Middle East

Algeria: Rethinking the Variables

Even if the U.S. military kills Bin Laden and decimates his forces, international terrorism will be only weakened, not destroyed. Experts agree on this point, and some assert that if Bin Laden dies a martyr, his name will act as a stimulus for terrorist movements around the world that won’t hesitate to commit further spectacular attacks.

And so as the fear and anger fade, a growing chorus of voices is calling for a comprehensive approach to terrorism, the fruit of intensive thought about its deepest nature. The first conclusion will involve the responsibility of the Western world, which throughout history has allowed religious fundamentalism to thrive when it served Western interests.

Thus, the West unconditionally backed the monarchies of the Gulf, a breeding ground of fundamentalism, because of their oil resources, while at the same time lending blinkered support to Israel’s expansionist policies. Against the will of their people, Arab and Muslim leaders have been coddled by the West, spurring popular anger to fever pitch during the Gulf War.

Resentment, widespread in the Arab world by the end of the 20th century, has been exploited by the fundamentalists, who have channeled it into a “holy war” (jihad) against the West. The West, and notably the United States, has learned nothing from all this. Worse, the West has aggravated frustrations the world over by canonizing laissez-faire eco-nomics, whose centerpiece—globalization—heralds the systematic impoverishment of billions of people.

But it would be hasty to blame the West alone for terrorism. Both governments and movements in the Arab-Muslim world have sought to impose their religious dogma everywhere by means of systematic terror perpetrated by fanatical groups. Their aim is to create Afghan-type states. Algeria is the clearest case in point.