2003 December 02 Tuesday
Lee Kuan Yew On The Western Response To Islamic Terrorism

Jim Miller points to a column by Fareed Zakaria where Zakaria interviews Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore on terrorism.

“The Europeans underestimate the problem of Al Qaeda-style terrorism,” he said. “They think that the United States is exaggerating the threat. They compare it to their own many experiences with terror—the IRA, the Red Brigade, the Baader-Meinhof, ETA. But they are wrong.”

HE WENT ON: “Al Qaeda-style terrorism is new and unique because it is global. An event in Morocco can excite the passions of extremist groups in Indonesia. There is a shared fanatical zealousness among these different extremists around the world. Many Europeans think they can finesse the problem, that if they don’t upset Muslim countries and treat Muslims well, the terrorists won’t target them. But look at Southeast Asia. Muslims have prospered here. But still, Muslim terrorism and militancy have infected them.”

Still, Lee sees the US response as too one-dimensional.

“The Americans, however, make the mistake of seeking largely a military solution. You must use force. But force will only deal with the tip of the problem. In killing the terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees. The queen bees are the preachers, who teach a deviant form of Islam in schools and Islamic centers, who capture and twist the minds of the young.”

But Lee recognizes that, of course, US soldiers can't burst into mosques and cart away radical preachers. There is no military strategy for dealing with fundamentalist preachers that is morally acceptable. Lee thinks the US and Europe need to present a more united bloc and he believes that German and French rhetoric critical of the US actually serves as propaganda that Islamic radicals use to recruit more terrorists.

Lee thinks the West needs to support the moderates both in rhetoric and through substantive action to provide resources to help the more moderate Muslims. But I see Lee's advice and Bush's democratization campaign to be incompatible to some extent. If, for instance, elections were held in Saudi Arabia it is quite possible that the populace of Saudi Arabia would vote in a government that was even more fundamentalist than the one they currently have. Jordan, Syria, and Egypt similarly would probably get more Islamic governments if they had truly free elections.

The US needs a strategy to deal with the Islamists that has many more dimensions to it:

  • Defund the Saudis and Iranian Mullahs. Engage in a massive program to fund basic research in a large range of energy technologies with the goal of developing energy sources that are cheaper than oil from the Middle East.
  • Change and toughen immigration policy rules and enforcement to reduce the flow of Muslims into both Europe and the United States. Make it much easier to deny permanent residency and citizenship to anyone of questionable loyalties.
  • Fund secular education in the Muslim countries. Note that the Bush Administration has begun to provide educational funding in Pakistan and Indonesia. But it is not clear how that money will be spent.
  • Fund more radio stations and satellite TV stations to present facts and ideas that counter the propaganda that regional Muslim media put out.
  • Fund new Middle Eastern studies departments in universities that do not get any funding from Middle Eastern sources and which do not have faculties that are radical and hostile to the United States. Our government needs to be able to recruit people who understand the Middle East and Islam whose primary loyalties are to the United States. That is hard to do given the way American academia works now.
  • Provide large financial incentives and training to US diplomats, intelligence agents, and soldiers to develop fluency in Arabic and other languages spoken in Muslim countries.
  • Pursue a more effective strategy of preemption against Iran and North Korea. It is necessary to prevent the eventual spread of nuclear weapons into so many hands or else terrorist use of such weapons will become much more likely.
Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 December 02 09:21 AM  Terrorists Western Response


Comments
Dan Van Zile said at December 2, 2003 3:06 PM:

Not a bad article on the whole, except for the one glaring error "defund Saudi Arabia", He got it reversed Saudi Arabia actually subsidizes the US,with their purchases of T- Bills, bonds and stock purchases. Also regarding nuclear proliferation, Im afraid the genie is either out of the bottle already or soon will be, this is not a good thing but life is like that. Dan

Randall Parker said at December 2, 2003 3:24 PM:

I am the one who argues for defunding the Saudis.

In many recent years the Saudis have been running deficits and therefore must have been net sellers of their assets. Their population has been growing and their oil income has not kept pace. Therefore per capita GDP is about a fourth or fifth of what it was at its peak almost 30 years ago. So, no, the Saudis do not subsidize the US.

Replacing the whole world's reliance on oil with some other energy source would reduce the amount of money available to fund terrorism and to spread Islam.

The genie getting out of the bottle: We can slow the rate at which nuclear weapons spread. I'd rather see cities get nuked later rather than sooner.


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