Blogs > HNN > Yes to a Truce, but Not with bin Laden

Jan 22, 2006 4:57 pm

Yes to a Truce, but Not with bin Laden

Mr. LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture, and Islamic studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the forthcoming books: Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil; and Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880-1948. He is also a contributor, with Viggo Mortensen and Pilar Perez, to Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation. Click here to access his homepage.

The newly released tape of Osama bin Ladan marks the second time in two years that that al-Qa'eda leader has offered a "truce" to the West in the war on terror in return for unspecified changes in policy towards the Muslim world, particularly vis-à-vis Iraq, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.

Quite naturally, bin Laden's offer was rejected by European leaders in 2004 just as it's been rejected by the Bush Administration today. But while our leaders are right to reject the messenger, Americans would be wrong to dismiss the idea of a truce with the Muslim world, or even with radical Islam.

A truce does not equal capitulation to terrorists or letting Muslims off the hook for crimes committed in the name of their religion. Certainly, European leaders were right to reject the last truce offer made by bin Laden, in April, 2004. Criminals can’t offer truces, and bin Laden and other terrorists are international criminals whom the world community has an obligation to bring to justice.

But states as well as communities and even cultures can make truces. And in so doing they can make demands of the “other” side that are crucial to resolving the conflicts necessitating a truce in the first place.

Indeed, there is ample precedent for this kind of truce in Islam. The Prophet Mohammed agreed to the first Muslim truce in 628. Known as the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, it was between the nascent Muslim community and the Meccan pagans, and lasted for two years before being broken by the Meccans.

More recently, during the past three decades an increasingly permanent Muslim presence in Europe has led Muslims to consider that region not dar al-harb (the Abode of War, the traditional Muslim categorization of all non-Muslim lands), but dar al-hudnaa land of truce between Muslims and non-Muslims, or even dar al-Islam, a land of peace where Muslims can feel at home. Despite the growing sense of alienation among many young Muslims, religiously inspired Muslim violence is still the rare exception in Europe.

What would a truce offer consist of? On the American side, it must begin with an admission of how much our policies have violated the very principles on which our country was founded. As an elderly Iraqi lawyer asked me--after first quoting Franklin and Jefferson--in the middle of an especially bloody Baghdad afternoon, "If these are your ideals, what are you doing in Iraq?" For Muslims, most of whom know the history of US foreign policy far better than most Americans, the psychological impact of hearing us own up to the significant pain our policies have caused to their societies is hard to overstate. It would certainly do more to win hearts and minds than either the US military’s much-vaunted “full spectrum dominance” or a spectrum’s worth of American-sponsored radio and TV stations.

Second, the US and NATO should halt all offensive military actions in the Muslim world and outline a plan for the removal of troops from Muslim countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq. We may be trying to kill al-Qa'eda second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri, but it's hard to argue with his claim that "there will never be peace" as long as the US occupies Muslim countries and supports corrupt and authoritarian regimes.

Third, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and related terror networks must be transformed from a war of vengeance into what it always should have been: a vigorous international effort led by the US, the UN and, where relevant, European and other governments to apprehend, prosecute and punish people and groups involved in the September 11, 2001, assaults and similar attacks.

Fourth, military and diplomatic agreements and aid to all Middle Eastern countries that are not democratic or don’t respect the rights of the peoples under their control should be suspended. Yes, this means Israel; but also Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other so-called "moderate" American allies. Such a step is crucial to stopping the regional arms race and cycle of violence that make peace and democratic reform impossible.

Finally, a truce should outline how the hundreds of billions of dollars that would have been devoted to the “war on terror” would be redirected toward the kind of infrastructural, educational and social projects the 9/11 Commission Report argues are key to winning the “war on terror.” This will give people hope that a positive future, rather than just more empty rhetoric, is possible.

On the Muslim side, a truce offer should consist first of owning up to the incredible damage that terrorism has done to its victims, and a commitment to use non-violence to pursue opposition to the policies of their own governments, or of the United States, Israel or other non-Muslim states. Second, it should involve a recognition that the continual Israel-, Jew- and US-bashing that defines much of (but, it must be stressed, by no means all) political discourse in the Muslim world, is as ugly and immoral as it is inaccurate and unhelpful. On both sides, a commitment to making the Middle East a nuclear free region must be a cornerstone for any commitment to stop the violence.

Of course, the Bush Administration and its "war time president" cannot declare a truce with the Muslim world. His Manichean world, divided between good and evil, precludes the idea of admitting mistakes, compromising with adversaries, or accepting, as the Pentagon warned the Mr. Bush, that "they hate us for our policies, not our freedoms." In fact, there is just too much money, oil and strategic power invested in the status quo for any administration, democratic or republican, substantively to change the basis of US policy towards the region.

That means it's up to the millions of ordinary citizens of the US and Muslim world, who are after all the main victims of the war on terror, to take the truly radical step of calling a truce and demanding our leaders stop the violence and engage in serious discussion about how to heal our increasingly fragile planet. The alternative is a long and ultimately catastrophic conflict between the West and Islam.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You guys are like two blind men in a garden praising the bountiful colors of the flowers.

What horse manure "victory" or "winning" do you think you are talking about ?

Killing Osama. That we means we "won" ?
Killing all Moslems ?
Invading every country in the Mideast ?

Come off it.

The only winning involved here was the duping of the more ignorant 52% of the voting electorate in November 2004. Over and done with. Next act is cut an run, so you had better start retooling your stock propaganda soundbites.

But kindly cease the juvenile sports metaphors.

Al Qaeda is not the name of a team playing in the Super Bowl

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Is it "the inkling that you might have to eventually acknowledge that we were right..." ?

No, you are both hopelessly out to lunch.

Thomas is in third grade with his assumption that to disagree with him means to agree with Al Qaeda. And you are at a higher educational level, but clearly fail to realize (like the people admiring the proverbial naked emperor's new clothes) that Rumsfeld's Iraq mess is not a real war, in any normal English language sense of the term, and thus cannot be compared to prior real wars. Of course we beat Germany in WWII and lost to Hanoi in Vietnam; those were REAL wars. No comparison to Wolfies bogus cakewalk war in Iraq, except that Americans in uniform died in all three cases: as they also do in the inner cities of the USA every day. Is America therefore in a 40 year "war on South Central LA" ?

The Iraq fiasco was so started that Bush could run as a "war president". He did that, and succeeded, thanks to dupes like you folks, and now he is letting Americans die there with no plan except to try to find a way to cut and run and cover his historical behind all at the same time. Unless he plans to move permanently to Baghdad where he belongs. Or stonewall until he can hand off the America (like the sports term ?), whose national security and economy his incompetence has shredded, to his successor.

The Frat Boy hoped for a cakewalk, hoped for UN support, hoped for other countries to come in, hoped for Iraq troops to be trained (ala Vietnamized) and has had all these hopes dashed. But he could not care less, because he finally got elected legitimately in Nov. 2004.

Wake up.

I have had enough of your sleepwalking.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I am not sure that most Moslims know more about American foreign policy than most Americans. According to UN figures, most of Iraq was illiterate in 1990, before the Saddam-Bush wars. Nor I am sure that withdrawing troops without first removing and properly prosecuting the chickenhawk serial blunderers who threw them in without a plan is a particulary astute military strategy.

Those details aside, a "truce" might make sense, if (a) it were not suggested by Osama first (i.e. it would have to be labelled something else) and (a bigger if) there were a clear counterparty other than Osama with whom to conclude the truce. There are some nice ideas within the article, but they don't seem to add up to a feasible plan.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I did say "KNOW", not "believe", i.e. as in being aware of the facts of, in my prior remarks about Moslems and American foreign policy. I am not going to repeat myself again. Literacy and reading difficulties are not my favorite topic. It is perfectly obvious to me that people can have a solid grasp of recent history without being able to read or write, and that people who are literate can nonetheless be firm believers in grotesque historical myths. No sense concoting phony arguments when real issues are at stake.

Although I consider myself fairly well-read, I must admit I had to resort to Google to find out what the "Earth Charter" is. There is certainly nothing objectionable about the lofty values expressed in it (peace, equality, tolerance, environmental sustainability, etc.), especially since the authors were straightforward enough to expressly admit that some of their goals and values contradict each other. But it is, to say the least, hardly a blueprint for action. The whole world could sign it, and that would still not tell us how to keep electricity running in Baghdad, or cars flowing down the Golden State Freeway once the oil price hits $10 a gallon. This Earth Charter was conceived in the 1980s, discussed in the 1990s, and finally drafted in 2000. It's tangible accomplisments to-date are nil, notwithstanding some undoubtedly praiseworthy dialogue and find international partying. At such a rate of progess, American troops might starting coming from Iraq sometime in the 22nd century. And Moslem countries would almost assuredly adopt true safeguards for human rights before 3006.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

ITS tangible accomplisments to-date are nil, notwithstanding some undoubtedly praiseworthy dialogue and FINE international partying. At such a rate of progess, American troops might START COMING HOME from Iraq sometime in the 22nd century.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

First, Osama is not dead... if so prove it, Mr. Kislock... I'll be waiting...

Until, irrefutable proof is at hand that Osama is dead, we must operate as if he is alive and well and living large on South Beach.

Second, the Heisler's and Thomas' of the world would get us all killed with their manipulative innuendo and fear mongering. Primary sources such as retired CIA Mideast expert Michael Scheuer describe Osama as a "pious, charismatic, gentle, generous, talented and personally courageous Muslim who demonstrates sound judgment, able leadership, a reluctant but indispensable bloodymindedness and extraordinary patience." This has been bore out as Osama's idle threats have birthed deadly consequences. Unpleasant as it may be to contemplate, the truth is empowering. False reassurances are not.

His batting average is .900 in the effectiveness category. If not so, empty headed tin cans like Heisler and Thomas wouldn't be able to write their 'running scared' scribble and blaming everything on the 'they hate Bush' crowd. Only solidarity. clear-sighted strength, resistance to panic/manipulation will be our path to overcoming this very real enemy we face.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr. Kislock,

There is little from my side to debate with you. I understand, agree and am as disturbed with your points as are many others yet, I am not an alarmist as you appear to be.

That is to say that the dealer... GWB has dealt the cards... it's a really shitty hand but, you have to play 'em or fold 'em... if we play them we have to use cunning, savvy, street smarts and steely determination mixed with compassion, empathy, understanding and patience.

You seem to be in panic mode, that I can clearly relate to but, it's no way to go about beating the house. Slow down, think, rationalize, think again and then kick 'em in the nuts.

The link you posted was a news site and IDIAP did not pull up Osama's obit...

PS... Louis Armstrong was addicted to Swiss Kriss.

Take care...

Stephen Kislock - 2/5/2006

Mr. Ebbit,
It was not Osama bin Laden obit, but the US goverments, attempt to have the sheep buy more plastic.

The last word of the second paragraph "patience".

To have patience, I am not suffering! Please tell me how, you would react to two (2) to four (4) hours of Electricity a day every day?
Untreated drinking water? A four fold increase in the price of gasoline? Have you or your wife wait for the Dole from the Occupping Forces of your Country, but bought from the your [Iraqi] Oil?

Osama will live forever in these circumstances.

Dead, yes! But like a TV charcter, every week, he can come back, when Needed.

The Cause LIVES.....

Stephen Kislock - 1/30/2006

Mr. Ebbitt,
Please see "Google Search", " and IDIAP".

Mr. Ebbitt, why do We/the West have this/these Problem, with the countries of the Mid-East?

G.W. Bush has Killed over a 100,000 Iraqi Civilians, bin Laden Killed 3,000+ Americans, who is Ahead in in the Body Count? Take a 100,000 families and What do you have as an Emeny?

No country can or will take head on the US military. The US has a Lifetime of Guerrilla Warfare ahead...

And Why???????

Stephen Kislock - 1/29/2006

Clausewitz "The price of victory is Blood"!

Oil and it's replacement. MPG is it measured by one vehicle? One driver and no passengers? MPG one vehicle, a driver and two (2) passengers, does this change MPG?

IMPERIALISM, Europe and the United States in the MidEast. The bombing of Arab Countries and Partition of ancient lands to new "Sub Divisions", make for a New Country and Beliefs that, we are Now?????????????

Victory, over What?

Osama bin Laden Must live to Terrorize the American Fox news watchers.

Osama bin Laden is DEAD.... But his Spirit must live on the Cheney/Bush ticket needs Osama. One to sell rolls of Plastic and Duct Tape and Terrorize US to Surrender The Bill of Rights and Our Constitution!

Cheney/Bush Can't Kill the "Boogeyman"!

He [Osama] sit with them [cheney/bush]every day and is Their Ally!

Read Osma bin Laden "Letter to America" Please.

Andrew D. Todd - 1/28/2006

Here's something interesting, incidentally. Essentially it's a kind of coking oven, revised and corrected in the light of early twentieth century chemical engineering practice. It reduces coal to methanol and graphite, or it can be tweaked to produce hydrogen instead. The idea is that coal in situ, even western coal, is sufficiently waterlogged that, if you go about it the right way, you can convert most of it to liquid fuel.

The Hydrocarb Process, Patent # 5,427,762;Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5427762.WKU.&OS=PN/5427762&RS=PN/5427762

Kathy Wittig - 1/28/2006

Code named Operation Northwoods, the plan, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war.

History DOES repeat itself.

From all evidence I have gathered, the PSYOPS by our government this time around was the same scenario.

There have been no modern, steel-reinforced high-rise in the United States that ever collapsed in a fire They generally burn for a considerable period of time. These towers crumbled to the ground into dust. NYC Firement believed they were detonated.

Osama was blamed for it. (He did it while he was on dialysis)

Andrew D. Todd - 1/27/2006

Well, I would put more stress on the consumption side of the equation. Most uses of energy are something like one percent efficient in terms of desired end results. In the short run, I would stress expanding telecommunications and automation at the expense of transportation. The average American worker is an office worker, someone who moves information. If you consider an automobile as a kind of modem, a means for transferring information between the worker and his workplace, then an automobile's efficiency is somewhere down around a hundredth or a thousandth of a percent, just by comparison with a commercially available modem, let alone quantum limits. On the whole, the American physical telecommunications plant is in great shape, but it is hamstrung by people locked into vicious economic cycles, all intent on creating or maintaining monopolies they can profit from. What the government can do is to help disentangle the mess, in much the same way that the FDIC disentangles failed banks. There are a number of European and Asian countries which have much higher broadband rollout than the United States, and it's time to catch up.

Say that you could reduce auto mileage to about half of present levels, mostly by switching the longest-distance commuters to telecommuting, and encouraging them to telecommute out to distances which no one could physically commute to. That would provide a substantial breathing space for further action. You don't have to get down to zero oil consumption in the immediate short run. You just have to establish a trend, as it were.

Back in engineering school, donkey's years ago, my old thermodynamics professor had an aphorism about efficiency: "efficiency is energy-that-is-sought over energy-that-costs." That's almost in the nature of being a zen koan. It's a warning that any time you get into a situation where those two quantities are not the same thing as energy-out and energy-in, you need to stop and think about the whys and wherefores. Similar reasoning applies when you start saying "we need X amount of energy," without thinking through what the energy is going to be used for.

Carl Becker - 1/26/2006

Mr. Portillo, nice work.

High and mighty Thomas goes from eloquent elephant to tedious whiner and namer-caller when flustered and exposed.

Frederick Thomas - 1/26/2006

Mr. Dodd,

I appreciate your out of the box thinking, and clear motivation to find better solutions. I also appreciate that to recommend such things one must really understand the science and engineering, and that may be an issue here.

To change over fuels takes real practical technology, not guys with pitchforks attacking GM and Ford execs. The technology is simple and demonstrable, but getting to it is economically and practically impossible at present.

All that is needed is to take seawater and break it into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter being the practical fuel. Cars can burn the hydrogen as either electric fuel cells or in existing cars as an injected gas to replace injected liquids-gasoline and diesel.

The best way to do it, barring a real breakthrough, is electrolysis, which today costs more than the value of the fuel obtained.

Electricity from coal and oil plants produces tons of carbon compounds as by products, and leaves us again chained to scarce oil, just more indirectly.

Using fission reactors to make hydrogen is also too expensive, and politically very unpopular, thanks to noted nuclear physicist Jane Fonda.

This leaves something which we cannot yet do: nuclear fusion. Oh we can make fusion happen. The problem is that we cannot contain it to make use of the energy created. No metal casing will withstand 100,000 degree temperatures, and the magnetic "bottles" tried so far don't work yet. Added to that the worst technical problem of all: its a government project. This stalled project could produce hydrogen in a very efficient way, when and if the problems are solved.

Beyond that, perhaps way beyond, the reaction of matter and antimatter would give us an order of magnitude improvement over fusion, and commensurately more complex problems.

So we will wait, in a world loving energy, for some bureaucrats to finally figure out the technicalities of this, and in the meantime will experience interruptions in supply and escalating prices.

This is not because of Exxon and BP, but rather because of China and India, which have dumped Socialist economic prescriptions and now have huge fast growing economies.

Chuck Linscott - 1/26/2006

I understand your point now. I guess I'll have to think about the situation more. Thanks for the enlightenment.

Frederick Thomas - 1/26/2006


You have piled a heap of steaming, festering implications here which stinks mightily, but adds nothing.

Please give an example of any misquote or mis-characterization of Clausewitz' thoughts on political or military philosophy. Just one, and no more sophomoric bullshit please.

Our example in dealing with these guys is Richard I vs Saladin. Fine tactics and careful execution will give a victory, on the enemy's turf, despite your girly weeping, something which you, a defeatist with no military understanding, will never get because it contradicts your miserable leftist religion.

As to whether you think I should have responded to some inanity of yours in another post, I chose not to respond to your non-sequitur at all. I was responding to another poster. So much for your perspicacity.

Ryan Portillo - 1/26/2006

For F Thomas’reference: Carl von Clauswitz, a great intellect, unlike some people who quote him, is usually misinterpreted because they don’t understand that the point of his statements are usually framed opposite to the thesis he is stating. Usually war-mongers and chicken-hawks like to quote Clausewitz to glorify war. But Clausewitz always believed that war was usually conducted purely for the sake of self-interest and was contrary to man’s highest ideals.

The Bush administration would have a problem if they took this concept to heart. Their entire philosophical framework used in their plan for controlling the US currency standard through oil reserves and military occupations in Middle East does not include truces when fighting endless wars against "evil’ or disengaging in torture and spying to save America from the rest of the world. No, a truce in this administration is not in their make-up. Subduing the other’s military and country and leaving it intact without battle is too skillful and beyond this administration’s wild-west approach.

It’s also become obvious what is behind Mr. Thomas’ comments and those like him on HNN. They cannot condone anyone’s hatred or even mere dislike of the GW Bush group or any subject that contradicts their agenda and so their comments become as predictable as an ultra-conservative think-tank. As when confronted with an inconvenient fact from my earlier 74430 post, Mr. Thomas wandered off somewhere else in Olympian aloofness to attack others with his wisdom on some other subject. Comically, using his own cliché, the "knee-jerker" reacts to another so-called "knee-jerk reaction". But no matter, this is what makes HNN fun, the egalitarian arena where moralists, make-believe elitists, ideologues, and other guessers, gather to stand on their soapboxes to declare they right and that they know they are right.

Charles Edward Heisler - 1/25/2006

I see Peter, if we used more mature language to describe a (?), well, a "win" over the Islamofacism you would be much happier.
As a historian, what do you call the American "win" over the Axis powers?
How about the American "victory" over the Confederacy in the 19th Century?
Did we "lose" in Vietnam?
Is it really our words that bother you are the inkling that you might have to eventually acknowledge that we were right despite our unfortunate lack of "war" metaphors and use of "sports" metaphors?
Is there no bottom to your slobbery mewling? Good metaphor there Pete?

Frederick Thomas - 1/25/2006

Dear Mr. Clark:

It seems clear that you have no familiarity with the military, strategic deliberations, or the specifics of what is happening in Iraq. All you have is hatred of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeldt, which is so extreme that it can only be called "knee-jerk," because your knee surely jerks when their names are mentioned.

Santayana: "Only the dead have seen then end of war."

Clausewitz: "The only unjust war is a long war."

Perhaps with a little less pro-Al Quaida rhetoric from you, this will be a shorter hence a juster war.

Charles Edward Heisler - 1/25/2006

Frederick, I like your solution to the problem but you know it is counter intuitive to those who both don't believe we can "win" and don't want Bush to "win" this war on terrorism. In the unlikely event that a Democrat President was pursuing a victory thru the use of force, I am sure you would see a whole different take from these folks concerning the likelyhood and morality of a complete success in the war on terror.
It is not the method that is abhorrent to these people, only the Commander in Chief.

Frederick Thomas - 1/25/2006

I would think that any historian would know how badly truces so often go, and why this is a bad place for a truce.

Take Korea, in which a lousy truce left left us with decades of horrific oppression and state famines in North Korea and many US military and ROK dead, and still no solution. Ditto many others all the way back to the beginning of histiory.

Militarily, diplomatically, and geopolitically, the only reasonable course is to win against these terrorists. We have the advantage of having almost the entire militant bomber gang of Al Quaida/Saudi Arabia in Iraq, and are killing them off, as they devoutly wish. The supply is not unlimited, and the issue becomes appropriate tactics to reduce or prevent US and Iraqi deaths from these suicidalists. Furthermore they will be in New York if we let em go, and we do not need that.

Why does bin Laden want a truce now? I'd guess he is like Khaddafi, and had a near death experience from our drone attack last week, and his nerves are shot. It happens. If we give him what he wants, he may get better again. I and most Americans want this mass killer to get his own medicine, the sooner the better.

Andrew D. Todd - 1/25/2006

By proper use of technology, we can (1) achieve energy independence; (2) become so decentralized as to be practically invulnerable to sabotage, terrorism, and even nuclear weapons; and (3) cease to economically prop up foreign regimes hostile to us. Furthermore, (4) we can do this without diminishing our standard of living-- on the contrary, our standard of living might rise quite a lot in the process. I realize that this sounds like science fiction, but never forget that most science fiction writers are scientists and engineers. Science fiction is more realistic than the uninformed beliefs of technophobes. For much less than what the war in the middle east has cost us, we could have built the necessary infrastructure, and achieved to luxury of regarding the Arabs' carrying-ons with indifference.

That we have not done so is an active moral choice. The Administration has effectively said that having an empire is A Good Thing, an act of virtue, and has tacitly discouraged technological developments which would undermine the economic basic for an empire. The administration's adherents were eventually reduced to trying to propagate disinformation about engineering in an attempt to uphold the pretense that their essentially moral or philosophical choice was technically necessary. If we decide that we reject the Administration's moral choices upon ethical grounds, it is not very difficult to craft technology which will allow us to live according to our own definition of The Good.

Here are a series of pieces I have posted on HNN dealing with the whole War-Energy-Vulnerability nexus. What with one thing and another, I never got around to reducing them to a long article or a short book.


comments to: William F. Shughart II, Oil and 9-11: The Connection

Air Conditioning;bheaders=1#16708
comments to: HNN Staff, Blackout 2003: The Debate We Won't Be Having This Time

An Inevitable consequence of attacking the wrong country;bheaders=1#29952
et. seq., in
comments to: P. M. Carpenter, Stay Tuned. Iraq's Problems, Bad as They Are Now, Will Only Get Worse

Bold speeches... but deeds perhaps not so bold?;bheaders=1#36940;bheaders=1#36977
comments to: Daniel Pipes, Before We Move on, Let's Remember Ronald Reagan's First Victory Against Terrorism

The Important Distinction between Space and Time
et seq. in:
comments to : Hal Hellman, The Easy Way to Avoid Power Blackouts this Summer

Oil Shortage or Intellectual Bankruptcy?;bheaders=1#38369
comments to: Keith Miller, Why 2004 Will Be Remembered as the Year World Oil Production Peaked ,

Levels of foresight;bheaders=1#38475
comments to: Robert Divine, Could 9-11 Have Been Predicted?

The Middle East and the American Automobile;bheaders=1#43033
et. seq.,;bheaders=1#43455
comments to: Tom Palaima, The Big Question that Needs to Be Asked at the Presidential Debates

The Real Causes of the Soviet Collapse Were Beyond Reagan's Control
comments to: Judith Apter Klinghoffer, What If America Had Elected Walter Mondale in 1984?

Let Us Speak of Practical Considerations-- Such As the Price of Gasoline;bheaders=1#45224
et. seq. in:
comments to: Jonathan Schell, The Triumph of Fantasy Politics

What Kind of Economics Do You Assume?;bheaders=1#49564
et. seq.
A Better Book;bheaders=1#49666
et. seq.
Energy Conservation a Theological Dispute;bheaders=1#49772
comments to: Mark Safranski, Why Some Are Calling Thomas P.M. Barnett Our Age's George F. Kennan

I Am Not Confused-- I Am Not Impressed Either;bheaders=1#60407
comments to: Rick Shenkman, Saudi Arabia's Doomsday Plan

Here Is An Example;bheaders=1#60979
et. seq.;bheaders=1#61434
comments to: Daniel Pipes, What If Saudi Arabia Did the Unthinkable and Blew Up Its Oil Wells?

Ben W. Brumfield - 1/25/2006

in any sense acceptible to the West.

Nor, I meant to add, is it the sense implied by "turn bin Ladin over" as written.

Ben W. Brumfield - 1/25/2006

On the contrary, it's possible that an Islamic court would be harsher than an American one. It would certainly have a greater range of punishments to choose from.

The point is that no Islamic courts exist as part of the American judicial system, nor even the international system. Because of this, an offer to hand bin Ladin over to one is not an offer to "turn bin Ladin over" in any sense acceptible to the West.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/25/2006

well, let's hope before the 24th century. yes, the earth charter hasn't achieved very much, but i blame less the people behind it or the document itself than i do the vast majority of people who have no intention of altering their lifestyles or beliefs in the slightest in order to avert ecological and other disasters. of course, the universal declaration of human rights hasn't achieved that much either, judging by what's happened since it was written. nor are the rights of man very well respected in most places.

the point is that the idea of a truce is to focus people's minds on the reality that this is a two-way street, that we're all responsible, and that real action has to be taken to change the situation. i have little hope of this happening, yet i have no conception of a different/better/more plausible way to go about challenging the status quo through concerted grass roots actions across cultures.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/25/2006

the idea of a truce, which i develop in more detail in the last chapter of my book, is ultimately a metaphor, or a conceptual tool to get people to understand their own implication and participation--however passively--in the system that is now reflected by the war on terror, etc. it would certainly apply equally to other peoples, whether indian hindus, europeans, etc. as it would to americans. and of course, millions of mulsims live inside the 'west' today, so it's very simplistic to just describe this as a conflict between two sides with neatly delineated borders.

Chuck Linscott - 1/24/2006

That seems to imply that Islamic courts are more lenient to mass murderers than US courts, & their word is not to be taken.

Tendentious views are prevalent on both sides of the the controversy. What are the sources?

Chuck Linscott - 1/24/2006

But was there a "good faith" effort ot find out how serious it was? could it have led to a serious dialogue?

Kathy Wittig - 1/24/2006

Your points are well taken, very good article. I was particularly struck by: What would a truce offer consist of? On the American side, it must begin with an admission of how much our policies have violated the very principles on which our country was founded.
I also agree that: Americans would be wrong to dismiss the idea of a truce with the Muslim world, or even with radical Islam.
But of course the truth of the matter clearly came to light in your last two paragraphs.

Kathy Wittig - 1/24/2006

But do we have actual proof of Osama's role in 9/11? It seems to me the US played a much larger role in the days events; 1. Denying existence of intelligence pointing to the fact that the attack was coming; 2. planning simulated airplane hitting buildings war games within a relatively close proximity of the days events; 3, Bush commenting that he saw the first building get hit on his way to the school..(how can that be?)4. ISI Intelligence in the states 5. Confiscating after the fact evidence of the pentagon; 6. How the buildings simply free fell to the ground, similar to that of WTC7 which was in fact a controlled demolition; 7. Marvin Bush's company handled security of the WTC; 8. The Commander in chief proceeding with his morning events; very odd of a commanding officer under attack; 9. The fact that no forensic investigation was allowed at one of the biggest crime scenes in history; 10. The alleged war games to demonstrate what might happen, that did occur THAT day impeded our armed forces from acting according to standard procedure; 11. Shooting down flight 93 in Pennsylvania, when it had been communicated the passengers had gotten control of the plane.I could go on, but you get my point, I hope...But what really did hit the pentagon, on a wing that was under construction, and not heavily occupied???
I was under the impression Osama was in a hospital in Dubia, attended to by american doctors and visited by the CIA, feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

Edward Siegler - 1/24/2006

Does the idea of a truce also apply to other nations that have had trouble with Muslims? Should France (which recently threatened to use nuclear weapons in against states that sponsor terrorism); the Netherlands; England and other European nations; India; Indonesia; Thailand; the Philippines; China (which has a restive Muslim population); Russia (in regard to its war in Chechnia); Nigeria; and Israel all consider this truce or would it only be a good idea for America?

Ben W. Brumfield - 1/23/2006

You see this claim pop up every now and then, sometimes in the even more tendentious form used by Ted Rall that "we turned down the Taliban's offer to extradite bin Ladin."

My own recollection of the events was that the Taliban offered to turn bin ladin over to an Islamic court, if the U.S. provided proof that bin Ladin was responsible for the attacks. This is a far cry from turning him over to the U.S.

Charles Edward Heisler - 1/23/2006

I see this unwillingness of the American people to compromise their lifestyles as a real advantage in these times of peril. To me it doesn't matter what the American people are protecting--whether a flag, a principle, or a love affair with pickup trucks that they can't afford or use, so long as they are willing to fight against those that would take them away. Our rather gross lifestyles, from the huge houses, huge vehicles, huge meals is, after all, what we are exporting to other countries--if we can make the Iraqis as protective of their freedom to be excessive, it is assumed that they will seek free and stable governance.
I have faith that the American people will slowly adjust, as they always do, to the necessary changes needed to survive comfortably against enery rivals around the world.
As gross and self gratifying as the American people are, they always seem to find a way to both survive and share the wealth as well as the lifestyle with others.
I do often share your concerns but as each generation manages to self indulge successfully, I suppose I am lulled into believing that the success will continue.

N. Friedman - 1/23/2006

In time to meet Captain Kirk, if they are lucky.

N. Friedman - 1/23/2006

Peter and Professor LeVine,

In this instance, I agree with the good professor. Historical consciousness plays a particularly important role in Arab and, most particularly, Muslim Arab society. Such is part and parcel of attending religious institutions where the history and role of Islam is central. But note: the fact that historical consciousness is rather central among Arab Muslims - even and, most especially, illiterates - does not mean that such historical consciousness is connected with any real fidelity to fact. That fidelity to fact is often missing - more than in the West -.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/23/2006

see reply to other queries for this...

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/23/2006

i don't think osama suggested having himself arrested and tried as a mass murdering war criminal, nor stopping terrorism, etc.,

as for whom the counterpart is, it's you and me and others on the grass roots level. what i was envision was along the lines of the way the 'earth charter' movement has grown in the last five years on the grass roots level.

finally, just because most Iraqis couldn't/can't read (and that number if definitely way high, even for iraq, which until recently had one of the best educational systems in the region) doesn't mean they don't know the history... there are other means of passing on information.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/23/2006

sadly, i agree with you. sort of. obviously by most objective measures--protecting the earth, providing a better life for our children and generations to come, etc.--the policies of the US elite are not in the interests of the majority of Americans. but then again, neither is being obese, driving gas-guzzling suvs, spending trillions on wars that don't make us safer, etc. and we seem to be unwilling (we're certainly capable) to deal with these problems.

of course, i didn't say ordinary citizens would make the change, i just said if they don't make th change than the game is over... which it probably is.

E Leon - 1/22/2006

Maybe the suggested truce is supposed to be rhetorical, but I'm not sure from reading this piece. If it's to be taken as a serious suggestion, you should suggest a reliable negotiating partner for such agreements and methods for imposing the rules. Otherwise the phrase "Oslo" comes to mind!

Charles Edward Heisler - 1/22/2006

"In fact, there is just too much money, oil and strategic power invested in the status quo for any administration, democratic or republican, substantively to change the basis of US policy towards the region.

That means it's up to the millions of ordinary citizens of the US and Muslim world, who are after all the main victims of the war on terror, to take the truly radical step of calling a truce and demanding our leaders stop the violence and engage in serious discussion about how to heal our increasingly fragile planet."

Ok, Mark, nice idea but what clues do you have that the we "ordinary citizens" don't have exactly the same stakes as democratic and republican administrations? Considering the impact of oil on our economy, both in the short and long range, it is unlikely that most "victims" would be willing to stand the sacrifice necessary to achieve this "truce".
I always stand in amazement that critics don't understand that the various "administrations" and their attitudes don't exactly reflect the needs and wishes of the "ordinary citizen". My sense is that there is concurrency between what the government does and what the citizens' want.
We have had two elections that rather clearly indicated that the citizens prefer to continue to safeguard their economic and cultural interests in the Middle East.

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/22/2006

yes, the offer was made, but the question is whether it was a serious offer. probably not. but it was on the table...

Chuck Linscott - 1/20/2006

I've just read an article by Bryan J. Foley, a professor as Florida Coastal School of Law, in which he says: "The Taliban offered to turn bin Laden over after 9/11, if the US would present evidence that bin Laden perpetrated those acts. The president refused." I don't remember that and my own notes from that period are in a bit of disarray so I find nothing there. Did that really happen & is there some source about it that I check?