Ideological war pits U.S. against more than Al Qaeda
By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM –It is customary to invest little in a serious reading of politicians’ speeches at long standing national holidays, like the 4th of July or Thanksgiving in the United States, Independence Day or Rosh Hashana in Israel.
What about presidential statements at occasions where the feelings of those who have suffered are still fresh?
September 11, 2010 was such a time.
*There was still a gaping hole in place of the World Trade Center
*alongside the ongoing construction was a platform where surviving family members recited the names of those killed
*close by were demonstrators with respect to Cordoba House
*supporters claimed it as an expression of religious freedom and accommodation
*opponents said it would mark one more stage in an Islamic plan of conquest
*back and forth pronouncements of a Florida pastor who leaped from nothing to a world figure on the basis of saying that he would or would not burn the Koran
*his daughter has said, “Papa, don’t do it,” and “I think he’s gone mad.”
*whether that particular pastor burns it or not, he has produced anti-American demonstrations by hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Pakistan
*and whether the Florida pastor burns it or not, a Tennessee pastor has burned it, but not with the same attention by the media
*anonymous others tore pages from the Koran in public demonstrations, without even having gotten their names in a newspaper.
How should we take President Obama’s remarks that the United States is not at war with Islam, but only with al Qaeda?
With at least a pinch of salt.
He has to say something like that. Not all Muslims have taken upon themselves the task of replacing Western Civilization with their own faith and values. President Obama wants to limit those recruited to the cause.
However, it is more than al Qaeda. Just how much more diverse, and how likely to expand is beyond me. Most likely the details are also beyond the President of the United States, his agencies and advisors.
Remember how the French welcomed Allied soldiers liberating them from the Nazis? If you are not old enough to have seen it as a newsreel along with a double feature at a local movie theater way before the multiplexes, you have probably seen films on television of the parades, flowers, and kisses.
That is not happening in Afghanistan. Westerners have applauded the liberation of Afghan women, but the ladies said to be liberated are not burning their burqas.
The latest news:
Even as more American troops flow into the country, Afghanistan is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war . . .
Large parts of the country that were once completely safe, like most of the northern provinces, now have a substantial Taliban presence — even in areas where there are few Pashtuns, who previously were the Taliban’s only supporters.
As NATO forces poured in and shifted to the south to battle the Taliban in their stronghold, the Taliban responded with a surge of their own, greatly increasing their activities in the north and parts of the east.
It is possible to defeat the armies of an organized state and celebrate a conquest with a formal ceremony. Defeating terror is like more like combating road accidents. One or another tactic might limit the carnage, but victory is something else.
Religion is stronger than political ideology. God is greater than history or nation. Who knows how many individuals are willing to sacrifice their lives for a place in paradise? Attacking the fighters of today helps their preachers recruit others. And there are countries helping with money and the stuff that does the damage.
This wave of violence might not last forever, but the Islamic genie is out of the bottle, and it is bigger than al Qaeda.
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University