May 17, 2004 12:33 pm
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The Spread of Al Qaeda-ism
Meanwhile, in response to the charges of those who argue that Al Qaeda is in Iraq, as if this were proof of a link between the Hussein regime and Bin Laden, I posted the following comments:
There is no doubt that Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-aligned groups are now in Iraq. But there was no evidence of any formal relationship between Hussein and Al Qaeda; those Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-aligned terrorist groups that did exist in Hussein's Iraq, were centered not in the Sunni triangle or the Shi'ite dominated South; they were found mostly in the Kurd-dominated Northern sections of the country. It is only now, in the chaotic aftermath of the invasion, that Al Qaeda-aligned groups are becoming more prevalent in Iraq. With the Al Qaeda-described"infidel," Saddam Hussein, now in US custody, a power-and-ideological vacuum exists, attracting all sorts of savagery.
But this is not an illustration of the simplistic"magnet theory": that by stationing thousands of US forces in Iraq, Iraq will become a"magnet" for terrorists, and the US will have simply brought the war to them, rather than being the battleground itself. Al Qaeda is not in one place at one time. And there is something far more insidious than the existence of Al Qaeda or an Al Qaeda-aligned network, and that is: the spread of Al Qaeda-ism. And therein lies the horrific scope of the problem: as this particular shade of militant fundamentalism takes root throughout the Muslim world (which has virtually no geographic limitations, since it stretches from the Middle East to the Asian Pacific to North America), Osama Bin Laden will matter less and less, except, perhaps, as a symbolic"leader" of this maniacal sect. The decentralized cells of a poisonous ideological movement will be more self-motivated to undertake localized strikes against the Great Satan.
We will never live in a risk-free world. All the more reason to embrace long-run policies that minimize the points of political and military contact, while maximizing the points of cultural and social contact, with the Muslim world. Nothing less than an ideological and cultural revolution abroad (and at home) will do.
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