Draining the Swamps of Terrorism
We are all Londoners this week. Who could not be in complete solidarity and grief with those facing such senseless carnage. London will survive–it survived the Battle of Britain (daily bombings for a year!) and all the IRA attacks in the ’70s and ’80s. Our admiration for the courage and tenacity of Londoners cannot be topped.
But our grief and solidarity must not prevent us from concluding that the bombings show the war on terrorism is not working. Bush’s “we must fight them there” (and then going after the wrong people) “so that we won’t fight them here” has produced more, not less, terror. Blair was a fool to go along with it. Trying to wipe out terrorism by killing all the terrorists is not just immoral but stupid–like trying to end malaria by killing more mosquitos. Until you drain the swamps that breed the mosquitos, the mosquitos will produce faster than you can swat or spray (and your sprays will kill much else as “collateral damage.”) Likewise, preemptive wars to kill terrorists creates terrorists faster than they can be killed. We have to drain the swamps of the conditions which make it easy for fanatic terror groups like al-Qaeda to recruit.
First among what is necessary is a just, stable, and peaceful Middle East. Ending Israel’s occupation of Palestine and finding a just 2-state solution with a shared Jerusalem capital is essential. Palestinian suffering can only be manipulated for terrorist gain when they are suffering. As Alice Walker might say, “Justice for Palestinians will stop the curse of the Middle East.” (See her essay, Only Justice Can Stop a Curse.) Ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq, perhaps with the UN playing a role in a transition to a stable Iraq, is also necessary.
The attacks on London were probably aimed at disrupting the G-8 summit. The goals of the G-8 agenda are anathema to groups like al-Qaeda. Ending the impoverishment of Africa, creating a stable, uncorrupt, and sustainably developing Africa shrinks the terrorist recruiting pool considerably. Ending poverty is not only morally right, but a smart answer to terrorism. It’s not appeasement, but cutting the ground out from under the terrorists. Not only are desperately poor and oppressed people ripe for simplistic/fanatic “answers,” but if the U.S. and Europe are hard at work ending Africa’s impoverishment, it is much harder to paint them in demonic terms. The Bushies talk about winning “hearts and minds,” but their actions seemed designed to lose hearts and minds daily. Thankfully, the G-8 work on ending African poverty, though less than hoped for, was a powerful step in the right direction.
Bush blocked the agreement on global warming reversal. The other G-7 countries should simply bypass him and reengage the U.S. under a new president. Again, saving the planet is the right thing to do for both humans and other living things. But since it also involves ending the West’s dependency on Middle East oil, it also drains the swamps of terrorism. As long as the U.S. and Europe are hooked on oil like junkies are hooked on drugs, they will do anything for the needed fix. Western oil junkies support some despotic regimes (e.g., Saudi Arabia) and invade others (e.g., Iraq) in desperation for the oil fix. Thus, they make it easy for groups like al-Qaeda to paint them as “the Great Satan.” A U.S. and Europe that is on a strict carbon-minimizing diet and has turned to multiple sources of clean, renewable energy, is free to pressure Saudi Arabia to reform and democratize. They are free to leave Iraq for Iraqis–shrinking again the recruiting pool for terrorists.
Terrorism is also caused by religious extremism, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever. I have argued in this blog that we need to push for the renewal of prophetic religion and oppose authoritarian religion wherever it is found. That’s beyond the G-8 goals, but the G-8 goals will make provide a context that automatically will favor prophetic religion. When people are not hungry or oppressed, can breathe the air, drink the water, and live in relative freedom and stability, the easy answers of authoritarian religion are far less persuasive.
Despite his lockstep following of George W. Bush off the Iraqi cliff, there is some evidence that Tony Blair understands these realities. Could he please explain them to George W before it is too late?
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