11 September 2012

Forget me not...

Eleven years ago I sat in a conference room glued to a television as the
opening round in the West's war with extremism played out. At the time we
were hosting a conference near Norfolk, Virginia of a number of
international technicians who found themselves trapped in the Chesapeake bay
area. As the nation closed its airspace, people struggled to do what their
instincts told them to do, get home. A friend of mine, a Japanese national,
rented a U-Haul truck and drove from North Carolina to his home in Atlanta.
He was stopped by law enforcement at least three times enroute.

Watching the video remembrances of the event, it is sobering to realize just
how little we knew about what was going on at the time. Images of the White
House emptying out and Capitol Hill police officers warning off news crews
in anticipation of United flight 93 making it to its target in DC make for a
stark contrast to our present state.

It is important that we reflect on the state of the world and the progress
in the war against Al-Queada. In eleven years the nations of Iraq and
Afghanistan have been liberated (although our poorly executed departure from
Iraq, due to the current administration's inability to negotiate a proper
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)) has likely caused more damage to the
recovering government.

The nations of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco and Syria are in
various stages of the Arab Spring. So called in that they represent the
hope of an abandonment of oppressive regimes and an emergence into a period
of open, tolerant governance. Whether this is the final outcome remains to
be seen. Syria is ruthlessly clinging to its criminal form of government
and Egypt is struggling to avoid devolving into another Iran.

Iran is perched on the precipice of confrontation with the rest of the globe
over its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. Despite computer viruses,
magnetic assassin bombs and international condemnation, it seems clear that
Iran will achieve the development of nuclear capability. What transpires
after that is anyone's guess.

At the heart of this conflict is a fundamental disagreement about the role
of religion in governance. The forces of Al-Qaeda seek a return to the
Caliphate and law based upon Sharia. Their philosophy is regressive and
narrow. The rise of this philosophy has been aided by many of the
governments which have fallen in recent months. Their repressive approach
has reinforced the beliefs of adherents to an Islamo-centric mindset and
provided easy recruiting for new members. Nations which have more liberal
approaches to governance, Indonesia, have seen less of a rise of such
extremist factions.

The war continues, even today. There are few in the United States who truly
feel its effects of seem to grasp its implications. It is too soon to know
how the Arab Spring will affect its outcome or the ready availability of
domestic fuel via gas shale and other sources.

There is one thing certain, however, the outcome of this conflict will only
be determined by the adherents to the Islamist philosophy. It is they who
must decide if their obedience to a stagnant set of beliefs is worth
remaining outside the community of the planet and as pariahs in modern
society. We can only stand by with an open hand of welcome paired with a
gripped sword of defence.