Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Political War Al Qaeda Wages

Listening to an interview on Bill Moyer’s NOW a Columbia University government professor named Mahmood Mamdani, I was struck by a particular sentiment of his.

Even Republicans must admit that Al Quaeda is an odd duck, a stateless terrorist organization. But many conservatives, especially neoconservatives like to make the characterization of Al Quaeda as representing a kind of Islamic fascism. In fact those are the the kinds of terms that the buzzwords surround.

He put forward, though, the political angle deserves more thought than the religious angle. This isn't a war of one religion against another, as much as both sides would want to gather the angels to their ranks. This is about political power, and it has always been.

Why else attack the towers, and the warships, and the Embassies first? If this is primarily about worship, why are the targets so secular? This is not to say that religion doesn't play a big role in the background, in the language used, or even in the intentions of those who commit these acts.

Embassies represent diplomatic power, Planes and Trains represent both economic and technological power. The WTC towers stood as pillars of American economic strength The USS Cole and the Pentagon represent America's military power.

Power is what this is about. This is about countering American influence, and taking its place. Republicans complain about the use of soft power as appeasement, but to fail to use it, is to leave the field open for Al Quaeda to do its worst.

In a political war, outright military conflict is a last resort, In Afghanistan, there really wasn't any other option. But Iraq is a different story. Iraq was pretty much sitting tight when we got there, though depressed by years of sanctions. We went in, and took an admittedly ugly situation, and though we improved it somewhat, we ultimately stirred the hornet's nest for ourselves.

There are some who say that by opposing Bush here, we are help Osama elsewhere in stirring up opposition. Only thing is, it's really not that simple. Osama loves that he has the kind of opponent that he has in Bush. He knows Bush will rise to every provocation, that Bush will walk into the western stereotypes Osama sets up for him to fulfill. He must especially enjoy that Bush has squandered the goodwill abroad, and that he has stirred up so much trouble in Iraq.

If you want to know why Democrats are especially keen to kick Bush out of office, part of it is that Bush is giving the American image the precise kind of help it doesn't need.

We need to transcend the cliches and defeat the expecations of terrorist and Arab alike. We need to redraw the playing field until it works in our favor and not Osama's. Unfortunately, Bush thinks he can win this war playing the game as he always has.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 17, 2004 12:08 AM