by Bruce B. Chin 11/25/2001
Through the veil of flag-waving, renewed patriotism and support for the war against terrorism that has engulfed America following the 11 September attacks, there is a degree of certainty that we will be victorious - unquestionably, undeniably and perhaps even euphorically. Yes, it is true that our so-called newfound Allies in the Northern Alliance and other tribal anti-Taleban fighters are making progress, but we must remember that Osama bin Laden remains at large, along with thousands of followers in his al-Queda terrorist network and millions of admirers around the world. These admirers represent a seething cauldron of potentially catastrophic danger to the West that cannot be overlooked.
The gargantuan size of the building animosities among an entire swath of nations across the middle latitudes of the Old World, from the Palestinian West Bank to the far eastern reaches of Khazakstan, has been largely hidden from the mainstream American public. The media glorified victories in Afghanistan are small among those coming in a much longer war on terrorism - a war that is putting extreme pressure on already precarious Muslim regimes providing support to the West while facing unrest among their citizenries angered by a perceived sell-out by their elite to Western pressures and principles. These animosities must be addressed now to avoid what may be already too late, a massive war under the flag of religion that veils the true clash of civilizations - the haves versus the have-nots.
The vast majority of people in the West, in America in particular, do not realize that a global monopolization of culture and economics have left a vast population of 1.2 billion people, that share a faith, feeling ostracized, angry and unwelcome in the world community. Recent depictions of Muslims in the media have not helped, given the exported prejudices that have spread a US version of racism across the world (Morning Edition NPR, 6 September 2001, http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/racism/index.html). Despite the current economic and military domination of the US, there is a major weakness that is the source of the current American administration's power - one that has fueled its very existence and is a sword that cuts both ways - Middle Eastern oil. What has fueled the strength of the readily proclaimed sole superpower is something that can also be easily taken away, leaving us at the mercy of populations that would be intent on destroying the West.
What happens if this swath of nations unites in anger against the constant economic suppression by the West? It is easy to imagine these nations rallying around the call of Islam to address the deeper issue, economic struggle for survival and a place of prominence on the world stage after so many years of sub-ordinance to a culture that currently plays with Middle Eastern politics like a chess game. Since the division of Arabia and the Ottoman Empire at the close of the First World War, the United States and Europe have carved new states, redefined borders and attempted to maintain a "balance of power" on many occasions in the Gulf region. Throughout the last 50 years, there has been a heavy bias toward a state that now occupies land taken forcefully from Palestinians, creating a major source of such venomous anger among Muslims who see its existence as usurping their rights once again. In addition to anger over the location of Israel in the most holy of Christian, Muslim and Jewish sites, it is the treatment of Palestinians by a much more powerful Israeli foe, that continually breaks UN mandates, that is the major antagonist in this struggle. However, the battle is not over religion.
How often have people truly fought wars over religion? Wars under the flag of Christianity, Islam and Judaism have always had an economic underpinning to them with the blessing, if you could ever call it that, of self-proclaimed religious leaders. Even the Crusades were arguably about power and a claim to land, whose control would represent a stability and order favorable to the economies of the countries involved. This building tsunami of anger would be yet another manifestation of such a fight, but with potential consequences so horrific that it would make the Second World War look like two small regional skirmishes.
With an administration so favorable to oil and so steadfastly against quickly exploiting alternative fuel sources, we are at the mercy of the countries that loathe, despise and abominate the Western way of life, and policies implemented since TE Lawrence united tribes against the Ottomans, more than anyone else. What the American public does not know is that today's wealth from oil is tomorrow's bastion of deprivation if a major battle comes to fore with these countries. First, in such a conflict, our oil supplies would be cut from us. Second, we would be severely crippled in our ability to power our economy through the transportation of goods and services, manufacturing and domestic power. Finally, our military would not be sufficiently powered to fight these enemies. Already, our resources are stretched. Pumping more oil in Alaska will only provide an extremely small proportion of the oil we currently acquire from the Middle East, placing us in an extremely precarious position (BBC, 29 January 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/americas/newsid_1138000/1138009.stm).
In summary, we need to address the feelings of persecution, deprivations and the lack of acceptance felt by Muslims through a revision of our current benign policies toward the Palestinians and portrayals of Muslims as terrorists or subordinate people in the Western media and entertainment industries. This may bring to mind the "Good Neighbor Policy" implemented during the Second World War where Latin American culture was highlighted and heralded on the Silver Screen to enhance the US alliance in South America against Axis Powers. Perhaps most importantly, for the sake of Western survival in the event of a looming all-out jihad, the US needs to immediately begin building its infrastructure to support alternative fuel, like solar and hydrogen. We seriously need to upgrade our pipeline infrastructure in America and now would be a perfect time to adopt these alternative fuel sources while the opportunity is there (NPR, 26 September 2001).
If we do not address the issues of Muslim anger at the West and our critical dependence on the Arab world's one major export in the short-term (which the current administration would consider an anathema) we will continue to exacerbate the flight in the face of Muslim populations. Terrorism will continue to increase so long as anger exists in the Muslim world at the West and perhaps it will be all of Manhattan that may be mourned if Al-Queda has its ways. The continuing polarization of factions that are forming between Muslims and the West could send us spiraling toward the predictions of Samuel Huntington, Nostradamus and the Incan calendar prophecies. Even if you are not a soothsayer, these are predictions that seem a bit too close to reality in the making.
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