September 2, 2008

English summary

This month the world marks the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in America. So does Diplomaatia – this issue of the magazine looks into the roots and the scope of Islamic terrorism.

This month the world marks the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in America. So does Diplomaatia – this issue of the magazine looks into the roots and the scope of Islamic terrorism.

English summary

This month the world marks the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks in America. So does Diplomaatia – this issue of the magazine looks into the roots and the scope of Islamic terrorism.
The member of European Parliament Toomas Hendrik Ilves explores the impact of terrorism on the Western world. He concludes that what we must fear the most is not physical danger of attacks, but the ways how fear and helplessness reshape our mental world and rules of life, our everyday habitus. “I worry that long before the centuries old Western cathedrals turn into relics of local culture similar to the now-destroyed Buddha statues in central Afghanistan, Europe will become intolerant, will start restricting people’s free movement and immigration. In the UK, France, Italy, Holland and Denmark the liberal laws are already being changed and citizens’ rights scrapped.” A new kind of Europe is emerging and that new habitus is not what we wanted, concludes Ilves. Jüri Luik, the Estonian Ambassador to the United States, gives an extensive overview of the roots, history and aims of Islamic terrorism. He concludes that although the fight against terrorism is long and time consuming, some success has been achieved: according to the US government, two thirds of the known Al Qaeda agents have been annihilated; transfers of money and the movements of people are much more controllable now than five years ago. However, as a response to that success, Al Qaeda has started using European Moslems whose movements inside the EU do not attract attention.
“Paradoxically, the better we succeed in keeping terrorists outside the borders and eliminating them there, the more we must devote our attention to those who are citizens of EU member states,” states Luik. “In most cases, they are neither poor nor excluded from the society, but something has still radicalised them. Radicalisation owes its emergence to the belief that their faith is under attack.”
“The fight for the moderation of European Moslems is emerging as a key question in the fight against terrorism,” concludes Luik. “European Moslems are potential witnesses to the positive sides of the Western way of life – provided that they are sufficiently integrated and feel the positive aspects of the West.”
Sven Mikser, an MP and a member of the Estonian Parliament’s defence committee analyses why and how Afghanistan became an incubator of international terrorism. “Afghanistan has a disproportionately large role in the history of international terrorism, considering the poverty and remoteness of the country,” he states. “Its roots lay in Afghanistan becoming a buffer zone in the Great Game between the Russian and British empires; the continuation was given by the country’s similar role in the Cold War. In both cases the big players used the buffer zone in their own interests, without attributing Afghanistan any interests and needs of its own. So it went unnoticed by the players that in the shadow of the great confrontation a new player was born and grew in strength and skills – a player, whom the great powers considered to be merely a tool. After the end of the Cold War the winners took it for granted that that the tools would understand that they had become obsolete. That was a naive belief and proved a great mistake.”
Atis Lejins, the director of the Latvian Foreign Policy Institute reflects on the time he spent with the anti-Soviet Afghanistani resistance fighters in the mid-1980s. He revisited the country in 2006 and met with his former commander, who had suffered under Taliban rule, but survived. According to Lejins, the score of Afghanistan’s relations with the West is now 2:2 – the West was been instrumental in the fight against the Soviets and in removing the Taliban, but the West’s mistakes have been leaving the country on its own after the collapse of the Soviet Union and starting the war in Iraq in 2003. the war in Iraq diffused the resources that would have been needed for state building in Afghanistan. Lejins is convinced that Afghanistan still has a chance to make it, but: “No more blunders, please,” he pleads. “Afghanistan is still on our side!”
But Toomas Sildam, an Estonian journalist who witnessed the departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989 and has revisited the country after the fall of the Taliban, thinks that Afghanistan is actually still deciding on which side to take: “the side of those who would end the violence, but not trample on the local traditions.”
Professor Paul Goble writes about Islam in the Moslem states of the former Soviet Union and Islamist terrorism rising from there. He writes that “the collapse of the Soviet Union has played a major role in the rise of Islamist terrorism in three significant ways: first of all, it led to a revolution in the thinking of many Muslims about the nature of Western societies- and one should never forget that for most Muslims, the USSR was part of the Western project rather than something at odds to it – and that led directly from 1991 to September 11, 2001. Moreover, the end of the Soviet system meant that a rapidly growing group consisting of millions of Muslims who knew little about their faith because of communist antireligious efforts were suddenly available for mobilization by radical Muslim groups from abroad.
And finally, the Soviet Union’s demise spawned a number of regimes in Central Asia whose radically secular authoritarianism and willingness to oppress any religious groups not loyal to themselves recreated precisely the kinds of conditions that have radicalised Muslims elsewhere.”
Ivan Sukhov, an observer with the Russian daily Vremya Novostei, pays a closer look at Islamist groups in the Russian North Caucasus trying to find out to which extent international terrorism has managed to establish connections there. He acknowledges that many factors have contributed to the rise of extremism in the North Caucasus: such as the exodus of Russians from the ethnic republics, inept leadership provided by the local former communists and the resulting poverty, and also rigid suppression combined with the influx of graduates of Middle Eastern universities. “It soon may happen that the “ghost of international terrorism ” in the Caucasus that so far has been painted by the not too clever Russian government’s propagandists, will no longer be a ghost, but turn into reality.”
In addition, the historian Mart Nutt recalls the Suez crises, which according to him changed the world as much as the attacks of 9/11. George Schopflin analyses the recent Israeli war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and decides that effectively, Israel was waging a war against modernity in the Arab world. And Sven Mikser reviews William Harris’s book The New Face of Lebanon: History’s Revenge.

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