What lessons can we learn from the two recent failed attempts at bombing our home land by Zazi and Shahzad? What prevented these disasters from happening is that these clowns were incompetent and none too bright.
Zazi, who looks like the very antithesis of a playboy, tried to pass off of large amounts of beauty shop purchases as supplies for his many imaginary girl friends. FBI got lucky that an alert store owner did not buy the bizarre explanation.
Shahzad was a failure who could barely support his family. With Shehzad no one raised an alarm and law enforcement had no clue. The only reason we escaped is the bomb did not go off.
From what has been revealed in the press they cited their primary reason for the attempted bombings as the killing of civilians in Afghanistan and the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan as a result of the US campaign in those areas. Zazi also cited the futility of non violent protest like writing letters to the editor. How can someone get angered at the killing of civilians and turn around and plan to kill other civilians is beyond any logic.
Nevertheless their statements provide important insight into understanding the reasons behind radicalization. The best data on radicalization of young Muslims, as pointed out by Azeem Ibrahim in his op-ed (http://news.scotsman.com/opinion/Radical-approach-to--thwarting.6074155.jp) comes from Dr. Marc Sageman's work on approximately 500 militants. Sageman's psychiatry training and experience as a former CIA officer gives him a unique insight.
He sets out four stages of radicalization. It appears to start when the individual reacts to stories of Muslim suffering around the world with moral outrage. Some of those who feel outraged, according to Sageman, will progress to the second stage, in which they interpret that suffering in the context of a wider war Islam and the West, a mirror image of the clash of civilizations that is popular with the neo-cons. A minority of these go on to the third stage, in which their resentment is augmented by bad personal experiences in western countries, such as discrimination or failure to achieve a successful career. In other words they appear to be misfits. Of those who have progressed through these three stages, a fraction goes on to the fourth, in which the individual joins a group closed to the outside world like the al-Qaeda.
There is another inescapable conclusion from these two failed attempts; there are limits to what law enforcement agencies can do to protect us.
Muslim American community has an opportunity to interdict in the first two of these stages to explain the nuances of the conflicts Muslims are embroiled in and to channel the outrage in to constructive protest. They can educate the young in the power of the ballot, the moral persuasiveness of the grass roots peaceful protest and debunk the hollowness of the clash of civilizations and war on Islam theories. A number of Muslim groups in the US are already doing this but the efforts need to be redoubled.
Once the individual has crossed over to the third and fourth stages that have a large overlap, it is people close to the individual who may be the only ones who can detect and stop an atrocity from happening. Here it would help if the law enforcement agencies made a serious effort to gain the Muslim American community's trust. Muslims should have the assurance that when they report a young man to the law he gets a fair shake. Other actions could be undertaken to alleviate the sense of siege Muslim Americans feel they are under and allow their legitimate grievances to be heard.
Arguably the most effective strategy would be to prevent the outrage from happening in the first place. The preponderance of opinion is that the anger at our foreign policy is a common factor in radicalization. Our foreign policy strategy needs to be examined, not as a response to the acts of these clowns, but to analyze if it is meeting the objective at securing our homeland.
On balance, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a negative impact on US image in Muslim majorities in the world. The Obama administration's war in Afghansitan that is being waged under the Bush doctrine of "we are fighting them there so that we do not have to fight them here" has done little to change this perception.
A revamping of our foreign policy goals with tangible steps in making sure our foreign policy is consistent with our stated goals of justice and fair play is a must. In this internet age double standards in foreign policy are unsustainable.
We as a nation need to place much greater emphasis on peace in our foreign policy. War creates its own blowback and feeds in to a cycle of violence. Only a strong and mature nation like ours can use restraint without appearing weak. Although law enforcement and use of force have a role restraint, especially by a powerful nation like US, is a more effective tool. As Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, an eminent Indian diplomat, noted years ago, "The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war."
So you could see tone of his analysis. Yet he is a bit naive to believe that these future or potential Muslim terrorists can be spotted and even cured! Ask any psychiatrists about their frustration about dealing with psychopaths, and personality disorders. They will say "..Hopeless, Hopeless, Hopeless, Hopeless, Hopeless, Hopeless, Hopeless, Hopeless,....".
Good luck in your hope and pipedreams Doctor. I hope you would read readers' comments.
If tomorrow the Ayatollah of Iran surrendered and North Korea became a vibrant democracy it still would not change the military industrial complex. It requires an enemy to survive. Terrorism is the best thing that ever happened to the current environment of fear in the west. No one is strong enough to turn it back into an intelligence operation.
If tomorrow the wars ended and the US pulled it's troops out of the middle east it still wouldn't put and end to terrorism. There would always be people somewhere hijacking planes or bombing trains. I'm not saying that justifies the current situation. I'm simply saying that the author seems to believe that all would be better if our current policy changed. I believe that is naive. Obviously stopping wars would cease the needless bloodshed on both sides but I'm referring to the long term impact.
The current situation is untenable. The US and it's allies are fighting a war against an enemy that does not care about this world and believes that their actions will be rewarded in akhira.
The problem is what do we do with all the people that we have radicalized locally, worldwide and on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan? Can we just get up and walk away and insh'allah everything will be ok? Obviously our presence there is causing problems and the cowboy strategy was wrong. So do we thing we can simply say ana asef and ma salama and leave or does Obama have the right idea by leaving a (relatively) small compliment of troops behind as a precaution? I wish I knew the answer.
Prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to 9/11. Prior to the attack on the USS Cole, extremists were using terrorism to advance their political goals. For a long time it was simply to get our troops and bases out of the middle east. There where previous attempts to bring down the World Trade Center in the 90's.
Terrorists have hijacked planes in order to free prisoners. In Ireland, terrorists have used bombings to force political change. These techniques are not unique to muslims.
The conversation should be about how do we solve our problems (everyones problems) without fighting.
But there are some realities that we need to face. Governments (not just the US) are businesses and are influenced by corporations. Because of this the inclination will usually be to do what makes profits in the short term for those who support those in power. That is usually the military industrial complex. So if you buy trillions of dollars in military resources, you've got to use them because otherwise you can't buy more.
Our homeland is as secure as they want it to be. Our governments control our destiny and can provoke what ever kind of reaction they want to provoke whether it is peace or war. In 2002, when we had the support of the world we could have organized a massive global law enforcement and intelligence operation but instead we invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq.
Do I agree that we should stop members of the community or we believe are radicalizing? Of course. But that is just a symptom. It's not the disease.
Continue to Part #2