August 29, 2004

Excerpt from 9/11 Commission Report

In a nutshell, the terrorist problem we face: An excerpt from the 9/11 Commission report. Emphasis mine.
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"National security used to be considered by studying foreign frontiers, weighing opposing groups of states,and measuring industrial might. To be dangerous, an enemy had to muster large armies. Threats emerged slowly, often visibly, as weapons were forged, armies conscripted, and units trained and moved into place. Because large states were more powerful, they also had more to lose. They could be deterred. Now threats can emerge quickly.

An organization like al Qaeda, headquartered in a country on the other side of the earth, in a region so poor that electricity or telephones were scarce, could nonetheless scheme to wield weapons of unprecedented destructive power in the largest cities of the United States. In this sense, 9/11 has taught us that terrorism against American interests “over there” should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America “over here.” In this same sense, the American homeland is the planet. But the enemy is not just “terrorism,” some generic evil.(footnote 2) This vagueness blurs the strategy.The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific.

It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism—especially the al Qaeda net-work, its affiliates, and its ideology.(footnote 3) As we mentioned in chapter 2, Usama Bin Ladin and other Islamist terrorist leaders draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within one stream of Islam (a minority tradition), from at least Ibn Taimiyyah, through the founders of Wahhabism, through the Muslim Brotherhood, to Sayyid Qutb. That stream is motivated by religion and does not distinguish politics from religion, thus distorting both. It is further fed by grievances stressed by Bin Ladin and widely felt throughout the Muslim world—against the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, policies perceived as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, and support of Israel. Bin Ladin and Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say: to them America is the font of all evil, the “head of the snake,” and it must be converted or destroyed. It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate.With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.
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