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Post mortem of a strategy
World after 911: Villainous for the faithful and defender of the ungodly!


April 26, 2005

PARIS -- It is generally argued that the strategy post 'September 11' was fatally flawed as it wiped out traditional conformist wisdom of a measured response to terrorist attack authored by the grandees of old liberal Europe; a response that was universally accepted as a norm to major terrorist activity was based on strategy of measured force, series of tactical attacks on terrorist assets, diplomacy and appeasement. Terror apologists think that an iron curtain has descended between the west and Islam as a consequence of this policy.

Even Salman Rushdie, the man who created ripples by free expression through 'Satanic Verses' and fanned the war between political Islam under Khomeini, has the cheek to say that 911 strategies have expanded the distance between nations of Islam and the west. It is actually oversimplification of the dynamics and brains of political Islam under the likes of bin Ladens, an ideology that believes in control of the faithful over the infidels; a perpetual struggle until an ultimate victory where all infidels are brought under the tabernacle of Allah!

From Munich, Beirut to Cole, the answer to aforementioned attacks was based on a 'civilized set' of conventional responses; retorting was stereotyped and expected to be played by an established norm of civility. Uncivilized behavior had to be answered by appeasing civility. It was tearing of this self imposed standard that made Bush such a hated man; instead of becoming a hostage to faceless vandals and a prisoner of liberal civility, the new strategy was based on 'Let them hate me, provided that they fear me.' Vandals overnight had to play on equal playing fields and the goal posts could not be changed.

The task post 911 for the planners of the war on terror was not an easy one, to wage a war against a hidden enemy living within a free society as an undeclared combatant, hell bent on destroying the very fabric of the society that sustains him. For a civilized nation, to dissuade terrorists who loathe the entire western way of life within a strictly 'free society,' is vulnerable. The impasse runs against the very basic law of thermodynamics i.e. more energy would be required to run the security apparatus than the needs of the society. The enormous security structure overheads and elimination of almost all kinds of freedom makes the cost of fighting a true war against 'hidden terrorists' an impossibility.

Technology and openness helps any determined terrorist to wage successive attacks as the last decade had shown. Against such odds, the primary policy objective post 911 was to safeguard US from further attacks; one can carefully assert that the intention was accomplished. The statistics of actual terrorist attacks globally points out that the US since 2001 has had almost no attacks, and globally attacks have considerably decreased; nations, once greatest of foes, are inching towards each other. (Terror attacks 1981-2002 -- 1997-2002)

Political Islam has never remained calm as a minority. The rise of Islam from infancy depicts a system that tells a clear tale of struggle that only rests once everyone is subjected to the whim of Allah. The saga of Poitiers and the tale of Vienna are living stories of such an expansion for posterity. In less than 100 years, Muslim warriors conquered lands for Islam from Persia to Spain. Muslims then pushed further into Europe. Their incursion into Western Europe was stopped in France. Their invasion from the east was finally halted at the gates of Vienna.

Around 732, the Muslim governor in Iberia, Abd ar-Rahman, led thousands of horsemen and their families into Aquitaine over a period of about 30 years, Arab warriors, riding quick horses and camels, conquered the entire Persian empire and much of the Byzantine. In 1529 and again in 1566, the Ottoman Turks tried to confine Vienna, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in the heart of Europe.

Both assaults on the city failed. More than 100 years later, the Ottomans tried once more with 250,000 troops. The Ottomans determined to place siege to Vienna and settled in a comfortable pavilion camps outside the city walls. In September 1683, the Polish military leader John Sobieski arrived with 60,000 Christian fighters. Just prior to going into battle, he spoke to his men: 'It is not a city alone that we have to save, but the whole of Christianity, of which the city of Vienna is the bulwark. This war is a holy one.' Sobieski and his cavalry charged the Ottoman camp, and the Muslim soldiers fled. The Ottomans' dream of taking Europe collapsed in a rout before the gates of Vienna.

Until circumcised masses bow their heads to the sermons from the pulpits, the Aiymans and bin Ladens of the world would not rest! For Aiymans and the Ladens the struggle that began in 732 continued until 1529 have to continue! Although they are a minority within the 'sea of faithful,' they attract romantic folklore following as those who are capable in bringing about the undoable. The reason the moderates within the nation of Islam are unable to denounce them wholeheartedly is the infatuation with the dreamy stuff of Poitiers and Vienna. As the folklore of conquest has never really died, so has the rage of impotence multiplied, as Islam lost in culture and sciences to the age of enlightenment!

The regaining of paradise lost through the will of Allah is the misplaced slogan of modern day extremists. It definitely attracts a lot of sympathies across the board. Although unwilling to support the vandals at the door, the sea of faithful is decapitated to condemn, as it construes breaking of a dream. And this is the root cause of their ambivalence. There was no bridge between Islam and the West; there are no excuses. It is in the mindset! Change in mindset is only possible when reality hits the rank and file of the faithful, the reality of cohabitation and coexistence in the contemporary world as a team player to ensure global prosperity and oneness.

The scorch earth strategy post 911 implemented by Bush administration against the terrorist safe havens was considered as a beginning of new crusades. On the event horizon some actions have an impact beyond human ability to comprehend the consequences. Small incidents have changed the course of history; the consequential exaggerated conflict-ridden disruption changes the destiny of nations. We stand today on the crossroads; we are in unique position to revisit post 911 strategy and see whether it brought dark clouds of despair, or helped the dawn of a new era. Sensitivity analysis of today's happening does give us advantageous rearview mirror image of 911 strategies.

The prime issues we need to address are: Did the strategy lead to the reformation of the Islamic World or was it the final straw that broke the susceptible relationships between Dar-ul-Islam and West? Are the 'hotspots' today hotter, or has a period of cooling down commenced? Have the west and East finally decided to part ways or has new renaissance begun?

The terrible loss of lives from 911 will be a lasting memory in the annals of human history; the attack was an assault on every thing human that we are proud of. In its cruelty, 11th September crossed the limits rarely ventured by even the worst of barbarians and vandals. To commit a heinous crime on this scale against innocent civilians in a world inundated with knowledge and global connectivity was beyond human comprehension as it defied all rationale, common sense and reason.

It was the faceless vandals descending on the doors of mankind with a new order of atrocities. The shenanigans with their Stone Age obsolete methods about to dislodge the fifth generation global connectivity, the distance that was dead amongst nations, was reintroduced; the borders that were blurred were re-enacted, the century of knowledge kicking firmly at the turn of the millennium threatened to come to a standstill at its embryonic birth in 2001.

If we want to look forward we need to look behind. The 911 scale of incidences in the past have led to great world wars. The first of the two comparables would be the Pearl Harbour attack. On 7 December 1941, Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour was one of the greatest defining moments in history. A carefully planned and well-executed stroke removed the United States Navy's battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empire's southward expansion. America, unprepared and now considerably weakened, was abruptly brought into the Second World War as a full combatant.

The other incident in contemporary history that stands in comparison to 911, is the impact of 1914 assassination of the Austro-Hungarian successor to the throne. A member of a band of Serbian conspirators assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, in Bosnia. Upon investigation of the crime by the Austro-Hungarian authorities it was revealed that the conspiracy against the life of the Archduke was prepared and abetted in Belgrade with the co-operation of Serbian officials. That single event was the catalyst for the First World War within Europe. The sequence of events from the assassination in Sarajevo was swift from 28 June 1914, when the Arch Duke was assassinated, to 1st August 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia.

Indeed it does not take too long to fire a tinderbox in tense situations and Osama bin Laden's attacks on civilian targets in the pre-eminent city of the largest and strongest nation on earth is like the veritable throwing of the gauntlet. The after effects of 911 strategies did not culminate into a great world war, but it is no exaggeration to see that the most intolerant Islamic state of Taliban lies in ruin and Afghanistan ensues as a new society where elections were first ever conducted -- a sort of a new beginning.

The naysayers reminded strategists of Vietnam kind of scenarios; none of those ever materialized. The cradle of terror was destroyed in no time, a safe haven denied and sanctuary uprooted. It is gratifying to see that the fringe elements all around Islamic crescent of instability are on the run; the connection between seminaries and Wahabi Islam and the funding of intolerant ideological education is for the first time being choked. The enlightenment and renaissance that missed the Islamic societies en masse is now being surely but forcefully introduced to the most hardened of the Jihadis from Kashmir, to Chechnya to Iraq.

Simon Barnes wrote last week of two old boys meeting at the cricket. There was much to divide them, but they had the cricket in common. 'Shot, sir.' 'Fine throw.' 'Oh, I say, well bowled indeed. Do you think it's the moment for a little light refreshment?'

What an awfully good idea. And at the end of the day, world peace was established. Peace today in South Asia wouldn't be possible without the helping hands of international community. The momentum and path of the trajectory of events have surpassed predictions of all pessimists; the strategy of vigorous engagement and denunciation of appeasement stand itself vindicated from the test of times. Things between India and Pakistan look so rosy now, but not in the very distant past the two countries were about to go to war and faced a threat of nuclear annihilation. The countries have fought three wars in the past half century.

The two gentlemen responsible for change, General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, and Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, made the greatest step towards a permanent peace between their nations since the two countries were first established by the Partition in 1947. It was a series of meetings after a one-day cricket match in which India were utterly defeated. Simon Barnes puts it very passionately 'I should point out here that when I say India were defeated, I don't mean that Pakistan laid waste to the land, raped women, shot children, leveled cities and played football with severed heads. No. Pakistan won by 159 runs. Not a single person died. It was, you see, a sporting event. India and Pakistan had fought out -- though not actually fighting, of course -- a wonderfully fraught Test series, and followed it with a series of one-dayers. At the climax of these hostilities came the outbreak of peace.'

In a joint statement, the two leaders said, 'the peace process was now irreversible.' In 2002 the two countries were daggers drawn. With the benefit of hindsight it seems appropriate to suggest that it was post 911 active engagements of belligerent powers that led to present peace between the neighbors that constitute nearly 20 percent of the world population. It looks very appropriate to deem that this very realization was indeed reached by the very pragmatic Indian leadership under the prodding of USA, when forces were daggers drawn and massive Indian build-up was about to derail the war on terror; it was the gentle handling of a crisis -- a direct consequence from post 911 strategy, a departure from insular American under Bush as we all envisaged; the Americans that kept the two nations focused on not becoming hostage to terror outfits.

The legs most responsible to take Israel through the qualifying match for the soccer World Cup finals for the first time in 35 years belong to a devout Muslim. NYT writes that after his big goal against Ireland - the pun in Hebrew, on the word "equalizer," was that "finally an Israeli Arab gets equality" - Suan was hailed by numerous Israelis as "gibor Yisrael," a Biblical phrase meaning hero or savior of Israel. It was just a couple of years ago that at Wimbledon when the world saw a Muslim player being cheered on by Israeli fans...while the Pakistani fans were cheering for a Jew... All these were no-go areas for Muslims. The thaw has set in and the change is visible! Minuscule it might be by the exacting standards of the liberals, but a definite move forward.

Today we are achieving the objective of peace, but those who helped cannot be forgotten. The shroud and garb of 'freedom fighters' has been torn; the terrorists with a global agenda of coercion are being accurately scrutinized. The world since 11th September has become a smaller place for these fringe elements. The blood money rewards for the ringleaders have made these leaders fear even their own shadows. If Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda represented a cancer within Islamic societies, 11th September is undoubtedly represents the day of reckoning when surgical removal of the tumor commenced and continues to treat the metastasis. Unlike other trigger incidences, we can safely say that 911 strategies did not bring a war between civilizations or a global war; rather, they expedited the 'spring revolution' and ignited the lost renaissance long awaited within the Islamic world.

For letters section
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