Monday, November 01, 2004


I can be wrong, too - the most compelling reason to say no to Osama bin Laden

It just occurred to me that I thought of another reason to resist Osama Bin Laden's demands, other than the ones I adduced previously:

Bin Laden dreams of and schemes toward restoring the caliphate, the combination empire/theocracy that he believes once dominated the Arab and Muslim lands a thousand years ago. I'm no expert on medieval Islamic history, so I can't judge whether he's right or wrong about what it was; and I'm no expert on contemporary Middle East politics and sociology, so I can't judge whether he's right or wrong about the likelihood of bringing it back.

As I said earlier, he wants all Western influence out of the areas he defines as Arab and Muslim. In exchange, he says, Al Qaeda will leave us alone. Such a bargain! There will inevitably be some who are tempted rather than face years if not decades of trying to destroy the amorphous sociopolitical blob that Al Qaeda has become.

However, there are many good reasons to say, Thanks, but we're still going to try to hunt you down and kill you: removing ourselves from the Middle East would isolate Israel; it would tempt other terrorists to try the same strategy elsewhere; who's to say he wouldn't try to extend the caliphate to anywhere in the world where significant numbers of Muslims live; and Osama bin Laden is a disgusting mass murderer whose thousands of victims would cry out for justice if he hadn't so disgustingly murdered them.

But it occurs to me there is a perhaps more compelling reason to resist his offer: there must be millions upon millions of Arabs and Muslims who have absolutely no desire to live under a restored caliphate. Who want some form of economic development and modernity, political and social reform, to join the world and not shun it. It is true that science and art, mathematics and music flourished under the caliphate; but that was then, and this is now. And Osama bin Laden is one of the great minds of the 17th Century.

It is not our responsibility to bring about the transformation of the Arab world; but neither is it our call to abandon them to the tender mercies of Osama bin Laden. Whatever the real caliphate may have been, there is no way any decent, civilized person could condemn hundreds of millions of people to be ruled by any form of government Osama bin Laden might consider acceptable. For the sake of Arab and Muslim women alone, we can't turn our backs on the region.

I should have figured this out in time to include it in my previous posts on this subject. Oh well, luchshe pozdno chem nikogda, as they say in Moscow.

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