Who is Winning the ‘War on Terror? Image credit: Staff Sgt. Russell Bassett of The U.S. Army
by M. A. Hossain 4 November 2022
A long ago, one fine autumnal afternoon, we were chatting about a friend to penalize who had escaped the get-together in that Café. One army General sitting next to us was intrigued by our youth’s excitement and dragged his chair to us with his vaporized coffee mug. With a very friendly interaction, he advised us with his theory of “channelize, Canalize and penalize” to fix our friend. Two decades of my hawkish eye on the Islamic extremist movement. I find the General’s theory more appropriate here.
After World War II, the dollar becomes the strongest and only international trade currency. In the early 90s, the world started a reorientation which is strengthening the dominance of the western capitalist economic system, supplanting the primacy of the nation-state with transnational corporations and organizations, and eroding local culture and tradition through western culture. The Western nations have enjoyed supremacy in the military and economy, and they have been ferrying their capitalistic and democratic Ideology around the world, which is consumerist and materialistic. The Western Nations have reached the peak of their vertex in terms of lifestyle, consumerism, and prosperity. That creates an ideological vacuum, and people become frustrated. We find the widespread cases of suicides and mass shootings in western societies, which are flagrant examples of this claim. An eternal Islamic ideology is started to fill the void.
I will dwell upon one jihadist organization, Al-Qaeda (AQ), which has spectacularly gained the capabilities to act as a transnational militant organization. During my research, interestingly, I find, it’s the AQ that lays down the gauntlet for the USA on the Battlefield. AQ founder, Dr. Abdullah Azzam first accentuated global jihad among all militant organizations. Before that, various Islamic extremist organizations fought for Islamic rule (Shariah) sporadically and locally. AQ’s members around the world started gathering in Afghanistan to fight against Soviet occupiers. In 1989, after the death of Dr. Azzam, Osama bin Laden took the helm of AQ. He envisioned his Global Jihad as “strike the head of the snake” where the head was America. He wanted to bring the USA into a death trap and compelled the US troops to deploy globally. AQ carried out several attacks on US targets worldwide to allure America into war. And finally, Laden planned to strike the center of gravity of America which was the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers which changed the landscape of global terrorism. Laden planned to attack the twin tower and, considering terrain conditions, expected US troops in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Libya to achieve an asymmetric war of attrition. Even the Bush-Obama administrations were unaware that the war on terror was a booby trap. America lost the war in Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and finally, Afghanistan. That’s how the theory of “channelize, canalize, and penalize” worked.
American political scientist, Samuel Huntington asserted in his book “The Clash of Civilizations” that the future holds a series of clashes between “the west and rest,” and he also envisioned religion as “perhaps the central force that motivates and mobilizes people.” At the beginning of this article, I have shown how and why Islam is filling the ideological vacuum in Western nations. AQ wanted the US military to involve unilateral military action against Muslim countries, which would pave the way for recruiting Muslim youths against the US atrocities. Successful examples are the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
Globally, democracy is declining. The war on terror, patronized by the USA, created an opportunity for authoritarian rulers in several democratic countries. Especially South Asia, the Middle East, and African nations have experienced terrorism as a tool for suppression and intimidation against opposition. It is also solely responsible for the world refugee crisis, which has affected the EU and western nations the most. Even US citizens have experienced Draconian anti-terrorist laws embodied in the so-called “USA Patriot Act” that have immeasurably increased government power of surveillance, arrest, and detention. The erection of military prison camps for suspected terrorists, the abrogation of basic civil liberties, and the call for military trials undermine decades of progress in developing a democratic policy.
Islamic extremist movements linked to AQ have achieved their goals in Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. They are strongly emerging in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Caucasus region. Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS) has started a hidden and secretive network in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Kashmir. Al-Qaeda in The Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is going to capture the important port cities and very soon will take control of the Aden Sea. In my opinion, within the next 5 years, some African countries will announce Islamic rule in their countries. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has strong bastions in Algeria and the Sahel.
Ideological conflict must be countered by ideology. If this simple equation is miscalculated, there will be a catastrophic debacle. Some democratic rulers are trying to politicize this terrorism, and for God’s sake, they are digging the grave for democracy at their own hands. During my research, I found that AQ started its preparation on global savagery in 2002. AQ, from the beginning, targeted the dollar system as the enemy’s center of gravity. Just think, if America would not involve in the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa-then where would they be nowadays? The war on terror was nothing but a waste of money and lives.
In 2022, the world is now reshaping into a multipolar world. America has used and abused the dollar system as a punitive tool. Democratic front liners have failed to exhibit a stable, executive, beatified ideology in the 21st century. We have seen eccentric Trump in the USA, Hindu extremist Modi in India, and let alone United Kingdom for pillow passing show. The world is now considering an alternative trade currency system instead of the US dollar. Yet, it is extremely important to be critical of state terrorism when one discusses the complex and sensitive topic of terrorism. For decades, the US and Israel have been accused of state terrorism.
It is, therefore, neither the time for terrorism nor reckless unilateral military intervention, but for an ideological campaign against ideological conflict. This campaign should not accept militarism, violation of human rights, the erection of a police-military state, and the undermining of democracy in the name of fighting terrorism. No doubt, democracy is in the ICU, and misjudgment of this ideological conflict will put the last nail in the coffin of democracy.
M A Hossain, political and defence analyst based in Bangladesh. His Blog handle is: MAHNEWS24/7.