Friday, July 29, 2005

Old terror, new terror 

Good news from Ireland:
The Provisional IRA last night took the historic step of ordering its militants to end their decades-long armed campaign in Northern Ireland in favour of trying to achieve a united Ireland through political means.
Which will undoubtedly convince some sincere souls that if it can be done with the IRA, it can also be done with Al Qaeda. The problem is that while morally speaking, blowing up civilians anywhere in the world is equal, it doesn't mean that politically all terrorism is the same beast. Old style terrorist organizations such as the IRA, the Basque ETA, or even the PLO, had pretty narrow political aims (united Ireland, an independent Basque state, and Palestine replacing Israel). Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is a parasite that attaches itself to various local grievances as a way of pursuing its global totalitarian objective.

You can conceivably negotiate whether the Irish Republic and British Ulster should be united as one, Catholic-dominated, country. It's more difficult to negotiate the return of a Sunni dictatorship in Iraq, re-Talibanization of Afghanistan, or abolishment of the Jewish state. And how do you ultimately negotiate the Caliphate? The IRA represented terrorism in pursuit of bound, or limited objectives - united Ireland with zero impact on the rest of the world. Al Qaeda now represents terrorism in pursuit of unlimited, totalitarian objectives - the world-wide rule of extremist Islam.

As Mark Steyn writes in his latest (registration required):
As fascism and communism were in their day, Islamism is now the ideology of choice for the world's grievance-mongers. That means we have to destroy the ideology, or at least its potency -­ not Islam per se, but at the very minimum the malign strain of Wahabism, which thanks to Saudi oil money has been transformed from a fetish of isolated desert derelicts into the most influential radicalising force in contemporary Islam, from Indonesia to Leeds. Europeans who aren't prepared to roll back Wahabism had better be prepared to live with it, or under it.
As I've tried to say many times recently, Al Qaeda is more than just the sum of individual grievances. You can solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or the problem of Kashmir, but Al Qaeda will still be with us. That's not an argument for not trying to solve these international problems - by all means, a Palestinian state is a laudable end - but don't kid yourself that this will end terrorism, because:

a) Al Qaeda doesn't just want a Palestinian state - it wants a Taliban-style Palestinian state that is to the exclusion of, and not in addition to, the Jewish state, and

b) it wants a lot more than that - it's the Caliphate or bust.

Trying to eliminate various geo-political grievances might help by reducing the number of potential single-issue terror recruits - but it won't end the terror. The list of grievances is seemingly inexhaustible, which means there will always be reasons for somebody to get worked up about something happening somewhere around the world (the IRA's war largely consisted of Irishmen blowing up other Irishmen and the Brits on the British Isles; Al Qaeda's war consists of Moroccans blowing themselves up in Iraq). Secondly, there will always be enough people attracted to Al Qaeda's totalitarian dream - people who want the flag of the Prophet flying over every capital, the end of Dar Al Harb, and the conversion or death of all the infidels.


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