We try to steer away from too much discussion of the "War on Terror," partly because the very mention of the topic tends to turn otherwise sensible people into frothy-mouthed goons.
But there's no avoiding the importance of 9/11 (and its aftermath) to nearly every topic of Worldchanging concern. This makes new, illuminating views on the meaning and implcations of the WoT of direct and major interest to us. One example: this analysis of al-Qaeda's strategy, and the extent to which its aims have been realized during the Iraq War.
"After the Iraq War, Bin Laden is more popular than George W. Bush even in a significantly secular Muslim country such as Turkey. This is a bizarre finding, a weird turn of events. Turks didn't start out with such an attitude. It grew up in reaction against US policies.
"It remains to be seen whether the US will be forced out of Iraq the way it was forced out of Iran in 1979. If so, as al-Zawahiri says, that will be a huge victory. A recent opinion poll did find that over 80 percent of Iraqis want an Islamic state. If Iraq goes Islamist, that will be the biggest victory the movement has had since the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. An Islamist Iraq might well be able ultimately to form a joint state with Syria, starting the process of the formation of the Islamic superstate of which Bin Laden dreams. If the Muslim world can find a way to combine the sophisticated intellectuals and engineers of Damascus and Cairo with the oil wealth of the Persian Gulf, it could well emerge as a 21st century superpower."
This war is remaking the world, and not neccessarily for the better. Other options for the U.S. -- a renewed dedication to multilateral action and international cooperation, a remaking and downsizing of our military, a commitment to attacking the root causes of terror -- yet remain, but the window of opportunity to pursue them may be shrinking. Still, the question remains: How will the work of changing the world itself have changed when the dust settles here?
The dust is not going to settle for the rest of our lives.
Might want to take a look at www.thomaspmbarnett.com and http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas, both of whom are thinking about the implications of global terrorism, ad hoc groups which can amplify their destruction enormously through technology.
Barnett has written a book called _The Pentagon's New Map_ which advises that the ultimate tactic to derail global terror is to raise per capita income around the world to at least $3000 per annum. John Robb of globalguerrillas is looking at the way terror groups organize and strategize, identifying the weaknesses and targets of opportunity in the "civilized" world so we can be forewarned and, hopefully, forearmed.
I agree with gmoke: this dust probably won't settle in our lifetimes--that is, if you are about 30 or older. I suppose that given the potential for increased lifespans, some 20-somethings with particular combinations of luck, money and perkiness might ride out a century that ends with this current incarnation of millennia-spanning clashes of worldviews laid to rest for a while.
Also, as hard as it is for those of us in the States who disagree with current policies to look beyond our political situation, let's keep in mind that it's not just a question of what the U.S. does, even if the heavy weight of the U.S. economy and military relative to other nations continues to dominate.
For those of us devoted to progressive change in environmental, technological and social justice arenas, I think these are the big challenges moving forward, and very much welcome other's thoughts on them:
1. Gathering and maintaining progressive momentum on these issues in the face of totalizing fear (or at least attempts to create totalizing fear).
2. Finding resources with which to do our work and lead reasonably secure lives in a period of economic flux and diverted funding.
3. Coping with intensified surveillance, and the likely crackdown, or at least attempts to crack down, on internet networks and other forms of electronic communications. We are relying on these media heavily, and why not? They are cheap to use in most ways, they are well-suited to collaboration, attaining a high degree of competence in deploying them is relatively easy, and one easily gets the feeling that one is doing something when one works on an internet project. But these tools are not inherently progressive, and some restrictions and surveillance is likely to be part of any effective anti-terrorist effort.
I'd recommend a recent New Yorker article, The Terror Web by Lawrence Wright, on how international jihadists are using the internet:
4. A lack of flexible and new thinking on the part of traditional environmental and progressive political allies in this arena (which, of course, resources like Worldchanging are helping to correct!).
I think that if we really believe that climate change (or pesticides, or mass species extinctions) are equally or more destabilizing than terrorism over the long haul, we are extra-special challenged now to make that case and do the great work of turning those things around.
It's a whole new dimension of devotion and comittment.
"..which advises that the ultimate tactic to derail global terror is to raise per capita income around the world to at least $3000 per annum..."
5 words for you:
"Fifteen of the Nineteen Hijackers"
Keep that in mind next time...