eptember dislike apparently has little to do with
eptember 11 September 11 Terrorism EssaysDont Blame the USA for September 11 We were all shocked by the events of September 11, 2001. The brutal display of callous and murderous power made us all feel vulnerable. But we were also confused by the terror of September 11.
Some people suggested that the attack was in some sense the fault of the United States, that we – or our government, or our military, or our financial system – brought it on ourselves. They argued that we incurred a liability, which was repaid in the rubble of destruction and death. America, it was supposed, was to blame. This is simply not the case. To accept this suggestion is to give in to some extent to the mindset that the terrorists wished to inculcate in us. Why? What were the aims of the terrorists? It is hard to learn very much from the cryptic writings they left behind, but we do know much about the network and the aims of Mr.
bin Laden. He indeed violently dislikes the United States, but that dislike apparently has little to do with U.S. policy towards the Palestinians or to Israel – as is very often suggested in facile commentaries. His resentment has to do most with his dislike of U.S.
presence and influence in Saudi Arabia, and of the policies of the government of Saudi Arabia. If there is then any rational basis for an act of profound irrationalism, it is that it was intended to destabilize a number of governments in other countries. The action, if this interpretation is correct, simply demonstrates the way in which modern global connectedness can transmit conflicts over very large distances, and modern technology and communications can be used to inflict terror. But there is another, more profound, motivation behind the terrorists: one that is not new to the twenty-first century but is familiar from the quite distant past. We find one of its most powerful depictions in Fyodor Dostoyevksy’s The Possessed, which was loosely based on the case of the terrorist nihilist Nechaev.
In The Possessed, a small group of young people, driven by an intense and evil fanaticism, convince themselves that they have a unique power, because their small group of five is linked to countless many other groups of five conspirators, all over the country and even all over Europe, who will one day arise and assert their power. The fascination of these men is with the exercise of a secret power. That is the charm that holds their personalities in a sort of demonic possession. It should be noted that the modern version of such fanaticism has little to do with Islam. The Qur’an explicitly condemns the killing or murder of innocent (that is unarmed) people. How should we respond to such claims to power, and to the terrible practice of such claims? The only effective solution lies in demonstrating the powerlessness of such groups, of showing that they are not part (as they might imagine themselves to be) of a global conspiracy of the oppressed. That will require military action of some kind: probably a war of a very new type, conducted in secret, probably over a considerable period of time, and unlike the wars of the later twentieth century not accompanied by a big public relations machinery.
We will find such conflict uncomfortable, difficult to understand, and it may well be costly in terms of the life of brave soldiers. An ideal solution would be if the surviving perpetrators of such evil were tried – so that as at Nuremberg with the Nazis or as in the Hague with Mr. Milosevic, the nature of the evil is precisely and fully revealed to the international public. Such a solution can only come about through a new kind of international solidarity.
One of the myths that ended on September 11 was the idea of American isolation and isolationism. Since September 11, we have seen unprecedented cooperation, not only with European states, but also with states with which our relations were by no means harmonious in the quite recent past. This new international solidarity is a necessary complement to the admirable solidarity we have evolved at home.