Friday, December 08, 2006

Winds of War: The Theater of the Democracy Wars

“The strategic decision to carry out 9/11 was made in the early 1990s, almost ten years before the barbaric attacks on New York and Washington took place. The decade-long preparations—and the testing of America’s defenses and political tolerance to terrorism that took place before September 11th—were a stage in the much longer modern history of the jihadist movement that produced al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers. Decades from now, historians will discover that the United States, the West and the international community were being targeted by a global ideological movement which emerged in the 1920s, survived World War II and the Cold War, and carefully chose the timing of its onslaught against democracy.”

This quote is from an article written by Dr. Whalid Phares in the New Media Journal. In it she does an excellent job of describing the thereafter of war that the democracies will have to fight within over the next few decades. She identifies the current and future battlefields of the theater of war. Here are some brief details. Read it all.

Today, U.S.-led forces in Iraq are battling al-Qaeda and other Salafi forces in the so-called “Sunni Triangle.” In the south, meanwhile, Coalition forces have engaged Iranian-supported militias, such as Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. U.S. and Iraqi forces will continue to battle on both of these fronts, in Iraq’s center and south.

The consolidation of the Karzai government in Kabul is essential to American strategy, both as a bridge to a younger generation of Afghans and as a counterweight to the appeal of the Taliban. Al-Qaeda is committed to preventing such a development. It has a vested interest in causing the country’s post-Taliban government to fail, and in preventing a new generation of citizens from being exposed to non-Salafi teachings.

Many of the components of the worldwide war with jihadism are concentrated in Pakistan. So far, Pakistan’s radical Islamists have been able to block their government from taking back control of the country’s western tribal areas and uprooting the fundamentalist organizations in its east. But potentially even more dangerous is the possibility that jihadists could take control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

A major shift in south Asia will not only impact Afghanistan and Pakistan, but is likely to spill over into Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern Philippines, with ripple effects on U.S. allies Australia, Thailand, and India. The U.S. will be deeply and adversely affected by the expansion of jihadism in Asia.

While the Salafi threat is likely to extend east into Asia, Khomeinism is likely to expand westward, from Iran to southern Lebanon via Iraq’s Shi’ite areas and Syria’s Alawite-dominated regime.

Ever since Hafez al-Assad chose to permit Iran to expand its influence in Lebanon, a Syrian-Iranian axis has existed in the region.2 During the Cold War, Damascus was able to outmaneuver the U.S. on a number of fronts, chief among them Lebanon.

Since the 1970s, Lebanon has been a key battlefield between the forces of terror and the West. The country houses a dense conglomeration of anti-democratic forces, ranging from Hezbollah to pro-Syrian groups to extreme Salafists.

Sudan and the Horn of Africa
All the indications suggest that al-Qaeda is planning to open a new battlefield in Africa. In the speeches of Bin Laden and other Islamist leaders, Sudan represents a central arena of confrontation with the infidels, and a major launching pad for world jihad. The jihadists aim to thwart the international community in Darfur and reignite a holy war in southern Sudan.

With the Madrid and London attacks, the many plots foiled in Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, the violence in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, the French “intifada” and the “Cartoon Jihad,” Europe has well and truly become the next battlefield. Transatlantic cooperation could give way to tensions between America and its European partners, as European jihadis become a danger to the United States. Indeed, jihadi penetration of Europe, particularly Western Europe, is expected to facilitate the infiltration of North America.

Since the 2002 Moscow theater hostage-taking and the subsequent Beslan school massacre, jihadism has engulfed Russia. Wahhabism has already taken hold in Russia’s southern provinces, and jihadists are thinking beyond Chechnya, toward the dismemberment of the Russian Federation. Russian strategy, for its part, has been peculiar; while Moscow has confronted fundamentalists at home head-on, it nonetheless pursues a policy of support for Iran and Syria—and, by extension, Hezbollah.

Latin America
While the Soviet legacy has mostly dissipated in Latin America, with Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba the last ailing vestige of the Cold War, it has taken just one decade for new threats to emerge. The populist regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela not only poses a challenge to liberal democracies in the region, it also serves as a conduit for foreign jihadi threats.

Finally, American security is also at risk from the north. Not only is Canada considered a passageway by which international terrorists can enter the United States, it has also become a site for the proliferation of jihadi groups.

The Home Front
For the United States, winning the War on Terror depends on two battlefields. The first is overseas, where Washington must confront jihadi forces and help allies to win their own struggles with terrorism. The second, however, is closer to home. Homeland security planners must be thinking seriously about a duo of unsettling questions. First, are jihadists already in possession of unconventional weapons on American soil, and how can the U.S. government deter them? This crucial issue tops all other challenges, for a terrorist nuclear strike on the U.S. has the potential to transform international relations as we know them. Second, how deeply have jihadist elements infiltrated the U.S. government and federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and various military commands, either through sympathizers or via actual operatives?

There you have it. Keep your eye on these battlefronts for this is where the war for democracy will be won or lost.

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