Peter Beinart has been at The New Republic since 1999, where he is a journalist and editor-at-large. He is also a contributor to Time magazine and writes a monthly column[…]
A not so formidable foe.
I think that radical Islam as manifested by the jahidst _________ ideology of Al Qaeda is ideologically not a terribly formidable foe. Which is to say it’s not a terribly attractive ideology if you compare it to past ideological . . . ideologies that have arisen that America has had to contend with. Communism and fascism first of all were universalistic . . . Communism particularly was a universalistic ideology that could speak to people of all ethnicities, and religions, and races across the world in a way that radical Islam, of course, cannot being rooted in one religion. Beyond that, it’s very important to understand the appeal of communism and fascism; that when the capitalist world was in deep depression in the 1930s and many were despairing of its future, many smart people thought that communism and fascism could actually bring about a better quality of life materially than capitalism could. Nobody really by and large believes that about the Taliban, Afghanistan, or about any other state that Bin Laden supporters would over . . . would take over. Or even in its Shiia version, the radical Islam of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. What is dangerous about radical Islam is that it is emerging in a moment . . . in a period of globalization and dramatic technological change in which relatively small numbers of people can do enormous damage because they are empowered by the technologies that give individuals much greater power than ever before. You . . . You know without . . . To use a . . . Without airplanes, that September 11th could not have taken place. If you think about the tremendous . . . As my colleague Walter Russell Mead at the Council on Foreign Relations very nicely noted, 100 years ago it would have taken the greatest navy in the world, the British Navy, a whole afternoon in Manhattan Harbor to kill 3,000 people. On September 11th because of changes in technology, you could do it with 19 people. If you think about biotechnology and the dramatic changes that are likely to take place, it is possible to imagine that a small number of people in someone’s basement might be able to create new kinds of viruses that could kill large numbers of people. That’s what makes this such a frightening foe. And I think the ultimate . . . the ultimate . . . the path to defeating it is to deny it the oxygen that all insurgency movements require. The oxygen that insurgencies require . . . require to survive is the active or at least passive support of the people around whom they live. We had a terrorist in 1994 in the United States named Timothy McVeigh who blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The reason he was not a threat . . . really a big threat to the United States was that there was no neighborhood in America where he could go and get sanctuary. So he was easy to track down and imprison. The . . . the . . . the key in our . . . for our ability to be able to track down, and imprison, or kill the hardcore jihadists who wanna do us harm is to create an environment in as much of the Islamic world as possible where they are viewed as Timothy McVeigh was – where they could not get sanctuary. And the key to doing that, I think, is to show people in the Islamic world that . . . that America is more of a force for their dignity than Osama bin Laden is. Bin Laden’s popularity . . . People’s willingness to tolerate bin Laden and his ill is . . . comes about largely because they see America and America’s client states as more of a threat to their dignity as then bin Laden is. And that’s the . . . that’s what we have to reverse – by showing people, in fact, that America can be . . . is not a threat to their dignity, and in fact can even be an ally for them in having . . . in having the kind of freedom and prosperity that they want for their families.Recorded on: 9/12/07