Cairo: An Age Of Radicalism


Al-Ahram Weekly, Egypt
Nov 1-7, 2006

The failure of nationalist governments in the Third World and US
drive for global hegemony have led to religious radicalism and new
liberation struggles, writes Ayman El-Amir*

The recent UN Security Council resolution imposing punitive sanctions
against North Korea for testing a nuclear device has only encouraged
Iran to double its nuclear enrichment capacity and pointed more to
divisiveness than to unanimity among the world’s leading military
powers. Ignoring the status imposed upon them by US President George
W Bush as founding-members of the Axis of Evil, North Korea and Iran
seem to be leading a rising global rebellion against US dominance. As
a result, other smaller states are giving some serious reconsideration
to their policies of nuclear abstinence in an increasingly insecure
world. The tools of sanctions and raw military power are producing
more defiance than compliance in regions where super-power lop-sided
practices have created serious imbalances.

The principles of the peaceful settlement of disputes, of international
law and of collective security that the UN Charter envisioned when
adopted in 1945 are in quick retreat. Thanks to the 2003 US-led
invasion of Iraq, the retaliatory bombing of Afghanistan before it
and Washington’s unbridled support of Israel’s murderous campaign
against the Palestinians, the Bush administration has radicalised,
not subdued, nations opposed to its policies. National liberation
movements seeking to attain their legitimate aspirations, as
endorsed by the United Nations, are more hostile than ever towards
US heavy-handed tactics. Bush administration practices have created
more enemies-in-waiting than friends- at-large.

Three factors have contributed to the rise of radicalism:
America’s rabid desire for unipolar hegemony, enhanced by the
Bush administration’s air of self-righteousness; the increasing
fragmentation of state entities, particularly in the republics of the
former Soviet Union; and the rise of terrorism as a consequence of
military invasion and the suppression of democratic choices. The US
was both the precursor and the victim of radicalism in the aftermath
of the regrettable terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. This
incident, coupled with its uncouth sense of imperial power, made
it conceivable for the US to settle every dispute around the world
through the excessive use of firepower. The policy was enshrined in
President Bush’s 2002 national security strategy that promised not
only pre- emptive military strikes against perceived enemies abroad,
but even went as far as announcing that, after the collapse of the
former Soviet Union, the US would not allow any state to be equal,
let alone surpass it, in terms of military superiority. An almighty
imperial power was brought into being to the delight of born-again
Evangelical radicals.

After Afghanistan, which the US has now offloaded to NATO, Iraq became
the first testing ground for the new imperial policy of Mr Bush and
his neo-cons. Three and half years into the invasion, Iraq has become
a land of untold suffering. Figures speak for themselves.

A Johns Hopkins University study estimates that 655,000 Iraqis have
been killed since the invasion, representing 2.5 per cent of the
total population of Iraq. Although controversial, the figure is
not so far-fetched if the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior’s figure
of 2,660 Iraqis killed during the month of September alone is to be
trusted. Nearly 3,000 US troops have been killed since the beginning
of the invasion and eight-fold more injured. Iraq has become the US’s
second Vietnam and there is no solution in sight unless the neo-cons
in the White House declare victory and scamper off to safety. This may
be seriously considered after the Republicans read the consequences
of the Bush administration’s policies in the results of congressional
elections due in November. The US legacy in Iraq will be a hotbed of
fratricidal war, an in-gathering of contagious insurgency and terrorism
and a model of deconstructive chaos, to rephrase Condoleezza Rice’s
Kissinger-style myopic vision of the region. Iraq should be entitled
to substantial war reparations from the US.

Iran and North Korea’s programmes of building their own nuclear
capabilities, even for seemingly different purposes, have shown other
nations how selective and unworkable the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) is. It is a safety net full of holes. Iraq was invaded,
occupied and destroyed with no trace of weapons of mass destruction
found to justify this grave breach of international law. By contrast,
Israel, which has an estimated stockpile of more than 200 nuclear
weapons, is untouchable because it has not signed the NPT. India
and Pakistan are proud possessors of nuclear weapons and of means to
deliver them to heaven knows whom. It is by faulted logic that if a
country is not a signatory to the NPT, it is free to intimidate and
dominate its neighbours by the implicit threat of the possession of
nuclear weapons. Israel’s failed state neighbours made the mistake of
signing the NPT in the first place. Impotent as these countries are
to stop Israel’s liquidation of the Palestinian people and annexation
of their territory, the Palestinians are left with little more than
the radical policy of armed resistance to defend themselves and
liberate their homeland. The conquest of Iraq in 2003 and the bombing
campaign against the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999
were undertaken without the authorisation of the UN Security Council,
which alone is responsible for the maintenance of international peace
and security.

The phenomenon of international lawlessness triggered by the
world’s superpower was partly made possible by the collapse of
the former Soviet Union and the manipulating influence of the
neo-cons in Washington. As a result, global fragmentation and
civil wars became rampant. Several republics of the former Soviet
Union are experiencing internal tensions, separatist movements
and the threat of disintegration. Azerbaijan is threatening to use
force to recapture the region of Nagorno- Karabach from Armenia,
Abkhazia and south Ossetia regions have declared independence from
Georgia, Moldova’s separatist Transdinestra movement is appealing
to other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to
recognise its independent status and Russia is hopelessly fighting
its backyard war in Chechnya. The separatist Tamil Tigers continue to
battle the government of Sri Lanka, with rising casualties on both
sides. In Iraq, the Kurds are gradually pushing their separatist
claims towards statehood and, assisted by Israel, have mobilised the
necessary military means to defend it. With every ethnic claim comes
a nationalist-cum-terrorist liberation movement, so much so that the
borderlines have been blurred. No one can safely predict where this
"constructive chaos" will lead.

In the Cold War years, the world’s two super-powers, the US and
the former Soviet Union, moved from confrontation to containment to
peaceful co-existence. National Liberation movements had a recognisable
legitimacy even when they crossed the line into terrorist territory by
hijacking civilian aircraft to extract political concessions. The US,
too, had its CIA-led death squads that hunted down revolutionaries
in South America. It was a nationalist political struggle where the
battle- lines were defined and external backers of local forces adhered
to certain rules, checks and balances. For a brief period in the early
1990s the world felt like a safe place to live in. Today, the failure
of nationalism as a liberating factor and the unholy alliance between
the world’s sole superpower and Third World dictatorships have turned
the international scene into a free-for-all. Adherents of orthodox
Islam have found in it inspiration for renewal and a panacea for all
the ills visited upon them by pseudo-dictatorial nationalism, socialist
dogma and the negative effects of globalisation. Therefore, national
liberation struggles have been tinged with a radical religious hue.

For hundreds of millions, religious radicalism has become the only
liberating factor and refuge that has paled liberal democracy. That
may explain the rising global tendency toward radical confrontation,
the consequences of which are yet to unravel.

* The writer is former Al-Ahram corespondent in Washington DC. He also
served as director of United Nations Radio and Television in New York.

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