Why has the legendary "Arab street" become so silent?
Columnist Charles Krauthammer's analysis about developments in our war against terrorism is headed with a question: "Why is the 'Arab street' silent?" His answer: Because a radical Muslim fantasy has met reality.
The writer notes that the western world has not fought a serious religious war in 350 years. Thus the first reaction to the declaration of holy war on Sept. 11 was to be appalled, impressed and intimidated. Appalled by the primitivism, impressed by the implacability, intimidated by the fanaticism.
Reflecting on the Sept. 11 atrocities, he comments: "Intimidation was pervasive during the initial hand-wringing period. What have we done to inspire such rage? What can we do? Sure, we can strike back, but will that not just make the enemy even more angry and determined and fanatical? How can you defeat an enemy who thinks he's on a mission from God?
"We (Americans) were from the beginning a little too impressed. There were endless warnings that making war on a Muslim nation would succeed only in recruiting more enraged volunteers for Osama bin Laden, with a flood of fierce mujahedin going to Afghanistan to confront the infidel. Western experts warned that the seething 'Arab street' would rise up against us.
"Look around. The Arab street is deathly quiet. The mobs, exultant on Sept. 11 and braying for American blood, have gone home. There are no recruits headed to Afghanistan to fight the infidel. The old recruits, battered and beaten and terrified, are desperately trying to sneak their way out of Afghanistan.
"The reason is simple. We won. Astonishingly. Destroying a regime 7,000 miles away, landlocked and almost inaccessible, in nine weeks. The logic of victory often eludes the secular West.
"This gave rise to the initial soul-searching, the magazine covers plaintively asking WHY DO THEY HATE US? The feeling that we might be responsible for the hatred directed against us suggested that we should perhaps seek to assuage and placate. But there is no assuaging those who see your very existence as a denial of the faith and an affront to God.. There is only war and victory."
Neither Krauthammer nor any person in a position of authority in America is foolish enough to believe this "war" is won because of the turning of the tide by the seek, strike and destroy successes in Afghanistan. As Krauthammer puts it:
"This is the invasion of Normandy; we still must enter Berlin. The terrorists still have part of their infrastructure. They still have their sleeper cells. They can still, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, inflict unimaginable damage and death. Which is why eradicating the other centers of terrorism is so urgent. We can now, however, carry on with a confidence we did not have before Afghanistan. Confidence that even religious fanaticism can be defeated, that despite its bravado, it carries no mandate from heaven."
Just as Americans and their allies were badly shaken by the events of Sept. 11, so must the Islamic extremists and their terrorist companions be jolted by the way the United States struck back. The fact is, bin Laden and others like him did not reckon with the ferocity and efficiency with which America would respond.
Says Krauthammer: "After Afghanistan there can be no doubt. In the land of jihad, the fall of the Taliban and the flight of al-Qaida are testimony to the god that failed."
Back to the original premise: "a radical Muslim fantasy has met reality."
Such has been the ultimate fate of virtually every kind of fanaticism, religious or otherwise, where the goal is not grievance, redress and compassion but ascendancy.