Thursday, August 30, 2007

Taking Stock of the Day that Disturbed the International Order (A Kasarinlan Feature Review)

Ken Booth and Tim Dunne. 2002. Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of Global Order. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke & New York 2002. 384 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 18, 1-2 (2004): 204-218.

Much has been said about the character of 9/11 attacks from being the fulfillment of Nostradamus’s bleak prophecies to the alleged resurgence of worldwide Islamic jihad. September 11 events have undeniably altered people’s perception—from the business executives of Manhattan to the opium farmer of Afghanistan—of the dynamics of globalization, national security and international relations. For some, the collapse of the Twin Towers offered a déjà vu of the demolition of the Berlin Wall. If the unification of Germany symbolized the values of international legality and democracy, the World Trade Center (WTC) attacks witnessed the birth of a new form of realpolitik (Archibugi 2001). The Achilles’ heel of US’s power was ultimately exposed in the so-called “paradox of 9/11” which both convey Washington’s readiness to respond to complex emergencies (911 emergency dial) and the susceptibility of the American territory to foreign intrusion. No country has confronted the United States’s (US) lead before, and for the first time ever, the Hegemon has been challenged by an absolutely gratuitous attack. The casualties of September 11 constituted one of the worst one-day massacres in the last decade, together with the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis. Major debates revolve around the question whether 9/11 should be deemed as an unprecedented event which shattered the previous international order, or just another flashpoint in the history of tweny-first century. Answers to this question do not come easily.

World governments demonstrated three main responses to the trauma of 9/11. First, state power was rapidly reinstated through the intensification of sovereign control which the realists heralded as the strengthening of statecraft. The self-help system of world politics compels states to prioritize their security concerns above the interests of other states through the use of military force as a key instrument in gaining states’s objectives. The transnational nature of terrorism likewise reinvigorated inter-state cooperation aimed at preserving regional security. For rationalist institutionalists, globalization opens a Pandora’s Box which creates new channels for protest including the terrorist path. International institutions promise to assist governments in addressing these challenges. Keohane and Nye (1989) proposed the complex interdependence framework to explain the nature of international interdependence and the benefits of multilateral cooperation. They argue that multilateral initiatives are more politically-effective and resource-efficient than bilateral actions in addressing transnational concerns including terrorism. This is accomplished through the institution of a “regime” or a set of rules that countries subscribe to, in leveling the playing field, minimize cheating and balance international actors’s relative gains as proposed by the realists. The term “collective security,” first employed during the construction of the League of Nations, finds a niche in the security architecture emerging post-9/11. In theory, collective security would discourage potential aggressors from angering a collectivity of states. Premised on this notion, Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty provides that an attack on one of the member-states shall be considered an attack against all. Likewise, Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations (UN) provides that nations can exercise their right to individual or collective self-defense. As comprehensively discussed in the book, these multilateral initiatives are defied by the hawkish, cowboy foreign policies of Washington. Holding steadfast to the doctrine of defensive realists, the Bush administration’s expansion of security tools had serious repercussions to the security standing of others by decreasing their military power (Taliaferro 2001).

Second, bin Laden’s involvement in the attacks signaled the criminalization of terrorism and its attendant actions, nostalgic of what Keohane explains about the delegitimation of piracy in the eighteenth century (141-151). Terrorists of diverse ideological motivations were widely condemned including the nations which harbor them. The “axis of evil” was identified comprising of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, countries assumed to possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Widespread suppression of public dissent became the norm to quell domestic discontent, leading to the decreased space for civil society.

Third, majority of states “embroidered” the concepts of “nation,” “heroism” and “freedom” to elicit sympathies and galvanize public support for the anti-terrorism campaign. Global media networks accentuated the rhetoric of war while stories of civilian casualties were romanticized mainly through dramatic media video footages and metaphors. Not only had these imageries stirred the collective pathos of the peoples around the globe, it also provided enough raison d’être for governments to apply military solutions in the name of national security and order.

The horrors of 9/11 have become “fashionable” in recent years with numerous cozy presumptions and grand interpretations about world politics demolished and questioned. Bringing together an outstanding group of intellectuals, Worlds in Collision primes itself as an indispensable book in understanding the debates about the future of global order in the wake of international terrorism and the war in Afghanistan. Booth and Dunne have managed to garner contributions from a stellar group of scholars in a commendable speed (completed in 2002). The plurality of viewpoints ranging from the writings of Kenneth Waltz, Amitav Acharya, Noam Chomsky, Immanuel Wallerstein, among others, makes the collection a must-read for scholars of International Relations. The volume presents the current dialectics of thought-worlds explicating the nature of terrorism, the current international order and the variegated worlds coexisting in the globe. Compartmentalizing the chapters into three broad themes—Terror, Order and Worlds—aids the readers to frame their sight on current issues. These issues indeed are the evident overarching discourses of the post-9/11 period. Deeper appreciation of the texts reveals three corollary sub-themes: 1) the reinforcement of US global power and its consequence on the international political structures, 2) the interplay between globalization and culture in reconciling thought-worlds, and 3) the assumed birthing of a new world order.

The book clearly sets out that we are confronted by a “confusion of misunderstandings, crude stereotypes and parallel absences of self-knowledge”(5). Different international actors have divergent perceptions on the motivation and real character of the World Trade Center (WTC) bombers. As Chomsky explains, the terms terrorism and terrorists require serious attention and examination since they have not been defined in a coherent manner (128). Cynics argue that one country’s “terrorist” can be another state’s “freedom fighter.” September 11 has bifurcated the notions of terrorism between the US-inspired and other countries’ brand of terror with the term terrorists being applied only to Washington’s enemies and not against itself. The US is notorious in approaching the world through a series of simple minded binaries: friend and foe, west and east, allies and enemies, as substantiated by President Bush’s either-you-are-with-us-or-you-are-with-the-terrorists speech.

Defining terrorism is akin to the search for the “holy grail”. UN members have yet to formulate an agreed-upon definition of the term, a sine qua non for the establishment of international legal instruments to combat the crime. Previous efforts by terrorism experts to define the term fell short in various ways. For instance, one terrorism expert suggested in 1992 that acts of terrorism should be considered as “war crimes” during peacetime—deliberate attacks on civilians, infrastructure and killing of prisoners.But this position was not easily welcomed due to “diverging political interests and contradicting normative perceptions” between Western and Islamic states. Amidst the clash of interpretations, Soliman (2002) posits that the terrorist acts can be subsumed under this comprehensive legal definition:

the systematic employment by states, groups or individuals of acts or threats of violence or use of weapons deliberately targetting the civilian population, individuals or infrastructure for the primary purpose of spreading terror or extreme fear among the civilian population in relation to some political or quasi-political objective and undertaken with an intended audience.
The multiplicity of terrorists’s strategies can get easily entangled with their somehow nebulous, non-political motivations. We can discern religious overtones from the pronouncements of al-Qaeda members stating their fundamental mission to stage a protracted armed struggle against the enemies of Islam, especially the Great Satan—US. Still, terrorist activities are not only a monopoly of shadowy groups but can also be utilized by states as a means to gain legitimacy. Authoritarian governments of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and the Talibans exhibited how leaders wage war against nonconforming constituents through state oppression.

The US was successful in establishing the coalition of the willing (or coalition of the coerced?) to gain global support for its regime change project in Afghanistan and Iraq. The coalition supporting Washington’s war in Iraq includes Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.

Nonetheless, supporters of Bush’s anti-terrorism campaign overlooked and miscalculated the costs of their participation. As in the past, military cooperation with the US could not guarantee the honest exercise of multilateral cooperation nor can it safeguard the interests of smaller players. On the contrary, it could put governments to a more vulnerable position as demonstrated by the experiences of the Philippines, Spain and Great Britain which became epicenters of terrorists’ initiatives in recent years.

Reassertion of US Hegemony

Neorealists maintain that contemporary states have already abandoned the maximization of state power but rather focus on striking a balance between international relations and power politics. On one hand, the anarchic nature of the international system permits powerful states (the so-called poles) to determine the trajectory of the international order. The stability of the international system, as neorealists suggest, can be attributed to a single dominant state or a lead hegemon which can articulate and enforce the rules of interaction among the international system (hegemonic stability theory). Admittedly, since coalitional politics are unstable in this conjuncture, America is considered as the only viable global leader. Halliday and Gray expound this notion by magnifying Washington's punctured political ego and its aggressive military responses to terrorism (226-241).

While some take the view that 9/11 destroyed or, at least decreased, US’s omnipotence, the reverse may be more compelling (Hill 2002, Smith 2002). For chapter author Michael Cox, the “end of the unipolar moment” thesis is untenable and should not be conveniently received because US, as the former isolationist of pre-World War II period, is beginning to rebuild its image as the main sheriff of world affairs (152-161). Series of military build-up put the country in a more dominant status and no country can challenge the Hegemon without suffering its consequences. Guzinni (2002, 292) likewise shares this observation;

The Bush administration’s foreign policy hitherto suffers from a neglect of diplomacy. It has emphasised a strategy that combines unilateral and re-militarising elements. Security is conceived of in terms of a gated community writ large. Diplomacy is downgraded to alliance-building (conveniently misnamed multilateralism) for a policy already decided. Other countries are sheer objects, not subjects, within US foreign policy. The conception of order in international society is stripped of substantial components of justice or legitimacy, to which the US would accept being subjected itself.
Combating terrorism and maintaining peaceful international relations necessitate the preservation of the integrity of the international law. Yet the imperial tinge in the application of these laws is apparent and continues to injure international players. Byers and An Naim strike it hard when they characterize the US as a “vigilante and a self-imposing entity” which comfortably circumvents UN resolutions—either to dismiss it or to engage in “a la carte multilateralism” which can complement its own preferences. Washington rejected the idea of an International Criminal Court of Justice mainly because of its detrimental provisions for the American government. It has been flouting the Geneva Convention on the Laws of War for more than five decades. US rejected the Kyoto Protocol on gas emission to guard its economy which is heavily funded by the oil industry. Moreover, Washington’s protectionist policies continue to intimidate its Western Europe’s counterparts with fifty percent of global economy in the hands of American corporations.

Coalitional politics is the major instrument of US to exert its power and compete with other states in distinguishing the terrorists and ascertaining acts of terrorism. Washington recasts itself as the final arbiter of what is morally right or wrong but as Chomsky argues, Bush’s moral truism reflects that it only acts to protect the civil liberties of its people and undermine the human rights of other peoples in the world (134-135). Washington and its allies were successful in securing good legal “cover” to legitimize its use of military power using the doctrine of preemptive strikes as its grand smokescreen. Although it brands itself as an epitome of democratic society, it has been consistent in applying terrorist measures in Panama, the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and Afghanistan to ostracize erring civilians. This posturing is exacerbated by the vague definition of “national defense” provided by Article 51 of the UN Charter. Previously, it was generally understood that military self-defense should focus only on halting or repelling the attack that has taken place; it should not be retaliatory, punitive, or preemptive. Historical evidences abound about the US’s violation of this UN pronouncement. In 1986, the US took military action against Libya in response to terrorist attacks on its forces in Berlin; many states insisted that such action went beyond legitimate self-defense. In August 1998, the US attacked Afghanistan and Sudan in response to terrorist attacks on its embassies in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Washington’s global democratization project contradicts the concept of a just war. Normative theory defines a jus ad bellum (just war): 1) as a war of self-defense in response to aggression; it is legitimized by state authorities as a last resort after exhausting peaceful remedies and (2) as a war that is being exercised jus in bello (in right conduct) including the protection of the non-combatants and the innocent, non-use of immoral weapons (e.g. WMD) and when actions are taken with a right intention to accomplish legitimate military objectives and to minimize collateral death and destruction (Viotti and Kauppi 1987). Conventional requirements state that non-combatants should not be the intended target of the enterprise. Governments’s responsibility to protect their people does not provide them a right for the use of violence. It must be recalled that the photographs of the Iraqi prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib elicited condemnation and anger among the peoples of the globe. The arrogant display of US soldiers’ violation of human rights clearly defies Elhstain’s definition of a compassionate, forbearing American military (263-269). He somehow misconstrues Washington’s military policy when he claims that:

No group in the US pays more attention to ethical restraint on the use of force than does the US military. We do not kill or even threaten to kill nearly 3000 civilians because that number of our own civilians has been murdered by perpetrators who scarcely deserve the name of either soldier of warrior. (266)
The volume juxtaposes contemporary wars with the issues of national sovereignty and human rights to reconcile debates concerning the use of force vis-à-vis the universal rights to human protection and dignity. Political observers confirm that a counter-terrorist strategy that separates the enemy from those who harbor them is not part of Bush’s mindset. Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah are seen as problematic and need to be carefully approached and dissolved. Buzan (85-94) reinforces this conviction when he posits that, in the declaration of war, civilians must be separated from their governments as targets, if and only if the people do not deserve the government they have. He further states;
To delink people from their governments, when they are in fact closely linked, is to undermine the political point of resorting to war in the first place. (91)
Although the Geneva Conventions on War dictate that civilians should be treated separately from their governments, it must be noted that not all civilians are innocent. Buzan explains that the flag-waving Serbs either stood as silent supporters of Milosevic or as protectors of innocent civilians, while Hussein’s despotic rule in Iraq, Kim’s Stalinistic regime in North Korea and Iran’s anti-US theocracy were all sustained and reinforced by public choice and decision. In all of these, the international community has the right and responsibility to put an end to erring governments and people that threatens peace.

When Globalization and Civilizations Collide
Huntington’s “clash of civilization” thesis is vigorously criticized by the chapter authors for its flawed culture-based interpretations of 9/11, reflected in his unconvincing justification of terrorists’ genocidal tendencies. Counter-arguments to the image of a religious or civilizational conflict are more pronounced contrary to what Huntington imagines. Globalization factors have blurred the civilizational lines because of porous state borders which enhance the transnational mixing of socio-political loyalties. The assumption of a homogenous Islam is contentious since cultures are not monolithic blocks that can be sustained, and is indestructible. Islam, like Christianity, does not have a unified version of its religious beliefs and practices. Many Muslim nations openly condemned the theology of Osama bin Laden. As Acharya concludes in his chapter, states “acted more as states rather than as civilizations” in responding to 9/11 (195).

The post-9/11 period witnessed a new and sustained interest in the study of Islam and Muslim societies, with the cornucopia of knowledge projected in various governmental and media pronouncements on the subject. But, more often, the interpretation of Islam with regard to terrorism is determined by domestic and international political factors (Dalacoura 2002). Islam is being demonized by Washington as a means to universalize Western liberal values and contain Muslim fundamentalists. Islamism has been labeled as the counter-hegemonic force of the post-Cold War period replacing communism. Consequently, rather than a “war on terrorism,” the international community is currently engaged in a witch-hunt for specific terrorist groups who embrace the doctrine of radical Islam.

Fukuyama describes Islamo-fascism as the Muslim world’s reaction to the social poverty brought about by the Western modernization process in the Arab peninsula (27-36). Historically, the September 11 attacks can be traced back to the economic, social, and cultural crisis which plagued the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War and the accelerating process of globalization which started in the late 1970s. Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) and import liberalization strategies have impoverished the powerful proletariats in the Arab world and reconfigured traditional Muslim communities. Still clinging to his “end of the history” thesis, Fukuyama presents his liberal doctrine which argues that Western liberalism is the final destination of MENA countries. He sees the results of the Afghanistan and Iraq democratization projects and the dismantling of the theocratic and despotic nature of Islamist politics as crucial factors in transforming the history of the Arab world. For him,
Americans tended to believe that their institution and values—democracy, individual rights, the rule of law, and prosperity based on economic freedom—represent universal aspirations that will be ultimately by people all over the world if given the opportunity. (28)
Globalization and fundamentalism are twin phenomena that cannot be separated. Benjamin Barber (245-262) has been consistent in his earlier position that we can allow either a globalized capitalist world (McWorld) or a world of fundamentalist (Jihad) to set the terms of international interdependence. We cannot strike a balance between the two because of the inherent nature of capitalism which automatically induces inequalities in the globe—the very reason of resentment among terrorists. There is a view that poverty among Muslim societies engenders terrorism because of clashes between Western consumerism and traditional Islamic teachings. Capitalism is perceived as part and parcel of the neo-liberal ideology which endeavors to secularize the religion of terrorists. In this regard, Smith’s chapter complements Barber’s position when the former formulates 10 factual questions directed to the US regarding the justification of its response, the nature of foreign policy it acted upon and the comprehensiveness of its understanding of the 9/11 attacks (48-59). These inquiries aim to investigate how cultures determine the perceptions of international actors regarding outsiders. Answers to these questions reveal that both the US government and the terrorist groups have their unique interpretations of each other. This divergence very well explains the vicious cycle of struggle between the al-Qaeda and the developed nations.

Information technologies and the media are shaping the global citizens’ perception of terrorism and its concomitant actors. Acquisition of information and opinion about the aftermath of 9/11 has been a crucial factor in reconciling media coverage and opinion. Media networks have caused global citizens to perceive that the WTC attacks are reenactments of Bruce Willis’ Die Hard series and James Cameroon’s Pearl Harbor. Der Derian provides an interesting twist when he explores how 9/11 provided a platform for wars between networks engaged in maneuvering, influencing and altering public opinion (101-117). Networks’ strategies easily conflate with the global opinion about the moral justifications and the rationale behind the terrorist attacks. Foremost, Washington has attempted to prevent the ‘Vietnam syndrome’ to preserve public support. The first phase of its war in Iraq was projected as a successful military campaign which deserved to be sustained. President Bush even established the military-industrial-media-entertainment network (MIME-Net) not only to ostracize negative publicities that could mar the image of his leadership but also to solicit political capital that could catapult him again into power in the 2004 elections.

Freedman (37-47) and Ball (60-73) concentrate on what they see as the evolution of a new form of warfare. Of interest to them is the war between a modern force and a primitive army (e.g. the United States and Afghanistan's Northern Alliance). Peoples of the globe must recognize that al-Qaeda members are not naïve cave dwellers. The marriage of the narratives of primitivism (fundamentalism) and modernity can be seen in bin Laden’s adherence to Islamic extremism while identifying himself as a member of an elite Saudi family. His desire to banish the Western, secular ideology is enhanced by the al-Jazeera television network, the Internet and compact m satellite telephones to communicate with his grassroots network organizations in Africa and Southeast Asia. Washington responded to the situation by establishing the Office of Homeland Security and the Human Intelligence Network (HUMINT) systems to safely locate and pursue al-Qaeda operations.

Ultimately, the intelligence community is anticipated to be burdened by the terrorist threats. Challenges lie on the lack of political will among governments to devote resources for the dismantling of intra-states terrorist networks and the failure to realign their legal and juridical systems to the principles of US’s anti-terror campaign. On the broader level, there is a lingering fear among states that the anti-terror campaign can easily translate into a war against freedom and privacy. Biersteker (74-84) explains that gross infringement of civil liberties is not far-fetched in the future due to several strictures to be implemented on the use of the Internet and other correspondence and transaction systems including the financial market mechanisms. For instance, targeted financial sanctions (TFS), first applied by UN in Angola (1998), Taliban (1999, 2000) and Liberia (2001), is being revived to dismantle the terrorists’ underground hawala system.

A New World Order?

Have 9/11 events reconfigured the international state system? Some theorists maintain that it has unmistakably altered the traditional Westphalian concept of state as the sole enforcer of security. Interestingly, the book is concluded by Waltz’s statement that nothing has changed since 9/11, frustrating and downplaying the passionate trumpet call for the formation of global civil society by Linklater (303-312), Williams (336-347), Brown (293-302) and Parekh (270-283). Waltz’s position seems to earn more plaudits since international events show that there is no plausible major evidence suggesting the emergence of a new world order. The attacks may induce policing problem for the international community but they do not constitute a serious challenge to the norms of international society as the world’s global pattern of military, political and economic power remains unaltered (Brown 2002, 263). Changes are more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, characterized by the following: increased assertion of US power, emergence of coalition of countries for and against the US and widespread economic recession in many states due to threats of terrorism.

Gray (226-234) seamlessly describes the triumph of realist explanations as he chronicles how states supported US to further their national interests. Russia deemed it necessary to cooperate with Washington to contain conflicts in China and the Himalayas. Great Britain committed itself to be the US’s faithful lieutenant to increase its influence in Europe. September 11 surprisingly brought together European governments into a military alliance with Washington (Wallace 2002). European Union (EU) governments are well aware of their relative weakness compared with the US military and any cooperation with the Hegemon was the most intelligent option to protect their borders. Yet, NATO’s invocation of Article 5 failed to revitalize the Alliance and transform Atlantic relationship. The issue of war in Iraq disintegrated any unity forged by 9/11 with France and Germany condemning the military actions. In East Asia, the Great Power Rivalries between the US and China reached its peak when Bush’s foreign policies made it difficult for China and Japan to join the anti-terrorism bandwagon.

Asian governments managed to protect their interests by maximizing the opportunity of US cooperation. In South Asia, General Musharraf of Pakistan needed the US military aid and resources because of the lingering Indian nuclear threats on Kashmir. President Sukarnoputri of Indonesia accepted the economic and political support from US in assisting to crush Jaamiyah Islamiyah and other terrorist networks in its territory. But weeks after Washington announced its war in Iraq, Sukarnoputri gave her veiled criticism against the Bush administration.

Chapter writer Raja Mohan believes that U.S. intervention holds more promise for South Asia than its earlier involvement in Afghanistan. Karzai’s interim government is still fragile and currently being threatened by the resurgence of warlordism and revival of predatory extraction in the country. There is a growing consensus that Afghans, which had been abandoned by the US in 1991, should not be left alone to tread the road to politico-economic stability.

Divergent perceptions of 9/11 were also evident in the local level. For Acharya (194-204), the post-9/11 period saw state-society relations more divisive in terms of the relationship of governments to their people than between states. Saudi Arabia and other gulf states witnessed the growing population of Muslim anti-Americans who likewise found an opportunity to actively clamor for the recognition of their Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip. Some Asian leaders, on one hand, showed utmost concern for regime security. Mahathir made it difficult for Muslim jihad supporters to travel to Afghanistan because of threats to domestic stability while President Gloria Arroyo tried to contain the Abu Sayyaf bandit group through the sustained militarization of Southern Philippines. Meanwhile, Wallerstein (95-100) and Rogers (215-225) foresee the the outcomes of US’s war on terrorism will be uncertain due to the conflation of international factors. Political violence will continue to reconfigure global order because the dominant drivers of conflict and insecurity will stay including issues on socio-economic division and the proliferation of military technologies.

The UN Millennium Declaration of September 2000 promoting common values such as freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility was challenged post-9/11. Writing on the narratives of religion, civilization and modernity, Brown explains how the al-Qaeda and the coalition against terrorism see each other as uncivilized and there is no way that these perceptions can be reconciled in the near future. In this regard, chapter authors offer their modest recommendations on how to address the recurring international violence. If Fukuyama puts his faith on his unshakable logic of historical evolution to ensure the hegemony of liberalism, Parekh trusts inter-cultural dialogue as the surest means to address the deeper roots of terrorism. Widely shared values must be promoted and none should be demonized or declared evil in the negotiation process. On one hand, Sissela Bok (284-292) deems it beneficial to abandon the idea that Islam and the West have divergent perceptions of the world. Imperative to this is for governments to veer away from interpreting 9/11 events in religious and civilization terms.

Conclusion: (Un)filled Gaps
No short reviews could do justice to the 31 chapters of the book. Booth and Dunne remained faithful to the aspirations they laid down in the introductory chapter—to investigate the fragile relationship between binary opposites: Islam and the West, terror and dialogue, force and law, among others. Nonetheless, the aim to do a comprehensive survey of academic opinions is undercut by their failure to include the works of scholars from other global regions. It must be noted that only two out of the 32 contributors are Asian-based academics—Mohan (India) and Acharya (Singapore). Also, conspicously absent are scholars from South America and Africa. Their contribution could have provided an ideological balance between the Western-centric and Southern countries’ interpretations of terrorism. Post-9/11, majority of Latin Americans believe that the US has lost interest in their region. A closer examination of this notion is crucial in locating Latin American developing countries in the map of US foreign policy. On the African side, the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in 1999. African leaders also issued a strong declaration against terrorism at the Africa Summit held in Dakar in October 2001. But none of these important developments echo in the pages of the volume. Similarly, chapter authors barely discussed the dynamics of East Asian geopolitics. The perspectives of China and Japan can give flesh to the dynamics of “Great Power Rivalry” thesis elucidated by Acharya. Apparently, the Western-centric interpretations inundate the volume overwhelming readers of realist explanations which overlook the genuine human security concerns.

Nevertheless, a commendable strength of the collection is the authors’s attempt to shift the spotlight to the subdued questions that have been marginalized by policy discourse of governments around the globe. The question of culture and terrorism is again put forth to revive the dying attention of many states toward the role of socio-economic deprivation in exacerbating the terrorist tendencies of their constituents. More importantly, it is very difficult to find a book that put together scholars par excellence possessing solid academic reputation. Worlds in Collision provides a platform for left-wing socialists to reflect side by side with right-wing über realists in their quest to explain the transformation of global history. The contributors to this volume come from variegated perspectives which do not always converge. But all of them share an aspiration for a more peaceful and just world; in which transnational communities coexist in mutual relationship, diverse religious and faith-based groups not only tolerate but also learn from one another and states act judiciously to empower individuals and protect the collective rights of their citizens.—Ronald C. Molmisa, University Research Associate, Third World Studies Center, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines-Diliman

Archibugi, Daniele. 2001. Terrorism and cosmopolitanism.

Brown, Chris. 2002. The “fall of the Towers” and international order. International Relations 16 (2): 263-267.

Dalacoura, Katerina. 2002. Violence, September 11 and the interpretations of Islam. International Relations 16 (2): 269-273.

Guzzini, Stefano. 2002. Foreign policy without diplomacy: The Bush administration at a crossroads. International Relations 16 (2): 291-297.

Hill, Christopher. 2002. Perspectives from international relations. International Relations 16 (2): 257-262.

Keohane, Robert and Joseph Nye. 1989. Power and interdependence: World politics in transition, 2nd ed. Little-Brown: Boston.

Taliaferro, Jeffrey. 2001. Security-seeking under anarchy: Defensive realism reconsidered. International Security, 25 (3): 152-186.

Santos, Soliman, Jr. 2002. Terrorism: Towards a legal definition.

Smith, Steve. 2002. The end of the unipolar moment? September 11 and the future of world order. International Relations 16 (2): 171-183

Viotti, Paul. and Mark Kauppi, eds. 1987. International relations theory. Macmillan: New York.

Wallace, William. 2002. As viewed from Europe: Transatlantic sympathies, transatlantic fears. International Relations, 16 (2): 281-286.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Politics of Indigenous Citizenship in Taiwan


Assistant Professor
Institute of Anthropology
National Tsing Hua University


In the struggle for rights to recognition, indigenous leaders often have to play against the kind of national identity or imaginary set by the dominant majority. The recent dual claim to indigenous citizenship has flourished and I will discuss the most recent development along this line and hope to learn from you about the situation in Philippine. The lecture provides an overview and analysis of indigenous rights movement in Taiwan since 1980s and its changing relationship with Taiwanese State.


August 17, 2007 (Friday)
10:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Third World Studies Center
Lower Ground Floor
Palma Hall
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City

Registration (09:30-10:00)

Welcome Remarks (10:00-10:05)

Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem
Third World Studies Center
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
University of the Philippines-Diliman

Introduction of the Speaker (10:05-10:10)

Maria Mangahas

Associate Professor

Department of Anthropology
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
University of the Philippines-Diliman

The Politics of Indigenous Citizenship in Taiwan (10:10-10: 50)

Kun-hui Ku

Assistant Professor
Institute of Anthropology
National Tsing Hua University

Open Forum (10:50-11: 20)

Last Comments from the Lecturer (11:20-11:30)

Rosa Castillo
Department of Anthropology
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
University of the Philippines-Diliman

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Contending with the Crisis of Islam and the Myth of Confrontation (A Kasarinlan Feature Review)

Fred Halliday. 2003. Islam and the Myth of Confrontation: Religion and Politics in the Middle East, 2nd ed. London and New York: I.B. Tauris. 255 pp.

Bernard Lewis. 2003. The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. New York: The Modern Library. 224 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 18, 1-2 (2004): 189-203.

Islam was the immediate casualty in the histrionics of the uninformed and the self-righteous when the perpetrators of the September 11 carnage in the United States were known to be Muslim Arabs. Islam spawns terror. Islam is the enemy. Lewis’s and Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” is now a prophecy fulfilled (see Huntington 1993). Welcome to the new age of terror brought about by the Green Menace and turbaned terrorists. Or, for some Christian literalists, this is the time of the Antichrist’s ascendance from the East as foretold in the New Testament. Within the American polity, the “talk from the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon draws from a familiar nationalist repertoire that reduces complex situations to easily grasped terms familiar from other times of tension and fear. The result is the ethnocentric invocation of a great conspiracy, an axis of evil, a monolith of terror” (Hunt 2002, 425). Thus, let there be crusades to crush the lair of evil in the Middle East, that center of the Muslim world where hatred against the Christian West is honed to murderous perfection. Let a coalition of the good and the mighty bring democracy, development and all the accoutrements of the modern life to this benighted land of religious extremists. To destroy them is to save them from themselves.

To reflect on the work of scholars on this topic is to counter such apocalyptic vision. This review is in that direction. It intends to find out whether the works under consideration encourage a nuanced and informed understanding of Islam and the present geopolitics of conflict. Are these works more than intellectualized incantations that wish to hasten the conflict so that the righteous and the saved might be known?

Broadly, to structure this essay and to serve as a heuristic tool to explicate the arguments made by Lewis and Halliday in their respective books, a set of interrelated questions are set forth: Is Islam inherently in conflict with the world’s non-Islamic, in particular, Western societies? In light of this question, what answers did Halliday and Lewis proffered in their respective works? What could be their bases for answering this question affirmatively or in the negative? What are the implications of such answers?

Halliday, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, answers the first question in a clear-cut manner: “The very concept of an ‘Islamic’ threat is itself a chimera, and to talk of some enduring, transhistorical conflict between the ‘Islamic’ and ‘Western’ worlds is nonsense”(113). This rather forceful assertion will be elaborated in the review.

Lewis, professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University takes a different tack. He did not say outright that the fight is against Islam. The irony of his book is that though it is a know-thy-enemy guide for Americans—expected to be easily understood by the uninitiated—it is in fact peppered with casuistic qualifications regarding the conflict it wishes to explain in simple terms. In other instances, his explanations seem to contain self-evident truths that disarm the mind and make the reader conform to views contrary to past and prevailing events. Take for example his book’s opening sentence: “President Bush and other Western politicians have taken great pains to make it clear that the war in which we are engaged is a war against terrorism—not a war against Arabs, nor, more generally, against Muslims, who are urged to join us in this struggle against our common enemy” (xv). Lewis is speaking to, and for the Americans. In this statement he made it appear that the American president and the American people demonstrate due sensitivity to other faiths and peoples in pursuing its “war against terrorism”. To distinguish this war from other kinds of war, he went on to describe its polar opposite, Osama bin Laden’s “religious war” against the United States, the infidel superpower. From there, Lewis goes on to explain the crisis of Islam, making his book, as the blurb on its jacket puts it, “an essential reading for anyone who wants to know what Usama bin Ladin represents and why his murderous message resonates so widely in the Islamic world.” Now the question: If the “war against terrorism” is not a war intentionally waged against Arabs or Muslims, why bother to explain to Americans the vicissitudes of bin Laden’s Islamic world? Clearly, denials notwithstanding, the war Lewis adheres to in his book is a war against terrorism perpetrated by Muslim Arabs.

For Lewis, this war consists of two combined approaches on the part of the US. The first one is nourishing “democratic oppositions capable of taking over and forming governments” in strongly anti-American countries like Iraq and Iran (163). The corollary effort is eviscerating Muslim terrorists and fundamentalists like those belonging to al-Qaeda. He fears that if these people are not strongly dealt with, they “can persuade the world of Islam to accept their views and their leadership, then a long and bitter struggle lies ahead, and not only for America” (163). The phrase “not only for America” bears repeating since it is key to Lewis’s eventual assertion that:

Europe, more particularly Western Europe, is now home to a large and rapidly growing Muslim community, and many Europeans are beginning to see its presence as a problem, for some even a threat. Sooner or later, Al-Qa’ida and related groups will clash with other neighbors of Islam—Russia, China, India—who may prove less squeamish than the Americans in using their power against Muslims and their sanctities. If fundamentalists are correct in their calculations and succeed in their war, then a dark future awaits the world, especially the part of it that embraces Islam. (164)

After all the quivers of qualifications, Lewis still holds the view that once certain prerequisites are fulfilled, the conflict will assume civilizational lines and thus, indeed, he and Huntington, the high priests of “clash of civilizations” will be proven right.

That Halliday’s and Lewis’s views differ seems to be a matter of fact. To proceed from the obvious, Lewis argues that there is an essential, unchanging and all-encompassing Islam that serves as anchor of Muslim identity and politics. Imperialists and domestic modernists aside, Lewis says that Islam, “for more than a thousand years…provided the only regulation of public and social life…Islamic political notions and attitudes remained a profound and pervasive influence” (13). This tenacity he attributes to Islam for being not only a “matter of faith and practice; it is also an identity and a loyalty—for many, an identity and a loyalty that transcend all others” (17). Hence, “Muslims…tend to see not a nation subdivided into religious groups but a religion subdivided into nations” (xx). He offers as a proof of this argument the existence of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an organization of Islamic states. Similar organization does not exist, he claimed, among Orthodox Christian or Buddhist states (13-14).

Lewis however failed to note that OIC did not come into being by sheer force of faith. In fact, OIC’s raison d’être is rooted in an event more political than religious: “the criminal Zionist attempt to burn down the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque on 21 August 1969 in the occupied city of Al-Quds” (OIC 2004). This event is part of the history of Arab-Israeli geopolitical conflict that has long prevailed in the Middle East and not part of some Islamic religious revival. OIC was formed in response to the threat posed by the then newly formed nation of Israel. OIC is a recuperative act on the part of the Arab states that saw “the seizure of Arab lands, the plight of the Palestenian refugees from them in the camps where they turned from peasants into landless labourers, and the seeming neglect of their obligations by great powers, and the United Nations’ inability to do anything” (Roberts 1999, 541). To call their organization Islamic rather than Arab was just an attempt to project a greater solidarity than what the Arab states can muster.

Thus, Halliday wryly dismisses the view carried out by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, that “Islam” and the Islamic communities represent one community, one umma. He said that “this has never been true of the Islamic world since the years of the first caliphs and certainly not true of the Muslims of Western Europe” (123). To prove his point, Halliday cites the disparate and pragmatic, if sometimes adversarial stance between and among Islamic states in the case of the Iranian revolution, the Iran-Iraq War and the 1990-91 Gulf War. In these instances, he showed that the Islamic states act not based on creed but on the realpolitik of preserving or advancing their own interests even at the expense of other Islamic states. Thus, if there is no internal coherence among the Islamic states, plus the fact that they are individually weaker than the un-Islamic West, “there cannot be a great ‘Islamic challenge’” (119).

Some scholars however, using an assessment almost similar to that of Halliday’s, argued that it is this organizational disarray, Islam’s perceived “weakness,” that aggravates and prolongs the current crisis triggered by the September 11 attack on America. Viewing Islam as “a faith without denominations, hierarchies, and centralized institutions,” it is argued that this “makes it difficult for Muslims to come together and speak with one voice on important issues—to say what is and what is not true Islam” (Bulliet 2002, 11). This view is prompted by the logic that if there were a single authority that represents Islam, then it would be easier to repudiate and discredit the discourse and actions by those considered its radical fringe. This view however is more of a wish, which even if fulfilled, will still raise questions as to its effectiveness.

The Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church were not of much help in the case of the Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) battling the Irish Protestants and the British rulers, all three resorting to terrorism to wage their war. A current study on the subject even condemns both the Protestant and Catholic churches for allowing “the terrorists to fill a vacuum of despair, hatred, and suspicion” (Dillon 1998). This only goes to show that the presence of a religious hierarchy to enunciate and enforce its creed does not guarantee that it will be listened to, or that it will even try to speak against repulsive deeds committed by its flock. To rely on sermons to subdue terrorism that capitalizes on social, economic, political, and cultural disparity and its attendant injustice is to believe on moral ascendancy that has no concrete and enforceable policy to stand on.

Nonetheless, there is a danger in accepting the view that Islam suffers from certain “weaknesses” as a religion, that it is in crisis, and that since individual Islamic states are weaker than Western or Northern powers, hence a “great Islamic challenge” is not in the offing. To accept these views is to realize that these discourses have successfully pathologized Muslim societies and polities, in particular those in the Middle East, that the stage for an outside intervention is set. A careful perusal of their respective books will show that though they have used different analytical optics in viewing and interpreting the events and the dialectics of change in the Islamic world, the implications of their arguments are unexpectedly the same: the West must change the Middle East. They only differ in means they proposed to employ.

At first, both authors did an exercise in surgery. Instead of condemning the whole Islamic body politic for being in an advance stage of decomposition, they have singled out with surgically precise strokes particular parts that need to be excised to save the whole. Islam is then spared of the humiliating attribute that it nourishes militant Islamist terror.

Halliday and Lewis state that the September 11 terrorist attack on the US were carried out by members of an Islamist movement, a brand of radical Islam “that sought to resolve political and social issues by reference to Islam. The Islamist movement was directed against secular forces within Muslim society as well as against external powers”(x). Halliday went on to characterize what he initially perceived to be a singular Islamist movement:

the Islamist movement rejects Western values of secularism, democracy, the rule of civil law, equality between men and women, and between Muslims and non-Muslims; Islamists spouse gross racist generalizations about Jews, the “West” and in other contexts, Hindus; they are committed to a long-term struggle with the West, seen as decadent and aggressive, and to a militant, intransigent, conflict with the historic enemy….its goal was, through jihad, to convert the whole world to Islam. (110)

This depiction of the Islamist movement appears to contravene his earlier assertion. Previously, he stated that Islamic nation-states nourished this radicalism based on their respective self-serving interests thus, there could hardly be a unifying element among them. In his own representation of this movement, Halliday may have unwittingly conceded to the point that though there is no “great ‘Islamic’ challenge,” there is a core, radical Islamist movement that launches terrorist acts against its perceived enemy. This shift is apparent in the latter part of his book when he starts to mention “different varieties of Islamism” (128). The key to this shift is Halliday’s understanding of the changed relation between the Islamist movements and the nation-state. The current Islamist movements are not anymore in the service of the nation-states that once nourished them for its own interest. In Halliday’s appraisal, Islamist movements are now “revolts against the policies—authoritarian, secular and intrusive—of the modernizing state” which have failed to address the economic and cultural needs of Muslim societies (128). This being the case, the capture and deployment of state power to advance Islamist ideals is one of the goals of these movements. Hence, for Halliday, “until and unless the internal problems of these countries are reduced different varieties of Islamism will retain their appeal, against the backdrop of the diverse social and political crises between the different countries” (128).

Lewis, for his part, was able to come up with a clearer explanation of Halliday’s “different varieties of Islamism”:

Radical Islamism, to which it has become customary to give the name Islamic fundamentalism, is not a single homogenous movement. There are many types of Islamic fundamentalism in different countries and even sometimes within a single country. Some are state-sponsored—promulgated, used, and promoted by one or other Muslim government for its own purposes; some are genuine popular movements from below. Amongst state-sponsored Islamic movements, there are again several kinds, both radical and conservative, both subversive and preemptive. Conservative and preemptive movements have been started by governments in power, seeking to protect themselves from the revolutionary wave. Such are the movements encouraged at various times by the Egyptians, the Pakistanis, and notably the Saudis. The other kind, far more important, comes from below, with an authentic popular base. The first of these to seize power and the most successful in exercising it is the movement known as the Islamic revolution in Iran. Radical Islamic regimes now rule in the Sudan and for a while ruled in Afghanistan, and Islamic movements offer major threats to the already endangered existing order in other countries, notably Algeria and Egypt. (23-24)

Still, a tidy taxonomy did not save Lewis from Halliday’s fate. He also ended up contradicting himself. If indeed his position is consistent with his earlier portrayal of radical Islamist movements, naming the Egyptians, the Pakistanis and in particular the Saudis, as the ones who encouraged at various times these movements, why did he suddenly recommended Iraq and Iran, and not Egypt, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia for regime change?

In two countries, Iraq and Iran, where the regimes are strongly anti-American, there are democratic oppositions capable of taking over and forming governments. We, in what we like to call the free world, could do much to help them, and have done little….If they succeed, we shall have friends and allies in the true, not just the diplomatic, sense of the words. (163-164)

Thawed straight from the Cold War, Lewis’s imperial pronouncement is dripping with dangerous assumptions and all the period’s paranoia. The obvious implication is this: if a regime is pro-American, then it is part of the terrorist-free world, if it is not, then it must be abetting terrorism. Even if these countries are ruled by mere band of thugs, as long as they are pro-American, then they will not incur the ire of the US. With pro-Americanism as the sole basis for judging whether a state should be in line for regime change, the US that emerges from Lewis’s book is exactly what George W. Bush has been mouthing: an imperial power that bullies the world with it’s-either-you’re-with-us-or-against-us bluster and the sole judge of what is good or evil. Preemptive and unilateral military actions by the US against any other state that it believes to harbor radical Islamists simply because it is anti-American will turn the world into a more unstable and treacherous place, as it has now. Terrorism against states will be occurring simultaneously with terrorism among and between states understood as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, s.v. “terrorism”).

Then things like Noonday happen. In April 2003, in the small town of Noonday, Texas agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered by accident a weapon cache full of automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices, 60 pipe bombs and a cyanide bomb capable of reducing to smithereens a 30, 000-square-foot building (Krugman 2004). The owner of these terrorist’s tools is William Krar, a right-wing extremist. Thus the question: Has the inordinate focus of US on radical Islamist movements rendered it more vulnerable to its own homegrown harbingers of death? Does the US government avidly pursue the likes of Krar? Apparently, there is a malignant disinterest on the part of the US. This seeming unconcern is only reinforced by scholars like Lewis who insinuates on readers that terrorists can only be seen in the faces of anti-American regimes and not in the face of the Krars and the Timothy McVeighs.

Likewise, Lewis also seems to have a sudden on-set of historical amnesia, a disease that a historian like him should have been immune from. His idea of “helping” democratic oppositions in order to have true friends and allies in the Middle East is naïve and completely ignores the various mutations that such notion of “help” have undergone. This he has lucidly discussed in three successive chapters in his book—its redeeming feature. Then “amnesia” caught up with him in the concluding chapter leading to his flawed recommendation. Another historian summed up the ways the US has been “helping” in the Middle East:

Troubles began with an oil embargo in 1973 and continued with the overthrow of an unpopular, US-backed shah and the taking of American hostages in Iran in 1979, support for Iraq in its long, bloody war with Iran in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s bombing of Libya, the involvement of marines in fighting in Lebanon in 1983 following the Israeli invasion, the Gulf War of 1990-1991, the residual American military presence in the Persian Gulf, continued containment of Iran, a policy of economic and military pressure against Iraq, and the ongoing diplomatic cover and military and financial support for a territorially expansionist Israel. (Hunt 2002, 420)

It must be added that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden both gained strength and renown while being “helped” by the US. The US supported Saddam against Iran and bin Laden against the Soviets.

Supposing that this is how Lewis wish to proceed to accomplish the second half of his programme on radical Islamists, i.e. preventing them from persuading or coercing the Islamic world to accept their views and their leadership, the only plausible scenario that emerges is a fratricidal combat between the US-backed “democratic opposition” and the radical Islamists. In case the regime change succeed, how long will the US be helping the new regime so as not to appear it is engaged in neocolonialism? Will the US be so altruistic that it will not seek profit by either sucking dry the new regime’s natural resources or making it an American preserve where cheap US goods can be dumped? Will the US regime in power refuse to pander to the American right that it will restrain overzealous Christian evangelists from haphazardly saving Muslim souls for Christ?

Lewis’s attempt to explain the crisis of Islam—or more precisely Islam in the Arab Middle East—ended up as an exposition on the crisis of logic and abundance of inconsistencies that underpin the current US imperial adventure.

Does Halliday offer a better alternative? For him:

To evolve a policy to solve or reduce what is presented as the conflict between the ‘West’ and the Islamic world requires a dual programme: first, separate the real, material, specific and secular difficulties faced by both Islamic and Western society from their confused religious expression; then address these difficulties themselves. To sum it up, such a policy would have to be underpinned by a concept of universalism, which would include secularism, plus development. The issue of development understood as both growth in the economic field and democratization in the political, is a useful starting point. (128)

To clarify Halliday’s recommendation, there is a need to restate his assertion that the current Islamic movement, in its political form, is “defined and determined by national states and rival political factions. This is so in the sense, first, that it remains the goal of these movements to capture state power, and, second, that if and when they do so they use Islamic doctrine to bolster the interest of those states (Iran and Sudan are no exception)” (119). In short, Halliday conjures two fields of battle where militant Islamist can be taken down. The first one is in the field of epistemology or knowledge production, where scholars and socials scientists will be the soldiers that will cut through the morass of propaganda from both sides of the extremists and expose the real conditions of the Muslim societies. The other terrain of conflict will still have the nation-states as the primary actors. He was quick to qualify that the nation-states’ actions must not lead to imperialist domination. For him, reforming Islamist regimes must be done through a “a firm, multilateral, always self-critical insistence on universal codes of political practice, as embodied in the conventions and documents of the UN to which all member states supposedly subscribe”(131).

Two aspects of Halliday’s proposal should be critiqued. The first one is his insistence on separating “confused religious expression” from the “real, material, specific and secular difficulties” before addressing the problems that both Islamic and Western societies face. The second one that should also be examined is his emphasis on a concept of universalism that includes secularism and development as a necessary basis for a policy on the Muslim Middle East.

On the first aspect, one reviewer of Halliday’s book noted that: “It is noteworthy that in a book on religion and politics in the Middle East, the author does consult a single Arabic or Persian (or Hebrew, Turkish, or Kurdish) source; there is, for example, no Arabic or Persian publication by Islamists, whose views he analyzes” (Massad 1997, 114). This is a major limitation on Halliday’s part since a number of important works by Islamists are written in their local languages.

Moreover, Halliday even chided Lewis and Edward Said, for failing in what he defines as the central intellectual task: actually analyzing the societies they have studied, rather than what the people from these societies write and say about themselves and their collectivity (201). His aversion to autochthonous representations as if these are contaminants that could spoil his pristine sample of a society is untenable. What these people say or write about themselves, their society or even other people unarguably constitute who they are and what their society is, and therefore must be considered an integral part that must be examined when a particular society is under scrutiny. What Halliday disregards as “confused religious expression” can still “shed a revealing light on what many historians consider ‘the real stuff of history,’ namely, the experience of suffering, injustice, and alienation, mixed with and tempered by hope for deliverance, that characterizes the human condition” (Appleby 2002, 511).

Halliday’s preferred method of studying radical Islamism and the societies where it is embedded is quite reminiscent of colonial anthropologists who wantonly privilege their own explanation over those that came from the society that they have studied (if they have not yet “silenced” these sources). That the universal is superior to the local is in line with Halliday’s second contentious assertion: to bring secularism and development on Middle Eastern societies through multilateral institution like the UN.

Rather than offer possible scenarios, he opted to prescribe solutions as to what kind of transition is needed in the Middle East. Economically, he said, “if there is to be a successful integration of the Islamic countries into the wide non-Islamic four-fifths of the world, it will have to take the form of economic competition, both industrial and other, as opposed to a recourse to outdated and rather ineffectual demagogies, and arms….Economic exclusion and political rejection [of Islamic countires] will fuel fundamentalist antagonism” (130). But how would the non-Islamic countries, in particular the West, react to policies of Islamic states that deny the equality of men and women, Muslim and non-Muslims and other acts that curtail, if not outright violate, individual human rights? Halliday answers that:

It can be anticipated that … [they] will resort to the platitudes of anti-imperialists and cultural relativist outrage to rebut external criticisms, but this must take second place to insistence by the wider international community on the universality of legal and moral considerations, and insight into the calculations and corruptions that often underlie appeals to distinctive moral principles. (131)

In sum, Halliday argues, “it is essential that the West frames a long-term policy of economic interaction with these countries designed to assist them on the path of development. However, such a policy must not entail the indulgence of Islamist movements themselves, or of the false inclusive claims made by Islamists in the Islamic world or in the West (131).” What remains unclear about this whole plan is this: What is the nature of the long-term policy of economic interaction that will be designed to assist the Muslim Middle East to attain development? What does he mean by “economic competition,” both industrial and other form?

If these are the perverse prescriptions of neoliberal economics, then Halliday has to face the numerous criticism that blames this very economic model for the rise of Islamist movements and the socio-economic maladies that ravage the Muslim Middle East today. One scholar sees radical Islamism as a “cultural backlash against the contemporary universalist pretensions of the Western culture and a political reaction to the economic exclusion of the Muslim masses from the benefits of the globalization economy” (Monshipouri 1998, 54). Other leading scholars of the region generally agree on this view (Amin 2002, Weeden 2003, Richards 2002).

The prevalence of authoritarian secularism is also intertwined with this discredited economic model which, “combined with a sense of powerlessness, the legacies of Western imperialism and the US hegemony and support for Israel, has led to a bitter reaction against Western power” (Hurd 2002, 85). During the Cold War, secularism and development have made some disastrous forays in Muslim societies and polities in the Middle East. These ventures were cloaked in authoritarianism fully backed by Western powers who were dueling it out for supremacy in the area, notably the US and the defunct USSR. Egypt, Pakistan and the Pahlavist Iran are the more prominent examples of this failed convoluted convergence that led to greater popularity of Islamist movements (Keddie 1998, Weeden 2003). In fact, these authoritarian regimes—whether colonial or postcolonial—did not try to separate religion from politics, but subjugated Islam to become a convenient tool in consolidating their dictatorships (Nasr 2003). By the 1970s, changes in the Muslim Middle East start to presage the current situation:

Disillusionment with the performance of the states in the 1970s and the creation of parvenu classes that exemplified the ostentatious excesses of the “haves” in contrast to the impoverishment of the “have nots” generated widespread discontent. This discontent was exacerbated with the debt crisis of the 1980s, the decline of the price of oil, and the IMF-imposed restructuring projects that limited state expenditures. At a time when the distributive capabilities of states were undermined and leaders were increasingly perceived to be venal and corrupt, the popularity of the Islamist movements rose considerably. (Weeden 2003, 59)

Mindful of colonialism’s and authoritarianism’s detrimental effect on secularism and development, Halliday therefore emphasizes that the issue of development should be understood as “both growth in the economic field and democratization in the political.” This closely approximates Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s view of “development as freedom,” where, human capabilities are enhanced and the possible choices people can make in their daily lives are increased (Sen 1999). The assumption here is that by improving accountability, economic governance would also improve in consequence and thereby stimulate investment. However, an improved accountability on the part of the states is an objective that faces enormous difficulty in the Muslim Middle East today. This place, in Samir Amin’s acerbic phrase, has long been ruled by “a General who proved to be an assassin by nature, a junior police officer specialized in torture, or a king who built perpetually dark dungeons, a chief of a tribal pyramid or a religious extremist” (2002). To bring democracy from the outside will definitely face a stiff resistance and in the short-term, instability might ensue.

The so-called “war against terrorism” by the US has definitely not helped in improving the prospect of a democratic transition. It has even become an obstacle:

The US itself has set a bad example by attempting to introduce elements of military justice in dealing with terrorism. The expectation by the West that Islamist extremists will be rounded up in the global war against terrorism has been greeted with glee by many authoritarian government in the region….The current turn of events, by further constricting human rights and democratic liberties, may exacerbate this trend rather than help solve the political problems that have been given to rise to religious extremism. (Dalacoura 2002)
This situation has even convinced other scholars that the US and other Western powers have no desire to see the region in peace and free of dictators (Amin 2002, Richards 2003). One author contends that this is due to the post-9/11 policy shifts in the United States that ensured any despot who resolutely pursued violent enemies of the United States could depend upon US support (Richards 2003, 70). A more radical view argues that:
The permanent state of war imposed in the region by Israel and the western power supporting its project in turn constitutes a powerful motive for further perpetuation of the autocratic regimes of the Arab countries. This blockage of a possible democratic evolution weakens the opportunities for revival in the Arab world, thereby paving the way for the deployment of the dominant capital and the hegemonic strategy of the United States. (Amin 2002)
One might argue that it is exactly to avoid this situation that Halliday insists on a multilateral approach. He failed however to elaborate how this particular step will be put in effect and who will be the key actors. Failing on this, he also did not confront two questions that are also important in any policy discussion on the Muslim Middle East: Should secularism and development in the Middle East be brought in from the outside? Are Muslim societies and polities incapable of changing their own societies for the better?

At the start, it was stated that this review essay intends to find out whether Halliday’s and Lewis’s works promote a critical understanding of Islam and the current conflicts in the Muslim Middle East. After grappling with the arguments of both authors, it could be said that they offer well-reasoned disquisition on Islam and the Muslim Middle East. Yet, they were hard put to come up with views that can show the reader the possible coordinates where the desire of the peoples of the Muslim Middle East for freedom, democracy and development will meet with similar forces from the outside. One can only hope that the congruence of these forces is still possible, that they will be able to resist the imperialists and the radical Islamists who wanted to transform the region into their own intolerant images. —Joel F. Ariate Jr., University Research Associate, Third World Studies Center, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines-Diliman


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