Jun 5, 2007

Gates Misguided On The Roots of Terrorism

Last week in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked point blank whether or not the United States and it's partners were winning in global war on terrorism. Gates chose not to answer and stated "I think we are still early in this contest". Citing progress made in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Gates then went on to say,

"On the negative side of the ledger, I think we have not made enough progress in trying to address some of the root causes of terrorism in some of these societies, whether it is economic deprivation or despotism that leads to alienation."

Robert Gates would moments later in the conference contradict his own analysis by saying:

"One of the disturbing things about many of the terrorists that have been caught is that these are not ignorant, poor people," he said. "These are educated people, often from professional families. So dealing with poverty and those issues is not going to eliminate the problem, but it certainly can reduce the pool of people prepared to give their lives for this cause."

Despite the fact that it fails to fit the data model, Gates contradicts his first statement and then seems to drift towards the opinion that somehow only the poverty stricken are willing to give their lives for their cause. Gates is not alone is his confusion and his propensity to indentify poverty as one of the root causes of terrorism. Former CIA director Bill Christison and various other State Department officials have been equally misguided into believing that poverty lies in the root causes of terrorism. Ironically, the authoritative governments of many of these countries are the ones misguiding our own nation's officals on how to combat terrorism.

Since 9/11 Americans have been completely overwhelmed with the desire to indentify the "root causes" of Islamic terrorism in a futile effort to somehow be able to explain the inexplicable. An inability to explain why affluent and educated young men from Saudi Arabia would sacrifice their own lives to kill thousands leads fuels this desperation and then leads us to the next question that Americans feel compelled to ask themselves "Why do they hate us?".

Seemingly oblivious to our own patronization of our adversaries, we carefully avoid the real sources and blame it on the usual suspects of "poverty," "injustice," "exploitation," and "frustration", and in a bizarre twist of fate, we ironically make our adversaries out to be the victims and ourselves to be the aggressors which does nothing but further fuel the anger.

It is power that forms the roots of terrorism and not poverty.

The source of their anger stems from a dualistic view of the world supported not so much by their religion but by the political ideology that it encompasses. Effectively combatting Islamic terrorism would require us to filet the political aspirations from it's host religion. The reality that we are confronted with however is that is that the parasite cannot be killed without killing the host. The aspects and dynamics of Islam whether they be political, religious or social are all conterminous and it is this symbiotic relationship that the West continuously fails to understand by thinking that one element supported by us, namely the political element can somehow effectively control and subdue the others. It's simply not possible.

A clear example of this is the nation of Pakistan. Since 9/11 Pakistan has received billions in financial aid which has done absolutely nothing to stem the growth of religious extremism. In fact, the billions in aid have actually contributed to the rapid growth of extremism in the country. Read carefully what Pervez Musharraf had to say only a few months ago when he threatened the West and ask yourself "Is this country really our ally?". There is a saying "Blood is thicker than water".

The only solution in defeating Islamic extremism therefore is not to embrace and nourish the host, but to isolate and starve it. In the end one will kill off the other and we'll be left with a single adversary. One that does not hide behind a nation or a government's veil of legitimacy.


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