Creating more Terrorists

The CIA's recent botched attempt to kill al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman Zawahiri, in Pakistan illustrates why the Bush administration's overly aggressive "war on terror" actually motivates terrorists to attack the United States. Certainly, capturing or killing the brains behind al Qaeda is an important goal. Unfortunately, in the U.S. method of warfare- which unduly emphasizes attrition, heavy firepower and sophisticated weaponry, even against guerrillas and terrorists - the technology of killing has outstripped the quality of human intelligence needed to hit the correct targets. The CIA's unmanned Predator drone fired missiles that killed many Pakistani civilians, including women and children, but apparently not Zawahiri. 

Making things even worse, the killing of women and children continues to spark public outrage all across Pakistan, leading to mass protests in all of Pakistan's major cities and the trashing and burning of a U.S. - supported aid organization. Such public ire will make it even less likely that the United States will receive accurate future intelligence about where Zawahiri and his boss, Osama bin Laden, are hiding, even though the prices on their heads are substantial.

And to shore up the popularity of his war on terror at home, which has been dragged down by an incongruous, unnecessary, now unpopular war in Iraq, President Bush has combined these reckless military actions with cowboy rhetoric, which only further stoke the flames of anti -U.S. hatred among radical Islamists. Bringing back the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric used during the Cold War against the "godless Communists," the administration is now implying that those with "too much god of an alien kind" are trying to build a worldwide empire that could again threaten the United States. The president has cast the war on Islamic terrorism as a contest between the men in white hats who advocate freedom and those with black headgear who want to create "a totalitarian Islamic empire reaching from Spain to Indonesia." 

Yet bringing back the caliphate - the political and spiritual leader of Sunni Islam who ruled a united Islamic world - is a long-term objective of even moderate Muslims. As a result, to the Muslim world, the president's war on terror looks much like a war on Islam that threatens to make the clash of civilizations a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yet even the unlikely uniting of the Islamic world would not necessarily create a severe threat to the United States. Arab countries, only a subset of the Islamic world, have not even been able to unite against Israel, their mortal enemy. It would be even harder for the more geographically and ethnically diverse global Islamic community to unite under one ruler. Even if the entire Sunni Islamic world coalesced rapidly into one empire, any threat to the United States - which would not be inevitable - would be tempered by the fact that many of the countries uniting are economic basket cases.

In addition to shoring up flagging public opinion at home, the president's talk of an Islamic empire is designed to mask the real reasons that al Qaeda attacks the United States. The core of al Qaeda's gripe with the United States is its military presence in the Persian Gulf to guard U.S. oil supplies and support for corrupt Gulf leaders who sell that oil. In a recent videotape, Zawahiri warned Americans: "...Your calamity will not end, unless you leave our lands and stop stealing our resources and stop supporting the bad rulers in our countries."

But because the Gulf countries are heavily dependent on petroleum sales for their revenues (oil deals make up between 65 percent and 90 percent of their export income, depending upon the country), they have every incentive to sell oil to the world market, regardless of whether the U.S. stations military forces on their lands or props up their despotic rulers. In short, U.S. forces are not needed to defend Persian Gulf oil. Even if they were necessary, the job could be done with no permanent U.S. military presence on Muslim lands. In Gulf War I, Persian Gulf oil was successfully defended without a prior land presence in the Gulf. Land forces were brought in only when a threat arose. And since then, the threat to oil has decreased.

President Bush should ratchet down the war on terror to make it more effective. The United States should improve human intelligence and strike al Qaeda only when the information is bulletproof. More importantly, to reduce terrorists' motive for attacking the United States in the first place, the administration should quietly withdraw the unneeded land forces from Persian Gulf countries and its support for their authoritarian, venal rulers.

Ivan Eland is the Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

New from Ivan Eland!
THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed

Most Americans don't think of their government as an empire, but in fact the United States has been steadily expanding its control of overseas territories since the turn of the twentieth century. In The Empire Has No Clothes, Ivan Eland, a leading expert on U.S. defense policy and national security, examines American military interventions around the world from the Spanish-American War to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Buy It Today >>

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Older Comments:
The Bush government just does not learn. It is quite comical that the more they screw up; they manage to aggravate the issue even further by yet more idiotic acts to antagonise and alienate Muslims. Well here is something the US government has started doing that is not funny at all; in fact its pure theft. Arab and Muslim bank accounts in the US and overseas, in countries where the US has some clout, will be "temporarily" seized. However I can assure you the seizure is not temporary; it is permanent. Here is a bit of news relating to this:

Over the years I have come into contact with numerous Muslims from all over the world, and without intending any flattery, I can state unequivocally that I have never met a finer people. In fact I found the most conservative and religious Muslims to be the most honest, forthright and decent people, and that is why I am so angry at what.the Bush government intends to do, which I would like all Muslims to be aware of. Please know that if you are a Muslim investing in the US or with US investment banks in Europe or even European banks, your investments are not safe. All US banks have been ordered to not just compile and deliver to the Department of Homeland Security a list of any and all savings and investment accounts held by any Muslims, but they have also been asked to prepare to shed Muslim clients as a massive seizure of Muslim bank accounts is about to happen this year. It has already started with UBS (link below) and it will spread. Please get your money out while you can. If you are Saudi or Kuwaiti, it does not matter, your accounts will be frozen. You will be told that its a temporary measure, but it is not. This is one of the most diabolical and outright illegal moves by the Bush administration.


just reminder:

You are living the clash of civilizations since 1989. no matter how others see the things, the moslems, by the will of Allah, are running very successful battle in this clash of civilization. you can never ever do better than what Allah wants to do... we waste time defending the evil motives of our enemies! everything is clear to the level, those paid to back the Empire dominance, are unable to make sense in what they write...

Kovitz neither your comment needs the intelligence of a rocket scientist, it's more like in the donkey's wits sphere. If you are so incredibly informed, why don't you teach us all of what was this about? Maybe it was about greater Yugoslavia? Greater Israel? You tell us professor!

As misplaced and morally wrong as the US lead war on Islam and Muslims is, it is even more reprehensible to note that the US government is about to sink to greater lows with an act of common theft of Arab investments in the US and Europe. The Security and Exchange Commission in conjunction with new directives issued by US Homeland Security, will be spearheading efforts, set to roll out in September 2006, to freeze and eventually confiscate the billions of Arab money invested in the US and in US owned financial institutions in Europe. The new US policy is hopeful that EU countries will follow suit. Thus far Blair's government are resisting and so are a number of EU countries. But the Bush government's man at the UN, Bolton, has been applying the screws and with basically what amounts to blackmail and threats, to eventually convince Britian and EU countries to conform. Iran was wise to remove their investments from Europe. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Malasia, Qutar, UAE, Oman and Brunei, should take heed and realise that they are not exempt from this new Bush initiative simply because they consider themselves tob be "friendly" allies or non-Arabs. This will affect all Muslim countries under the absured National Security and Homeland Security excuse. The idea is to economically cripple all Muslim countries in an effort to pre-empt any moves, similar to Iran's, to phase out Dollar denominated transactions and reserves, which would threaten to eliminate the funding and hence the entire US/Israel plan for the Mideast. Its all very interesting.

You do not need a rocket scientist to tell you that this is not a war on Islam. Wakeup brothers!

As much as we are blind to it, the fact remains that the US is doing everything in its power to make any peace talks with any Muslim government or organization fail. Bullying, threatening and blowing away innocent men, women and children and then claiming they were terrorists is not going to help any peace effort and we know it. The only reason the Condileeza/Bush/Cheney team has that war mongering attitude is because they are relying upon their nuclear invincibility to trample on the Muslim world. Power can only be met with power. When was the last time the US locked horns with Russia or China and threatened them with nuclear annhilation ? Never. Why because we are bullies and only respect someone stronger or equally powerful. Everyone else is fair game. If stooge Muslim leaders would wisen up and realize that they will probably never live long enough to spend the $ 2.5 million they recieve annually from the CIA, and start uniting to form a single cohesive International Islamic body that presents a substantial economic and military power, then you will see the US changing its tune overnight. But until that happens Muslims countries will not be left in peace. Their countries, their properties, their families and everything they own will be up for grabs. If even now after all the death, humiliation and indiginity Muslims do not wake up, then by the sheer law of the jungle they will become an extinct species. Where are the grand Muslims I used to read about as a boy ? Where are the fearless Muslim fighters and outstanding leaders like Saladin, whose name the world still resonates and elicits respect ? Where is the Muslim anger, passion and fire that once caused Europe to shudder ? Where are the Muslims ?

i agree that the real problem lies not with the islamists wanting to impose the islamic law all over the world but the root of the problem lies in the foreign policy of the united states. Islam calls for dialogue and calling people to the truth through wisdom and goodly advice, but the hypocrisy in the foreign policy of not only america but the western world has led to this division.