This is all too reminiscent of the babble from late 2003 about the Iraqi insurgency, best captured by another voice from the Times, that bright-eyed rube Thomas L. Friedman. It now seems quaintly naive, but at the time, Friedman was one of those saying Iraq was “no Vietnam”:
The people who mounted the attacks on the Red Cross are not the Iraqi Vietcong. They are the Iraqi Khmer Rouge — a murderous band of Saddam loyalists and Al Qaeda nihilists, who are not killing us so Iraqis can rule themselves. They are killing us so they can rule Iraqis.
I was considered beyond the pale for asking “so what,” but the relevance of Friedman’s distinction must now seem elusive to even the most ardent Iraq hawk. This understanding of the insurgent psyche, even if true, hasn’t helped us in Iraq or, we see, in Britain. And if Britain can get hit again, so can the United States, and so much for the flypaper theory.
Roy, described as “a professor at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences” and “the author of ‘Globalized Islam,’” calls the terrorist cells in London and elsewhere “a lost generation, unmoored from traditional societies and cultures.” He notes, less than brilliantly, that their attacks began long before allied efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, that they continue to operate in Madrid even after Spain’s withdrawal from the war, that they don’t engage in traditional support functions such as raising money for hospitals and schools and, most oddly, asks:
If the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are at the core of the radicalization, why are there virtually no Afghans, Iraqis or Palestinians among the terrorists? Rather, the bombers are mostly from the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Egypt and Pakistan — or they are Western-born converts to Islam. Why would a Pakistani or a Spaniard be more angry than an Afghan about American troops in Afghanistan?
He seems to be overthinking the problem, in a way that’s just as unhelpful as was the thinking two years ago. Afghans, Iraqis and Palestinians may be very upset about what’s happening in Afghanistan, Iraq or the land that could or should be Palestine; but that’s why they’re there, rather than in London. This trio of trouble spots may draw aid from disaffected foreigners, but there’s no shortage of locals playing a role in maintaining the trouble. It would be a little odd for, say, an angry Iraqi to leave Iraq’s insurgency to go to London to blow up a subway. Even Roy couldn’t justify that.
His other doubts about the legitimacy of Islamist aims or inspiration are less easily answered without falling back to my response from 2003: So what?
That the terrorist’s “vision of a [worldwide community of Muslims] is both a mirror of and a form of revenge against the globalization that has made them what they are,” as Roy says, is counterproductive because he’s clearly using it as an excuse not to reconsider allied policies in any of the three Islamist war zones. It’s all very well to refuse to give into a tantrum, which is essentially what the current spate of terrorism is, but unhelpful to ignore the fact that Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian problem are all very effective recruiting tools — more effective than any we have.
In the end, Roy’s blather comes down to a call to stay the course in Iraq, just as Friedman’s blather did two years ago, and neither changes the fact that the Iraq war was wrong from the start and that we’ve, incredibly, given these thuggish, brutal, scummy insurgents some semblance of the moral high ground.
High-minded, impractical prattle about “globalization” isn’t going to change that. Eliminating madmen’s recruiting tools and training grounds, on the other hand, is a good start.