In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy two questions stood out: “Why do ‘they’ hate America and the West so much?” and “What is to be done with militant Islam?” I think there is a more or less clear answer to the first (and was from the very beginning) but there is still no coherent response to the second. It may be coming soon.
Militant Islamists hate the West for everything that it is, simultaneously good and bad: democracy and pornography, freedom and selfishness, feeling of superiority and lack of moral compass. I know it is unfashionable to say this, but George W. Bush was the first to realize this – and act accordingly, as a true leader of the whole of the Western world. By the way, I am certain that Al Gore, had he won the elections in 2000, would have done the same.
The Islamists hate weakness and love to exploit it because they derive their ideology from the inferiority complex Islam possesses, especially in the Middle East. Bush instinctively grasped that and struck out in a matter of weeks, demolishing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
His next venture, the 2003 invasion into Iraq, was also a great idea. If not removed from power, Saddam Hussein might have wreaked a lot of havoc in the region (as was his habit before), as UN sanctions weakened and the Russians, Chinese and French craved more corrupt oil deals. Iraq is a moderate success story so far, all circumstances considered. No predictions of its collapse came to be true, and compared to the surrounding countries, it does look like a fairly free country, again, taking into account the local specifics.
My only problem with the Iraq war is that it might have distracted the United States from doing the job properly in Afghanistan. The jury is still out on this one. It is remains within the powers of the Obama Administration and the next one, whether it’ll be Obama-2, or a Republican one, to correct the situation and reverse the hasty troop withdrawal. Islamists all over the world see this retreat as a sign of defeat and fatal weakness. It is sad that Barack Obama does not understand this and does not care to learn.
But the second question “What is to be done?” will heavily depend on the outcome of what goes on now in the Arab world. The “Arab Spring” is to a significant extent a consequence of Bush-era policies, and in this respect very much a consequence of 9/11. Few in the Middle East and elsewhere would dare to admit it. Do you remember Daniel Pipes’ suggestion that “militant Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution?” Well, revolutions in the region give us a chance to find out whether there is such a thing as a moderate Islam. Events of the last year for the first time give the political Islam a chance to be integrated into the political framework of responsibility, accountability and freedom of choice, something the demonstrators on the streets of Cairo, Tunis and Damascus demanded and continue to call for. If Muslims in the Middle East follow this path, then the sacrifices of the last ten years were not in vain. If, as one of Israel’s former intelligence chiefs Daniel Rotschild remarked, “the Arab Spring will turn out to be the Islamists’ triumph,” then … well, then the struggle that came into the focus of our lives on that bright September day ten years ago will have to go on.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
What is Russia's place in this world? Unashamed and unreconstructed Atlanticist, Konstantin von Eggert believes his country to be part and parcel of the "global West." And while this is a minority view in Russia, the author is prepared to fight from his corner.
Konstantin Eggert is a commentator and host for radio Kommersant FM, Russia's first 24-hour news station. In the 1990s he was Diplomatic Correspondent for “Izvestia” and later the BBC Russian Service Moscow Bureau Editor. Konstantin has also spent some time working as ExxonMobil Vice-President in Russia. He was made Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.