While global warming may ultimately prove to be the biggest crisis the world’s people have ever faced, it’s not as immediate a threat as that posed by global terrorism. After Sept. 11 and the Madrid and London bombings, anyone who takes a plane, rides a bus, train or subway, or visits an open air market, has to have some concern in the back of their minds for their safety.
The recently released report from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) – a leading security think tank – will do little to alleviate those fears. The study and comments (available on its web site at: http://www.iiss.org.) offers a comprehensive review of “international political and military trends.”
The press bulletin begins with the observation that the “US suffered a loss of international authority as a result of the failure to impose order in Iraq. Leaders and groups around the world sought to take advantage or to protect themselves from the consequences of this loss of prestige.”
One of the predictable results has been a regrouping and an expansion of what the IISS labels “Islamist Terrorism.” The survey notes that there is “increasing evidence” that “al-Qaeda is proving adaptable and resilient, and has retained the ability to plan and coordinate large-scale attacks in the Western world.”
There now exist “regional jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia and al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.” Such groups, the report notes, “have sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda and have begun to show ambitions beyond parochial concerns in support of al-Qaeda’s global objectives. Plots that have come to light in Europe and elsewhere point to a growing trend of Islamic radicalization.”
The IISS points out that the followers of such movements are convinced that the Muslim world has suffered and continues to suffer from aggressive behavior from the West. “Overall, what is referred to as the ‘single narrative’, that sees Muslims as victims of non-Muslim aggression, needs to be addressed, both in the Islamic world and elsewhere,” said the report.
It points out that “Western governments tend to meet the Muslim ‘single narrative’ by way of rebuttal, arguing against its basis in fact.” That has had only “limited effects,” and the IISS warns that “defending the largely liberal and secular nature of the ‘public space’ in Europe will require a more assertive application of the ‘political science’ of that liberal-secular tradition.”
To meet the threats countries should explore “more fluid ways to achieve the effective integration of Muslim minorities into European societies and obtain the national cohesion necessary to meet the wide range of security challenges the modern world poses.”
The report also examines the main sources of those threats – the Israel/Palestine conflict, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The IISS doesn’t see much hope that the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians will be settled any time soon. Hamas’ takeover in Gaza, coupled with the U.S. election calendar, has dealt whatever fragile hopes for peace there were a further blow.
Iraq is seen as being in a quasi civil war between hostile tribal and religious forces, who’ve shown no inclination to settle their differences. Although the IISS did note that in some cases the “surge” had increased security in some areas, it also indicated that the Iraqi government basically doesn’t have enough power to effectively run the country. There’s a bit more hope in Afghanistan, but not much.
In its conclusion the IISS said: “Indeed, the world in 2008 will be doubly consumed by the politics of parochialism – sectarian rivalries and religious disputes – and by the maneuvers of balance of power politics – alliance politics and arms races. Intriguingly, these two trends will run side by side and will not always inter-relate with each other. In Europe, the US and Asia big powers will talk to each other about role, status, alliance, deterrence, containment, balance of power.
“In the meantime, groups around the world will fight those states and alliances. As Strategic Survey has argued this year, the shifts in the global balance of power and the continued growth of anti-state terrorism carry uncertain results.”
Uncertainty is, by its very definition, the one variable that can’t be quantified or qualified, and thus solutions are very hard to find.
Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies
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