Terrorism . . . what does it mean?
In the late 1700s, the British citizens of the American colonies, decided that King George was a tyrant and acted consistently against their wishes and, in fact, their interests. Those citizens rose up and launched what became a War of Independence, or the American Revolution. Eventually, those citizens succeeded in gaining their independence from Great Britain.
In 1857, Indian citizens rose up and launched what they call their First War of Independence, and what the British call the Great Indian Mutiny. That mutiny, or war of independence was put down, albeit with great violence and brutality. Eventually, following WW II, it became clear to the British that holding its “Crown Jewel”—India—was not worth the probable eventual cost, and on August 15, 1947, they granted independence to India.
Spring forward to 2001. A group of 19 Muslims, operating out of Afghanistan, hijacked and then crashed commercial airliners into first the World Trade Center, then the Pentagon. A third plane was forced by the hijacked passengers to crash into a field. That series of acts triggered what has become known as the global war against terrorism. This war was largely initiated and carried out by Americans, although some allied support has been provided.
One difference between the first several wars cited above and this latter “war” was the intended outcome—independence from an occupying colonial power, as opposed to . . . What? We don’t seem to know the answer to the question—“what are they trying to achieve? With the latest outrage—the savage attacks and killing spree by some ten terrorists, presumptively of Pakistani origin, although that is not known yet with certainty—we do not even have an announced motive. The terrorists made no claims, captured no hostages. They simply arrived in Mumbai, India, and began systematically killing people.
My best guess on this enigma is that the terrorists are indeed Muslim, and that their motive is a systematic attempt to inflame the world—to trigger another “holy war” by non-Muslims against the Muslim world. Why would they want such an unholy outcome? Because, I now believe, they expect that the remainder of the Muslim world—that part not now engaged in their quest, will perforce have to join them, or be destroyed by the non-Muslim world in the coming "Crusade". Horrible to contemplate, I realize, but I can find no other, less cataclysmic, (even if delusional) reasoning. At least with the pirates who operate out of Somalia, we can see the purpose—money, pure and simple. But with the attacks in India, and with many other attacks taking place throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no mercenary purpose. Rather it all seems either vaguely religious in origin,(a seriously twisted corruption of their religious tenets) or some grand (and demented) form of imperialistic thinking by deluded people who live in caves, possess 12th century minds, and dwell on some future world in which they would rule the earth.
It is likely that, had we reacted differently to the 2001 attacks, perhaps with greater intelligence and less hardware, the current global mess might have been averted. But also, perhaps not. We cannot know. But going forward, there appear to me no reasonable, completely military solutions. We need to return perhaps to an earlier age—“speak softly, but carry a big stick.” Somehow, we need to rally—organize really—the entire world—Muslim and non-Muslim alike—against these brutal and immoral acts of savagery. The US right wing seemingly loves to mock the United Nations, but I see few alternatives to employing and even expanding the role of the United Nations against the terrorists, especially in anarchic states such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Iraq. I am hopeful that a President Obama will succeed in gaining global support, through international agencies to arresting the current sharp increases in world savagery. Civilization is at stake.