Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fighting for what?

I keep a mental list of things I don't understand. It's long, and it's getting longer. But here's one I've been mulling over for a few days: terrorism, jihad, and the mujahideen. I certainly don't understand what about dieing in a blaze of glory, while taking out bystanders, civilians, women and children is attractive about the martyrdom promised by bin Laden. More specifically though, I don't know what the "jihadists" are fighting for.

Sure, they're fighting against America. Against our presence in Saudi Arabia, against our military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are against our support for Israel. Oddly enough, they had no problem when we supplied the Taliban and other militias in Afghanistan with billions of dollars to fight the Soviet Army. They have no problem with the United States providing as much aid to Egypt as we do to Israel. They have no problem in allowing Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other oil producing states in the Gulf reap BILLIONS of dollars a year from U.S. (and British and Spanish) oil consumers. They have no problem when these same states use the money to build lavish palaces for the royal families while not investing in schools, hospitals, or opportunities for their entire populace.

So what are the jihadists fighting for?

Any student of politics or war (because they're really extensions of each other. Ask Clauswitz.) can tell you that pursuing a negative campaign wont achieve much. In case there are doubts, look at how successful the Democrats and Republicans have been at achieving their political agendas lately in the U.S. Both are pursuing a "not what the other guy wants" strategy, and so that's what's been achieved: nothing.

In the latest installment of a long chain of bin Laden videos, he suggests there should be a truce between the West and al Qaeda. (I didn't know that a state could achieve a truce with a network, (Oh no,...not ORACLE!!!) but that's beside the point.)

"In this truce, both parties will enjoy security and stability and we will build Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the war"
I'm going to have to call you on that on Osama. I don't think most people around the world would rather have a country rebuilt by al Qaeda and the Taliban when given the option of having the western world involved. Both sides have a track record, so let's compare. Maybe I'm wrong.
Countries built/rebuilt/influence by al Qaeda and the Taliban:
2004 GDP per capita: $800. It's on the rise this year thanks to a good poppy (opium) crop. Even the CIA lists opium as Afghanistan's most common crop.
Median Age: less than 18
Literacy: 36% (21% of women).

GDP per capita: $2,100 (up over $1,000 per person since 1996 when GDP/capita was
$794. 1998 marked the end of significant al Qaeda ties to Sudan's government after the embassy bombings and subsequent U.S. strike against AQ forces in Sudan).
Median Age: 18
Literacy: 61.1% (50% of women)

Countries rebuilt by U.S./the West:
GDP per Capita: $30,400 (up from approximately zero, when Japan surrendered to the U.S. in 1945)
Median Age: 42
Literacy: 99%

GDP per Capita: $29,700 (up from near zero at the end of World War Two, and even though the West of the country has suffered significant economic challenges since reunification with the East 14 years ago).
Median age: 42
Literacy: 99%

One question: who's track record do you think people around the world would rather trust? The success and resources of the United States and the Western world, or the history and resources the Taliban?

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