Russia suffers from Islamic terrorism. China suffers from Islamic terrorism. The USA is involved in two lethal and expensive wars against Islamic terrorism. It seems that the Obama administration is connecting the dots and beginning to deal with China on this matter. I think the same should be done with Russia. If the most destabilizing threat to our security is Osama Bin Laden´s successors armed with nuclear devices why not collaborate with nations with whom we have much more in common, than say with the Taliban, to avoid this threat. Moreover these nations are geographically much closer to the epicenter of Islamic violence than USA and in the case of Russia have fought the same enemies as the USA. And there many other reasons to collaborate beyond the real, yet not probable threat, of massive nuclear terrorism. Russia and China were communist dictatorships. Now they are capitalist and autocratic – not yet democracies in our sense of the word, but certainly much closer to us than in the 70s. This evolution alone seems to be a move in the right direction and reason enough for closer ties. With Bush, I had the feeling that the old hawks running foreign policy just could not accept that Russia and China had greatly changed for the better. With Obama and Clinton, we may realize that the era of forcing others to be like you is over and a new year of “we both have our flaws but we can still be friends” is here. Moreover, in the “terrible abuses” competition, the USA is up there as well. As far as human rights are concerned, with the death penalty, Guantanamo, Abu Gharb and air bombings of civilian populations, there´s more harm that has been done by the USA than Russia and China combined in the last 20 years. So let´s be friends.
In May 2004, two months after the March 11th attack, I had the idea to have a global summit on March 11th, 2005 in Madrid. Little did I know that the summit would actually happen and be a major success. When Kofi Annan chose our conference to announce the United Nations’ strategy against terrorism it became apparent to me that a lot of coordinated work, especially between Europe and the United States, was needed in this matter. Subsequently, quite a bit of it happened at the conference sponsored by Club de Madrid and my foundation, the Safe Democracy Foundation. Now in mid 2005, a few months past the summit, I wonder if we should do a follow up conference next year. I hesitate… and not only because of the logistical nightmare that is involved in organizing summits like this. March 11th 2005 was my first summit and it was not easy for my foundation and Club de Madrid to organize. The main reason for my hesitation is that I wonder if terrorism will continue to be such an important phenomenon for years to come as many people may think. I happen to err on the side of optimism. I do, however, think that the issue of nuclear terrorism and this subject alone, may deserve a conference.
At our conference on global terrorism -attended by Kofi Annan and 34 heads of state- there were two schools of thought on the future of Al Qaida: the optimists, who thought that Al Qaida had been dealt a lethal blow and that it was unlikely that it would strike again in Europe or America; and the pessimists, who thought that more attacks were only around the corner. Now we know: the pessimists won. Today, we have a carnage, dozens dead, hundreds wounded, families and hearts broken. I write this article only after a few hours after the attack, with a lot of the evidence not out yet, but I assume that this was another “friends of Al Qaida” attack “a la Madrid” and that probably terrorists will soon demand that the UK leave Iraq. The question is then, should the UK follow Spain and leave Iraq or not?
The attacks of 9/11 reminded us of humans’ seemingly inexhaustible imagination and capacity to kill innocent lives. What was unthinkable one day, became reality the next. Today, in the back of everyone’s mind lies the irrepressible fear that one day, terrorists will orchestrate an attack that would make 9/11 look like a Saturday night brawl. What would happen if Al Qaeda dropped a nuclear warhead on Chicago or New York City and kill a million people? How would the US retaliate?
What are, in your opinion, the leading causes of international Islamic terrorism?
Terrorists are power entrepreneurs who believe in using violence to achieve political objectives. This is true of all terrorists.
In general terrorism is defeated by providing an alternative way for thse power entrepreneurs to join the political scene. In Latin America many former terrorists or terrorist sympathizers of the 70s and 80s have become elected officials in the 90s as dictatorships gave way to democracy. I believe that the same will be true of the Islamic World. Once the Islamic world becomes democratic and terrorist leaders are offered less costly ways to gain power they will choose them and the problem will die out.