Steven Clemons, in his blog The Washington Note, has focused on the problem of our supplying the fuel necessary for terrorist type fanaticism to flourish. In the piece from which I’ve extracted a few excerpts he makes some very valid points with which I’m in substantial agreement:
The masterminds of terrorist groups — like Bin Laden and Zawahiri — are not driven by the failure of the U.S. to pressure Israel and its neighbors into a final, two-state deal between Israel and Palestine — even though that grievance is regularly waved in America’s face as the one that motivates these people.
I’m not sure what to think about bin Laden’s motivations. I think he may want to be a Muslim pope; that he may see himself as a modern-day version of the Mahdi who led Muslim resistance against British colonial control over Sudan; or that he wants to lay the groundwork for organizing the Middle East politically under his brand of extreme Islam.
What I do know about bin Laden is that he and other terror-masters exploit the perception of grievances among the citizens they are attempting to appeal to and eventually govern. Without grievances, terrorism is a pathetic act. With grievances, terrorism has fuel.
We have few tests of how significant resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem would be because we have never delivered, no matter how close resolution may have seemed in the past. We have not delivered — and we must. A majority of Israelis desire a negotiated, final status negotiation with the Palestinians, and Palestinians desire the same — according to numerous, credible polls.
In addition, the leadership of nearly all Arab Muslim “states” in the region have told America privately that peace with Israel is achievable if the land and border disputes are solved.
Israel’s, America’s, and the Arab Middle East’s problem is not so much with misbehaving states as it is with a growing population of fanatics that ebb and flow within and among Arab states and who are increasingly independent of state control. This is a true problem — and it needs to be contained — as this kind of power is one that is very hard to squelch.
Israel had the moral high ground after Hezbollah’s incursion into Israel and the kidnapping and killing of IDF soldiers and that the U.S. and Israel had a moment to tie mutually shared concerns about Hezbollah with the leading states of the Arab region.
But just as the United States somehow lost the world’s outpouring of support and empathy after 9/11, the U.S. and Israel lost connection as well with this powerful opportunity to ally with Arab support.
There is no doubt that Hezbollah had acquired sophisticated weapons and command and control systems that needed to be confronted. If anything, our collective intelligence in the region — American, Israeli, Saudi, Jordanian, and Egyptian — missed this build-up of capacity.
But the manner in which Israel challenged Hezbollah, turning its assault against Southern Lebanese armed militants into a real war against Lebanon proper, lionized Hizbollah — rather than delegitimating it.
The way to confront terrorism is not an abandonment of national security capacity or all military responses — but without solving fundamental grievances — while at the same time checking and pushing back the militants — America accomplishes precious little in its so-called “global war on terror”.
There is quite a bit more to this very capable write-up than the paragraphs I’ve excerpted here. I’d suggest clicking the headline and reading it all.