 commercial nuclear reactors and dozens of federal nuclear weapons facilities were put on high security alert. The U.S. government has long considered them potential terrorist targets, implementing programs to protect nuclear facilities against these threats. But is enough being done?
When President Bush launched the bombing attacks on Afghanistan, he termed the war against terrorism as “upholding and defending American values.” These “American values” were broadly defined as justice, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. Conversely, he criticized the Taliban for their “intolerance, bigotry, absence of human rights, and lack of any democratic norms promoting the rule of law.”
The dramatic turn of events in Afghanistan over the past week does not necessarily mean that the struggle against Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaida terrorists is closer to victory. The Taliban regime had offered Bin Laden and his minions sanctuary but very little in the way of direct logistical or financial support.
During a national press conference, President Bush, speaking about American efforts to reach Arab and Muslim audiences said, “we are not doing a very good job of getting our message out.” This may be the American understatement of the 21st century.
Before September 11, South Asia’s problems loomed large. The region, with over a billion people, a history of war, rising religious militancy, newly tested nuclear weapons, and a get-tough mood, was on the brink of instability. Adding to South Asia’s long list of troubles is the U.S. war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Hasty U.S. actions could deepen the problems facing South Asia. Over the long term, the U.S. has the opportunity to foster regional stability–but only if it pursues a different set of policies in the region.
Thus far the U.S. war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban has followed the carefully scripted plan devised by the White House and the Pentagon over the past few weeks: first, air and missile strikes against the few visible expressions of Taliban military power, to be followed by commando-type raids on suspected terrorist hideouts. What is unknown, however, are the steps that will follow. While most Americans will support a relatively short war to crush the Taliban and capture Bin Laden, there are signs that President Bush and associates favor a much longer and more elaborate conflict–one that shows every risk of turning into a Vietnam-like quagmire.
Muslim intellectuals and thinkers have had to contend with the power of the West and the power of Western ideas while interpreting and understanding the condition of the Muslim community. Many, like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (India), Muhammad Abduh (Egypt), and Muhamamd Khatami (Iran), openly admired the West for its achievements and have even remarked that the West was “Islam without Muslims.” For them the West was indeed worthy of emulation in many areas, such as democracy, human rights, respect for the rule of law, and dedication to science.
The use of military force for self-defense is legitimate under international law. Military force for retaliation is not. The magnitude of these initial air strikes raises not only serious legal and moral questions but political concerns as well, as it will likely set back the fight against terrorism.