|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Never Intervene In A Muslim Country
By Alamgir Hussain PhD
November 22, 2006 – When the UN-led forces drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan, I was indignant at the United States, like the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide. However, it was not long afterwards that my perception totally changed. During their five-year rule, the Taliban robbed the dignity and future of the entire women of Afghanistan. All sorts of human rights violations, along with the introduction of cruel and often barbaric Sharia laws, caused immense sufferings for the people of Afghanistan.
Desperate economic conditions and hardship drove as many as 25 percent of the entire population to refugee camps in neighboring countries, notably in Pakistan. Had the Taliban continued to rule the country, nobody knows how many people would today have been left inside Afghanistan.
With the removal of the Taliban, women got universal rights to education, jobs and other kinds of human rights. Foreign aid poured in and reconstruction of the war-ravaged country resumed, and Afghan refugees from neighboring countries started returning home in great numbers. In the 1970s and early 80s, Afghanistan was one of the most liberal Muslim nation in the world. There was a hope in my mind that the Afghans were on their way back to the good old days and would emerge as a prosperous, democratic and peaceful nation.
But when the United States decided to ouster Saddam Hussein, my enthusiasm was rather lukewarm. Saddam Hussein was no less a harmful ruler for the Iraqis and the neighbors. But the US should probably have settled things in Afghanistan before intervening in Iraq.
Now I see the intervention in Iraq was a mistake – not on the moral, but the practical, ground. All indications say that Afghanistan intervention was also a mistake on the same ground. There are too many tragic problems in Muslim countries that need to be fixed by the international community - unfortunately, they are just not fixable.
The UN and the US were naïve in not learning from the failed intervention in Somalia in 1993. Somalia was a huge disaster and the US disappointed many people by withdrawing after suffering around 50 casualties at the hands of the al-Qaeda fighters. I thought the United States should not have given in to the brutality of the terrorists so easily. Perseverance would have eventually made the US victorious and Somalis would have been benefited.
Subsequently, violent terrorist activities by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and numerous other Islamist groups, increased dramatically. The withdrawal of the United States from Somalia was blamed for emboldening al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups. That said, looking back we realize that President Clinton was right in pulling out of Somalia.
It is my belief that the problems in Muslim countries cannot be fixed by outside intervention, howsoever dire the crisis or noble the intervention might be. We should have learned this lesson from the Somalia experience. Withdrawal from Somalia should have acted as benchmark for future actions.
The Russian experience in Afghanistan was also another lesson, but instead we blamed the US for abandoning the Afghans after the Russians withdrawal. The country spiraled into a disastrous civil war. The US should have fixed the problem before leaving.
But today, I realize that the US did the right thing by leaving. Had the US stayed on in Afghanistan after the Russian withdrawal, the terrorists would have immediately targeted their weapons at the Americans.
Jihadists from across the world would have continued to poor in to drive the American infidels out. The Americans departed leaving the Afghans to take care of their homes without interference. Even then, the US could not avert the wrath of the Islamists. The US went to Somalia for the noble cause of bringing law and order to the civil-war stricken country, but instead got terribly pounded by Osama's al-Qaeda, whom the United States' had never harmed but only helped. The United States suffered multiple other attacks by al-Qaeda in Africa and elsewhere before the worst nightmare of 9/11 (2001) descended within her own.
Striking the world's greatest power - that holds the capacity to destroy the entire planet scores of times - so violently within her boundary was a blow to the pride of the US, and difficult to digest.
Americans, including Clinton, lost their sanity and failed to rationally reflect on the Somalia experience that had occurred a mere eight years earlier. Arrogant desire to squash Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and their Taliban ally overwhelmed the Americans. Probably, there was that humane desire to help the devastated people of Afghanistan too. There was that guilt in the minds of the ideologues in Washington for leaving the Afghans alone after the Russian withdrawal, which caused extreme misery and hardship.
With the result being, as we know, the US went into Afghanistan and dislodged the Taliban from power.
Some Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters died, others took refuge in the mountains, and yet others found shelter and assistance from across the border inside Pakistan. President Musharraf promised to squash the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. Afghanistan looked rather quiet and peaceful for the first one or two years except some stray incidences of violence. And with President Bush and his advisors thinking that Afghanistan was now in order, they turned their attention to Saddam Hussein. Since deadly fanatics like the Taliban and al-Qaeda were squashed so easily and with so little cost, removing Saddam for the good of the Iraqi people - and for creating a friendly partner in Iraq - must have looked like an attractive and noble mission for the conservative ideologues in Washington. The disastrous situation that ensued is only to evident for all to see.
There is now no scope of doubt in anyone's mind that the Iraq intervention was a grave mistake. Behind the rhetoric and hopeful views, President Bush and his advisors of the Iraq war definitely realize the same. Even Henry Kissinger, an architect of the Vietnam War and President Bush's advisor for the Afghanistan and Iraq said in a recent AP article that "Military victory is no longer possible in Iraq today." [ AP, 20 Nov 2006].
The Afghanistan invasion was also an equally big mistake. NATO-led UN forces in Afghanistan are increasingly unlikely to succeed. After the Iraq invasion, the Jihadists found a more fertile, secure and welcoming ground in Iraq and headed there instead of Afghanistan. The Iraq war has given the Afghans some temporary respite. The US forces are poised to leave Iraq soon and the Jihadists' next destination will be Afghanistan. NATO is seeking reinforcement, but that is not likely to work. Reinforcement will put more troops within the reach of the Jihadists. It will cause greater distress for the Jihadists, but the death-counts of foreign troops will also rise. A stronger foreign force can only cause the conflict to be prolonged and increase casualties on either side, with the end result being the Jihadists will be the ones to eventually prevail.
The Washington architects of these wars were probably too carried away by the stunning success of the United States after the WWII in replacing tyranny with democracy, peace and prosperity in Japan and Germany. The interventions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo were also successful in bringing law and order and reconstruction and reconciliation was moving on well.
These hopeful cases of foreign interventions might have inspired the architects of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but they failed to realize that they were going to deal with Muslims here unlike the Buddhists in Japan and Christians in Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Muslims are involved in the Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo conflicts, but only to benefit in achieving autonomy and even independence from these interventions, while the native Christians have everything to loose. It is a situation like the assistance of the United States to the Islamists in Afghanistan. So long as the Islamists need help in achieving their goals at the cost of the Christians' interests would the UN forces would be welcome. Once the goal is achieved, Jihad will start against the foreign interveners, if not withdrawn immediately.
After the midterm election, the victorious Democrats are pushing for an early withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. This is an excellent opportunity that President Bush should grab immediately. Victory is simply not achievable in Iraq. The longer the US stays, the higher will be the price in both life and costs. Taking the troops out of Iraq under the pressure from the Democrats will save lives and money. President Bush will also have an opportunity to shift some blame of the failure and of the quagmire upon the Democrats. This will be the best opportunity to salvage the short-term prospect of the Republican Party at home. The way the Jihadist insurgency is shaping up the Afghanistan mission is also doomed to fail. The US must also exit from Afghanistan as early as possible.
The international community must learn from the lessons of the Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq interventions that they must never intervene in Muslim countries. There are too many problems and they are just not fixable. A humanitarian effort to fix them only makes the situation worse for the world. The UN's effort to bring law and order to Somalia invited the Jihadists - and the subsequent withdrawal of US-led forces resulted in the emboldening, strengthening and multiplication of Jihadist forces. The interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have made the world a more dangerous place vis-à-vis the Jihadist threats. Intervention in non-Muslim countries, such as in Liberia, Haiti, Serbian Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, etc., brings democracy, peace and prosperity - but the same in Muslim countries turns the world into a more dangerous place.
Kofi Annan of the UN is forcefully insisting on sending troop to Sudan and a resolution has already been passed. If the world has learned the necessary lesson, they must keep away from Sudan. Al-Qaeda has already warned against sending foreign troop to Sudan. If the UN sends foreign troops there, there is no doubt that it will invigorate the Jihadists further.
Experiences from Somalia to Iraq tell us that every Muslim is a potential recruit for al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist group. Leave the Muslim world alone. Islam is the all-encompassing perfect code of life for the Muslims. Muslims know how to live best by themselves. The outside world needs to learn to be impassive about what happens inside the Muslim world.
Alamgir Hussain (PhD) is an author in " Beyond Jihad – Critical Voices from Inside " (Academica Press).