How to Bring Jihadist Fundamentalism to Its End

The cancer of terrorism is the symptom of society's unresolved problems, a monster born in the swamp of "no-rights." As long as the swamp is not drained, the monster continues to live and grow. Yet, as we shall see, various powers would rather use the monster to try and resolve their society's problems, rather than drain the swamp.

The Economist has concerns about "the ethics and realpolitik of assassination," yet the lack of any significant international criticism of the operation against OBL's compound flies in the face of any legalistic or moralistic concerns and demonstrates that we are de facto conforming to the principle of verum esse ipsum factum (Giambattista Vico, 1668-1744). The official announcement by the White House of the death of OBL, confirmed by al-Qaida, is considered a step in the direction of security regardless of the details of how it happened.

OBL's demise is a serious blow to al-Qaeda but not the end of al-Qaeda, because its ideology endures. Al-Qaeda is the expression of the deepest soul of Arab-Islamic societies still ruled by absolutist monarchies and lifelong presidencies. In these countries, as demonstrated by the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the ruling elite are not willing to recognize democratic legitimacy or implement true democratic reforms. Only a distributive justice based on a democratic market economy can drain the swamp of no-rights where terrorism is born. This means constitutional order and modern States based on the centrality of law, guaranteeing full rights of citizenship. For decades, nationalism and sectarianism were promulgated, supported, fed to the masses and thus used as effective tools against communism. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, communism is over. Now, to put an end to terrorism, it must be rendered politically useless and inconvenient. Terrorism may seem convenient in the throes of a desire for immediate action; but in the long term, terrorism damages the foundations of human civilization.

While there is, in fact, still no agreement among governments and international institutions (the UN being the best example) as to the definition of terrorism, it is clear that the struggle for liberation and self-determination can not be confused with terrorism. Moreover, the old, dictatorial systems can no longer claim to be providing "stability" and cannot long continue to repress millions of human beings demanding their rights, facilitated by new communications technologies and social networking tools. Therefore, global players should not hesitate to promote universal standards of democracy worldwide, recognize indigenous democracies, and support the demands of citizens in the Middle East and Eurasia for their civil rights. To avoid chaos and sectarianism, international powers should focus on a new kind of stability based on constitutional order. No external pressure for or expectation of "instant democracy" everywhere, but concerted diplomatic pressure through international institutions like the U.N. urging ruling elites to respect basic rights -- the rule of law, free speech and fair elections -- precisely because denying people such basic rights is the cause of instability. No more exporting democracy Neocon style, but extending democracy "democratically," by recognizing the rights of citizenship and/or monitoring the ruling elite's behavior by international institutions.

However, it is not possible to achieve this goal while applying double standards, criticizing dictators in Syria and Libya while giving dictators in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain a pass. It was good to hear President Obama strongly criticize the actions of the Bahraini regime in his recent speech on the Middle East. Obama seems to know that it should be up to the people and citizens of each country to determine their own lives and political system within the framework of their traditions, but in compliance with international rules and stability. This policy costs less to all, and especially to America. President Obama seems to favor this policy, distancing himself from the legacy of his predecessor and seeking to avoid the costs of constant war, especially in this time of prolonged economic crisis. In practical terms, this is Obama's main justification for a withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Against this potential new stability based on constitutional order stands worldwide fundamentalism: globally, al-Qaeda, and at the regional level, the Taliban and other, similar ideologies. This fundamentalist extremism finds its base and support in the Saudi-Pakistani axis: Saudi Arabia, with its Wahhabist ideology and petrodollars, and Pakistan, with its army and its military logistics. This axis gives birth to and sustains the monster: "According to several estimates, Islamist organizations, many of which are linked to armed groups, can draw from a pool of money ranging from $5 billion to $16 billion. The Saudi government alone donates $10 billion via the Ministry of Religious Works every year," Italian journalist Loretta Napoleoni claims in her book, Modern Jihad.

According to a cable released by Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton declared over a year ago that "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

If Saudi Arabia provides the ideological and financial underpinning, Pakistan attracts numerous terrorist groups and provides them training and shelter. Already the presence of bin Laden in Abbottabad, near one of the most important Pakistani military centers, should be sufficient demonstration of this. Pakistan has always had a huge credibility problem.

Bin Laden as a Tool of the Pakistani Army
In my next posting, I'll discuss the real forces behind the end of the world's most famous terrorist.