Transcript: Robert Fulford on A World Reconfigured | Nov 16, 2003

Robert Fulford stands behind a wooden lectern in an auditorium.
He's in his sixties with gray hair and balding. He wears a white shirt, brown tie, a maple brown sweater underneath a light brown blazer and glasses.

A caption on screen reads "Robert Fulford, Journalist. A world reconfigured: politics and perceptions since 9-11. University of Toronto, October 30, 2003."

Robert says MOST OF THE
WORLD AGREES, I THINK, THAT
SEPTEMBER 11th 2001 HAS THROWN A
SHADOW FAR INTO THE FUTURE.
ASIDE FROM THE HORROR EVERYONE
REMEMBERS, IT'S THIS HISTORIC
QUALITY THAT COMPELS OUR
PERSISTENT ATTENTION.
WE HOPE THAT BY THINKING ABOUT
WHAT HAPPENED ON THAT MORNING,
IN NEW YORK, WASHINGTON AND
RURAL PENNSYLVANIA, AND ABOUT
THE EVENTS THAT HAVE FLOWN...
FLOWING FROM IT, WE CAN LEARN
SOMETHING OF OUR DESTINY, OF OUR
FUTURE PERHAPS.
BUT THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY THE
CASE.
THE MORE CAREFULLY WE STUDY
HISTORY, IT SEEMS TO ME, THE
MORE WE NOTICE ITS HABIT OF
UNFOLDING AS A SERIES OF
IMPROVISATIONS THAT OFTEN
SURPRISE EVEN THE PRINCIPAL
ACTORS.
TOWARD THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR,
LINCOLN WROTE, QUOTE I CLAIM NOT TO
HAVE CONTROLLED EVENTS, BUT
CONFESS PLAINLY THAT EVENTS HAVE
CONTROLLED ME. UNQUOTE
IT SEEMS LIKELY THAT GEORGE W.
BUSH, HOWEVER WELL OR BADLY HIS
PROJECT DEVELOPS, WILL, AT THE
END OF HIS PRESIDENCY, FEEL MUCH
THE SAME.
WE SHOULD READ HISTORY.
WE RIGHTLY READ HISTORY, I SAY
FOR THE COMPLICATED PLEASURES IT
PROVIDES FOR INSIGHT INTO
HUMANITY UNDER THE PRESSURE OF
EVENTS, FOR FRAGMENTS OF WISDOM
IT SOMETIMES LEAVE US BEHIND IN
OUR BRAINS, BUT I THINK IT'S
DOUBTFUL, IT'S DOUBTFUL WHETHER
HISTORY OFFERS A GUIDE TO THE
FUTURE, OR A WAY TO SAVE
OURSELVES FROM ERROR.
ONE OF THE GREAT SINS OF
MARXISM, I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT,
WAS IT'S PROPAGATION OF THE IDEA
THAT HISTORY WORKS IN PATTERNS,
AND THAT BY ANALYSING THE
PATTERNS OF THE PAST, WE CAN
SOMEHOW UNDERSTAND THE
TENDENCIES OF THE FUTURE.
TO ME, THAT WAY OF THOUGHT
ENCOURAGES US TO USE THE WORD
INEVITABLE, WHICH, IN MY
EXPERIENCE, ALMOST ALWAYS
PRECEDES A SERIOUS BLUNDER.
ORATORS USED TO LOVE QUOTING
SANTAYANA'S REMARK ABOUT THOSE
WHO CANNOT REMEMBER THE PAST
BEING CONDEMNED TO RELIVE IT.
YET THERE'S SOMETHING VAGUELY
FRAUDULENT BUILT INTO THAT
NOTION, A FALSE PROMISE OF
SUCCESS.
SO FAR AS I CAN SEE, THOSE WHO
DO REMEMBER THE PAST OFTEN COME
TO JUST AS BAD AN END AS THOSE
WHO DON'T.
WAS THERE EVER A CLASS OF HUMAN
BEINGS BETTER SCHOOLED IN
HISTORY THAN THE YOUNG MEN WHO
EMERGED FROM THE GREAT
UNIVERSITIES OF BRITAIN AND
GERMANY LATE IN THE 19th, AND
EARLY IN THE 20th CENTURIES?
HAVING PREPARED THEMSELVES WITH
THE GREATEST CARE, THEY SHOWED
WHAT NOW SEEMS ABSOLUTELY INSANE
EAGERNESS, TO PLUNGE
INTO THE FIRST WORLD WAR, WHICH
THEN ASTONISHED THEM, AND BROKE
ALL PRECEDENTS THAT THEY COULD
IMAGINE BY LASTING MORE THAN 4
YEARS, KILLING VAST MULTITUDES
AND NEARLY DESTROYING
UNIVERSAL...
EUROPEAN CIVILISATION.
WE COULD ARGUE THE HISTORY OF
THE WORLD, AS THEY STUDIED IT,
DID THEM NO GOOD AT ALL, IN A
PRACTICAL SENSE.
AND IT MAY HAVE HARMED THEM BY
FILLING THEIR MINDS WITH VISIONS
OF INDIVIDUAL GLORY WHICH MODERN
WARFARE HAD RENDERED MARGINAL OR
IRRELEVANT.
WHAT SEEMS CLEAR TO ME IS THAT,
HOWEVER MUCH WE PONDER THE PAST
OR THE FUTURE, IT'S THE PRESENT
THAT IS THE SOURCE OF TRUE
MYSTERY IN OUR LIVES.
IT'S THE PRESENT MOMENT THAT
PERSISTENTLY HIDES ITS TRUE
NATURE FROM US, FORCING US TO
LIVE MUCH OF THE TIME IN THE
MURK OF IGNORANCE.
KNOWING WHAT IS HAPPENING JUST
NOW, AT THIS INSTANT, REQUIRES
MORE INFORMATION AND ANALYTIC
POWERS THAN MOST OF US CAN EVER
MUSTER.
ONE REASON FOR THAT, I THINK, IS
THAT WE LIVE BY ASSUMPTIONS THAT
BECOME PART OF OUR BELIEF
SYSTEMS EVEN BEFORE WE
ARTICULATE THEM.
IN MOST CASES, I BELIEVE WE
UNDERSTAND SOME CONVICTIONS THAT
WE HOLD ONLY AT THE TIME
WHEN WE FINALLY REJECT THEM.
WHEN WE LIVE THROUGH A PERIOD OF
HISTORY, AND SEE ITS BELIEFS
PLAY OUT, WE BEGIN TO REALISE
WHAT IT WAS THAT WE ONCE HALF-
CONSCIOUSLY THOUGHT.
FOR INSTANCE, IT WAS ASSUMED IN
THE MIDDLE OF THE 20th CENTURY,
THAT NATIONALISM WAS NOT ONLY
DISCREDITED BY THE DISASTROUS
WARS THAT IT HAD PROVOKED, BUT
IT WAS DOOMED TO EXTINCTION
UNDER THE PRESSURE OF AN
INTERNATIONALISM THAT WAS NOW
DRAWING FRESH SUPPORT FROM
GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS, GLOBAL
TRADE, AND GLOBAL AGENCIES, MOST
NOTABLY THE UNITED NATIONS.
AROUND THE SAME TIME, WHEN I WAS
VERY YOUNG, WHEN AS CLIFF SAID,
I WAS STARTING MY CAREER AS A
GRADE 3 PERSON IN JOURNALISM, I
BELIEVE WE ALSO ASSUMED AT THAT
TIME THAT RELIGION, AS A FORCE
IN WORLD AFFAIRS WAS
DISAPPEARING.
THE DEATH OF NATIONALISM WAS A
FAVOURITE THEME OF MARSHAL
MCLUHAN IN THE 1950s AND THE
1960s.
MARSHAL MCLUHAN, THAT RENOWNED
FUTURIST, A MAN OF MANY
ADMIRABLE INSIGHTS, BUT NOT
ALWAYS A RELIABLE GUIDE TO
HUMANITY'S FATE.
MARSHALL OFFHANDEDLY DISMISSED
NATIONALISM AS A 19th CENTURY
MODE OF THOUGHT THAT COULD ONLY
DIMINISH IN POTENCY WITH THE
PASSING YEARS.
BUT EVEN AS HE WAS SAYING THAT,
AND WAS BEING TAKEN VERY
SERIOUSLY, BY PEOPLE LIKE ME,
NEW NATIONALISMS WERE BEING
BORN, AND OLD ONES REVIVED.
AND STILL OTHERS HAD TAKEN THE
FORM OF UNDERGROUND STREAMS THAT
FLOWED BENEATH NATIONS WHOSE
EXPLICIT PURPOSE INCLUDED THE
EXTINCTION OF ANCIENT NATIONAL
PASSIONS, YUGOSLAVIA BEING A
SPECTACULAR CASE, AND FOR THAT
MATTER, THE SOVIET UNION.
IN WESTERN EUROPE, IT'S TRUE,
CERTAIN NATIONALISMS HAVE BEEN
DILUTED BY CONTINENTAL UNION,
BUT NATIONALISM CONTINUES TO
LIVE A VIGOROUS LIFE IN MANY
PARTS OF THE WORLD, AND SO, OF
COURSE, DOES RELIGION.
WHO IMAGINED 30 YEARS AGO, THAT
RELIGIOUS PASSION, OFTEN ALIVE
WITH NATIONALISM, WOULD BE A
CENTRAL ELEMENT IN WORLD
POLITICS IN THE EARLY YEARS OF
THE 21st CENTURY?
A FEW DECADES AGO, AS THE GREAT
STRUCTURES OF CHRISTIANITY
CRUMBLED AND SHRANK, IT SEEMED
CLEAR TO MANY IN THE WEST, THAT
RELIGION'S GRIP ON THE HUMAN
IMAGINATION WAS RELAXING.
IT APPEARED TO BOTH SECULAR
OPTIMISTS AND RELIGIOUS
PESSIMISTS, THAT REASON WAS
MARCHING UNSTOPPABLY ACROSS THE
CULTURAL LANDSCAPE, OR AT LEAST
A VERSION OF REASON.
FAITH WAS CEASING TO BE A MAJOR
COMPONENT OF SOCIETY, WORLD
SOCIETY, OR NATIONAL SOCIETY,
AND WAS TURNING INTO A MATTER OF
PRIVATE CHOICE, ALMOST
INCIDENTAL TO POLITICS.
FEW OF US GUESSED THAT WITHIN
NORTH AMERICA, MANY NEW AGE
BELIEFS WERE ARISING, FEW SAW
THAT EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY
WAS GROWING STRONGER EVERY DAY,
NOT WEAKER, AND STILL FEWER
NOTICED THAT ISLAM WAS NOT ONLY
MAKING MILLIONS OF CONVERTS
ACROSS THE WORLD, BUT WAS
SIMULTANEOUSLY DEVELOPING
POLITICAL AMBITIONS AND
INFLUENCE.
WHO IMAGINED THAT WE WOULD BE
ARGUING, AS I'VE FOUND MYSELF
ARGUING SO OFTEN LATELY, ABOUT
THE NATURE OF ISLAM AND ITS
BELIEFS AND INTENTIONS.
IN CANADA, OUR PUBLIC DISCUSSION
OF ISLAMIC ISSUES REMAINS
SUPERFICIAL, BUT HAS ALREADY
SHOWN US MANY SURPRISES.
FOR INSTANCE, I HAVE KNOWN THE
WORD JIHAD TO MEAN HOLY WAR, FOR
40 YEARS.
BUT IN THE LAST 2 YEARS, PEOPLE
CLAIMING TO BE TRUE MUSLIMS AND
REPRESENTING THE MUSLIM
COMMUNITY, HAVE TOLD ME, AGAIN
AND AGAIN, OFTEN ON CBC PANEL
DISCUSSIONS, THAT THIS IDEA,
THIS DEFINITION OF JIHAD IS
ENTIRELY WRONG.
THAT, IN FACT, JIHAD MEANS
STRUGGLE, AN INNER STRUGGLE, A
STRUGGLE FOR GOODNESS AND
GODLINESS.
MEANWHILE OTHERS, ALSO CLAIMING
TO BE TRUE MUSLIMS, MAINTAIN
THAT IT STILL MEANS HOLY WAR,
AND IN FACT A HOLY WAR IS WHAT
THEY ARE FIGHTING.
NO ONE WITH ANY EXPERIENCE OF
CHRISTIANITY WILL BE SURPRISED
TO HEAR RELIGIOUS TERMINOLOGY
SUBJECTED TO SUCH TORTURED
INTERPRETATION.
BUT IN THE MIDST OF CRISIS,
ISLAM HAS PROVEN FOR ALL OF US,
AN ESPECIALLY SLIPPERY TOPIC.
AND YET A TOPIC NO ONE TODAY CAN
IGNORE.
DISCUSSIONS OF THIS KIND HAVE
REPLACED THE CULTURE WARS THAT
DOMINATED INTELLECTUAL ARGUMENT
IN NORTH AMERICA IN THE 1990s.
TO PUT IT ANOTHER WAY, SEPTEMBER
11th INTERNATIONALISED THE
CULTURE WARS.
INTELLECTUALS SPENT A DOZEN OR
MORE YEARS, BEGINNING AROUND
1988...
SPENT A DOZEN OR MORE YEARS
ARGUING ABOUT HOW THE YOUNG
SHOULD BE EDUCATED, WHICH IS NOT
A MINOR ISSUE, BUT SEPTEMBER
11th BURIED THAT CONTROVERSY
BENEATH ANOTHER ONE... HOW
TERROR SHOULD BE ANSWERED, AND
TO WHAT EXTENT MULTICULTURALISM
CAN ACCOMMODATE COMMUNITIES SUCH
AS THE MUSLIMS WITHIN OPEN AND
DEMOCRATIC SOCIETIES.
IN THE FIRST MONTHS AFTER
SEPTEMBER 11th, MUSLIM SPOKESMEN
MANAGED TO TURN DISCUSSION AWAY
FROM THE ACTUAL ATROCITIES AND
TOWARD THE EMOTIONAL HEALTH AND
PHYSICAL SAFETY OF THEIR CO-
RELIGIONISTS IN NORTH AMERICA.
AT THE SAME TIME, HOWEVER, A
DIVIDE, A LARGE DIVIDE, OPENED
BETWEEN MANY MUSLIMS AND MANY
OTHER ELEMENTS IN OUR SOCIETY.
AT ISSUE IS WHAT WE CONSIDER
CIVILISED, AND WHAT WE DON'T.
MANY IN THE WEST AND ELSEWHERE
ARE ONLY DRIVEN FARTHER AWAY
FROM SYMPATHETIC UNDERSTANDING
OF ISLAM, WHEN THEY LEARN THAT 7
OUT OF 10 PALESTINIANS SAY THEY
APPROVE OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS.
IN THE LAST 2 YEARS NON-MUSLIMS
AND MANY MUSLIMS AS WELL HAVE
BEEN FORCED TO LOOK BACK ON WHAT
WE KNEW ABOUT ISLAM BEFORE WE
REALISED THAT WE NEEDED TO KNOW
A GREAT DEAL MORE.
WHILE SEPTEMBER 11th HAS THROWN
ITS SHADOW FORWARD, IT'S ALSO
FORCED US TO REVISIT THE YEARS
BEFORE.
22 YEARS AGO, IN ONE OF SEVERAL
ATTEMPTS TO ACHIEVE A MODEST
LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING, I READ
V.S. NAIPAUL'S BOOK, "AMONG THE
BELIEVERS, AN ISLAMIC JOURNEY."
NAIPAUL WENT TO SEVERAL ISLAMIC
COUNTRIES, SPENT TIME WITH MANY
MUSLIM CLERICS AND LAYMEN, AND
TRIED TO CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF
THEIR CONVERSATION.
HE WROTE WITH HIS TRADEMARK
MINGLING OF CURIOSITY AND
CONDESCENSION, DISTANCING
HIMSELF FROM ISLAM AS MUCH AS HE
COULD, POUNCING ON ITS
INCONSISTENCIES.
WHAT SEEMED ODD TO ME ABOUT HIS
BOOK AT THE TIME, WAS THAT HE
HAD NO IDEA WHAT MADE ISLAM SO
APPEALING TO SO MANY, AND
APPARENTLY HAD LITTLE INTEREST
IN FINDING OUT.
IN RETROSPECT, HOWEVER, WHAT
SEEMS MUCH ODDER TO ME, IS THAT
HE WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND SOME
VERSION OF THE RELIGION HE WAS
DISMISSING WITH CASUAL EASE, WAS
CAPABLE OF SHAKING THE WORLD.
AND YET IT WAS LESS THAN 2 YEARS
FROM THE PUBLICATION OF THAT
UNWORRIED BOOK, TO OCTOBER 23rd,
1983, WHEN A SUICIDE BOMBER
DROVE A TRUCK CONTAINING 6 TONS
OF EXPLOSIVES INTO THE MARINE
BARRACKS AT BEIRUT AIRPORT.
THE EXPLOSION HE SET OFF COULD
BE HEARD 30 MILES AWAY.
IT KILLED 241 AMERICANS.
THEY WERE THERE ALONG WITH
BRITISH, FRENCH AND ITALIAN
SOLDIERS, AS PART OF A MULTI-
NATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCE
INTENDED TO PROTECT LEBANON FROM
A SYRIAN INVASION, AND ALSO TO
CONTAIN ITS CIVIL WAR.
THE KILLING OF THE MARINES WAS
THE WORK OF HEZBOLLAH, AN
ISLAMIC TERRORIST GROUP, WHICH
CONSIDERED THE PEACEKEEPERS AN
IMPEDIMENT TO ITS OWN PLANS FOR
LEBANON.
TRAGICALLY, AMONG TERRORIST
OPERATIONS, THIS WAS A GREAT
SUCCESS.
WASHINGTON WAS MORTIFIED BY THE
FAILURE TO PROTECT ITS MEN AND
HORRIFIED BY THE HUMAN COST OF
WHAT HAD SEEMED A RELATIVELY
SAFE MISSION.
UNDER CONGRESSIONAL PRESSURE,
RONALD REGAN WITHDREW U.S.
FORCES FROM LEBANON.
SINCE THAT DAY WHICH WAS 20
YEARS AND 1 WEEK AGO, LEBANON
HAS BEEN LIVING IN MISERY UNDER
SYRIA AND HEZBOLLAH, WHICH, FOR
PRACTICAL PURPOSES, ARE
INTERCHANGEABLE ENTITIES.
ONCE A PROSPEROUS AND HOPEFUL
COUNTRY CONTAINING THE PARIS OF
THE MIDDLE EAST, AS THEY CALLED
BEIRUT, IT IS NOW A FAILURE IN
ALL CONCEIVABLE WAYS.
THAT TRUCK BOMB COULD HAVE BEEN
SEEN BY WASHINGTON AS A
DECLARATION OF WAR, AND PERHAPS
THERE WERE THOSE WHO UNDERSTOOD
IT THAT WAY.
BUT SO FAR AS THE WORLD KNEW, IT
WAS A TERRORIST INCIDENT, AN
ESPECIALLY MONSTROUS ONE, BUT
ISOLATED.
I THINK WE HOPED AND ASSUMED
THAT IT WAS THE WORK OF MARGINAL
FANATICS.
THERE WERE OTHER REASONS FOR
MUFFLING ITS EFFECT ON THE
INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC.
WASHINGTON WAS MUCH MORE WORRIED
ABOUT RELATIONS WITH THE SOVIET
UNION, AND OF COURSE, SYRIA WAS
A SOVIET CLIENT.
FURTHERMORE, DIPLOMATS IN ALL
COUNTRIES UNDERSTOOD THAT TO
INTERPRET THAT BOMBING FOR WHAT
IT WAS, THAT IS IN BROAD
STRATEGIC TERMS, WOULD NOT ONLY
DISTURB AMERICAN OPINION, BUT
WOULD ALSO THREATEN STABILITY IN
THE MIDDLE EAST.
SO FOR THE MOST PART, THE
MARINES WERE FORGOTTEN,
HEZBOLLAH WAS VIEWED BY THE
AUTHORITIES WITH CONTINUOUS
SUSPICION, BUT LITTLE ELSE, AND
AS ONE OF THE SURVIVORS OF THAT
ATTACK REMARKED JUST A WEEK AGO,
THE MARINES' SACRIFICE WAS IN
VAIN.
THE GREAT PROBLEM HERE WAS THE
FAILURE TO INTERPRET THE
PRESENT.
DOZENS OF INCIDENTS FOLLOWED,
BUT NO ONE WITH MORAL AND
POLITICAL AUTHORITY CARED TO
TRACE THE LINES CONNECTING THEM.
THERE WAS NO GENERAL
UNDERSTANDING THAT A NEW KIND OF
WAR HAD STARTED.
INTELLIGENCE SERVICES WENT ABOUT
THEIR WORK, INCOMPETENTLY IN
MANY CASES, AS WE NOW KNOW.
TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS WERE
IDENTIFIED, INDIVIDUALS WERE
PROSECUTED, BUT THE WEST IN
GENERAL SAW NO WAY TO CHANGE ITS
EASYGOING...
NO REASON TO CHANGE ITS
EASYGOING WAYS.
PERHAPS THAT WAS PARTLY THE
LEGACY OF THE COLD WAR.
THE COLD WAR LASTED SO LONG,
THAT MANY OF US BEGAN TO IMAGINE
THAT IT WAS A PERMANENT
CONDITION OF LIFE.
IF WE DREAMT OF IT ENDING, THEN
WE IMAGINED, THOSE WHO COULD
STRETCH THEIR IMAGINATIONS FAR
ENOUGH TO SEE BEYOND THE COLD
WAR, WE IMAGINED THAT IT WOULD
BE FOLLOWED BY SOMETHING QUITE
DIFFERENT, A NON-WAR, NOT AT ALL
WARLIKE.
CERTAINLY THE WEST, EXHAUSTED BY
45 YEARS OF SUSPENDED NUCLEAR
TERROR, WAS UNWILLING TO
CONSIDER A NEW CONFLICT AND
THEREFORE WAS IN NO POSITION TO
NOTICE THAT A MAJOR STRUGGLE HAD
BEGUN.
A STRUGGLE IN WHICH NOT ONLY THE
ISLAMIC WORLD AND THE WEST WERE
IMPLICATED, BUT THE POPULATION
OF THE WHOLE PLANET.
SEPTEMBER 11th, 2001 WAS A
MAGNET DROPPED ON A TABLE AMONG
IRON FILINGS.
IT REARRANGED EVERYTHING THAT
SURROUNDED IT, DESTROYING THE
OLD PATTERNS, ABRUPTLY CREATING
NEW ONES.
IT TOUCHED MANY, MANY CORNERS OF
LIFE.
IF YOU TURNED TO THE BUSINESS
PAGES, EVERY AIRLINE THAT'S
THREATENED WITH BANKRUPTCY
BEGINS BY TALKING ABOUT
SEPTEMBER 11th.
ON TELEVISION WE SEE OURSELVES
WATCHING ESPIONAGE DRAMAS, NOT
ABOUT JAMES BOND-LIKE FIGURES
GOING TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
TO FIND THE EVIL GENIUSES, BUT
ABOUT PEOPLE IN A MOSQUE DOWN
THE STREET, PLOTTING BOMBS.
ABOVE ALL, OF COURSE, SEPTEMBER
11th CHANGED THE UNITED STATES,
CHANGED ITS STATUS IN THE WORLD,
ITS VIEW OF ITSELF, IT'S
RESPONSIBILITIES, IT'S POLICIES.
IT TURNED THE BUSH
ADMINISTRATION UPSIDE DOWN.
BUSH BEGAN HIS FIRST YEAR IN
OFFICE AS A NON-INTERVENTIONIST
PRESIDENT, FIXING HIS RHETORIC
WITHIN A VERSION, AN UP TO DATE
VERSION, BUT A VERSION
NEVERTHELESS, OF THE ANCIENT NO
FOREIGN ENTANGLEMENTS STYLE OF
THE AMERICANS.
THE END OF THAT FIRST YEAR NOT
ONLY ENTANGLED, IN COUNTRIES FAR
BEYOND HIS SHORES, NOTABLY
PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN, BUT
ALSO COMMITTED TO MUCH FURTHER
ENTANGLEMENTS, PERHAPS EVEN ENDLESS
ENTANGLEMENTS.
TERRORISM DID THIS TO GEORGE W.
BUSH, AND ALSO DID IT TO HIS
SUCCESSORS.
TERRORISM ALSO LED THE U.S.
TOWARD UNILATERALISM AND ALTERED
THE TOPOGRAPHY OF INTERNATIONAL
RELATIONS.
THE PROSPECT OF A WAR IN IRAQ,
WHICH TO THE AMERICANS SEEMED
THE MOST NATURAL AND NECESSARY
STEP, DROVE A WEDGE BETWEEN THE
U.S. AND TWO OLD ALLIES, GERMANY
AND FRANCE.
THEY HAD BEEN LIVING, GERMANY
AND FRANCE, FOR MORE THAN 4
DECADES UNDER THE PROTECTIVE
UMBRELLA OF AMERICAN POWER, AND
IN THAT PERIOD HAD DEVELOPED AN
ALMOST PACIFIST VIEW OF THE
WORLD.
THEY HAD COME TO SEE THE
AMERICANS AS EXCESSIVELY
BELLIGERENT AND UNREASONABLE.
NOW THE OLD FORM OF EUROPEAN
ANTI-AMERICANISM, PERFECTED IN
PARIS IN THE 10 YEARS AFTER
1945, SAW MOSCOW AND WASHINGTON
AS MORAL EQUIVALENTS, EACH OF
THEM SET ON WORLD CONQUEST.
THE NEW FORM OF ANTI-AMERICANISM
SEES IRAQ AS A KIND OF A VICTIM
OF THE U.S., NOT INNOCENT, BUT A
VICTIM NEVERTHELESS.
IT ALSO SEES THE AMERICANS AS
CARELESS, THOUGHTLESS AND
TRIGGER HAPPY.
THESE LAST 2 YEARS HAVE OPENED
UP IN EUROPE A NEW ERA OF
CONDESCENSION TOWARD AMERICA,
AND SOME EUROPEAN REACTIONS TO
POST WAR TERRORISM HAVE
CONTAINED MORE THAN TRACE
ELEMENTS OF SCHADENFREUDE.
NOR IS SCHADENFREUDE, THE HABIT
OF TAKING JOY IN THE DISCOMFORT
OF OTHERS, UNIQUELY THE RESPONSE
OF THE EUROPEANS.
I'VE OFTEN HEARD THE SOUND OF IT
IN CANADA IN THE LAST WHILE,
I'VE READ IT IN EDITORIALS, I'VE
NOTICED IT ON TV.
WHEN PETER MANSBRIDGE ON "THE
NATIONAL," INFORMED CBC VIEWERS
THAT BUSH HAD BEEN FORCED TO ASK
THE UNITED NATIONS...
ASK THE UNITED NATIONS FOR POST
WAR HELP IN IRAQ, HE CAME AS
CLOSE AS MANSBRIDGE EVER COMES
TO PUBLIC ECSTASY.
IN EUROPE, THERE WERE LOGICAL
REASONS FOR SURPRISE OVER
AMERICAN UNILATERALISM.
AFTER ALL, IT WAS THE UNITED
STATES THAT IMPORTED
MULTILATERALISM INTO EUROPE,
WHEN IT SUPPORTED THE EUROPEAN
COAL AND STEEL COMMUNITY WHICH
IS THE FORERUNNER OF THE
EUROPEAN UNION, WHEN IT MADE THE
MARSHALL PLAN CONTINGENT UPON
ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION AMONG THE
VARIOUS STATES, AND ABOVE ALL
WHEN IT DEVELOPED NATO AS A CO-
OPERATIVE DEFENSE SYSTEM.
AMERICA'S CONVERSION TO
UNILATERAL ACTION LAST WINTER...
OF COURSE IT WASN'T EXACTLY
UNILATERAL, BUT THAT'S HOW IT
SEEMED AND THAT'S HOW IT WAS
CAST... THIS LEFT EUROPE
CONFUSED AND CONFLICTED.
IT HAPPENS THAT ITALY AND SPAIN,
AS WELL AS BRITAIN, TOOK THE
AMERICAN'S SIDE.
SO AT THE MOMENT WHEN THE
EUROPEAN UNION WAS PREPARING TO
TRANSFORM ITSELF YET AGAIN WITH
THE ADMISSION OF NEW MEMBERS, IT
DISCOVERED THAT IT WAS SPENDING
ITS TIME ARGUING OVER ITS
RELATIONS WITH WHAT HAD ALWAYS
BEEN ITS BEST FRIEND, IT'S CO-
FOUNDER IN FACT, THE COUNTRY
THAT HAD, IN MANY WAYS,
ORIGINALLY CALLED THE EUROPEAN
UNION INTO BEING.
PERHAPS MORE IMPORTANT STILL,
SEPTEMBER 11th CONVERTED THE
BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO THE
CONCEPT OF THE PRE-EMPTIVE
STRIKE.
IN THE COLD WAR, THE PRE-EMPTIVE
STRIKE WAS A THEORY AND A
THREAT, NOT A REALITY, AND
CERTAINLY NOT A PRESSING
NECESSITY.
BUT IN THIS NEW ERA, WASHINGTON
SAW NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO SEARCH
OUT THE TERRORISTS BEFORE THEY
COULD ATTACK AGAIN.
THIS MEANT INTERVENTION, IT
MEANT PRE-EMPTIVE ACTION.
IRAQ WAS JUST SUCH AN ACTION ON
A GRAND SCALE.
THE U.S. SUSPECTED THAT IRAQ
HAD, OR SOON WOULD HAVE WEAPONS
OF MASS DESTRUCTION.
CERTAINLY THE EVASIVENESS OF
SADDAM HUSSEIN CONVINCED ME THAT
HE HAD THEM.
AND SEEMED TO SUPPORT EVERY
POSSIBLE SUSPICION.
IN ANY CASE, THE AMERICANS WENT
AHEAD, BELIEVING IT WAS THEIR
RESPONSIBILITY TO PREVENT A
GREAT DANGER.
MUCH OF THE WORLD WANTED TO WAIT
INSTEAD FOR CLEAR EVIDENCE.
BUT IN THE AMERICAN VIEW,
WAITING COULD BE DISASTROUS.
FOR THE AMERICANS, THIS WAS ALSO
A KIND OF SYMBOLIC WAR, A
WARNING TO OTHERS.
THEIR WAR ON IRAQ WAS THEIR WAY
OF SAYING THAT THE U.S. IN THIS
ERA WOULD NOT LONG TOLERATE
ROGUE STATES WITH NUCLEAR
WEAPONS, OR SIMILARLY DANGEROUS
INSTRUMENTS OF DESTRUCTION.
UNFORTUNATELY WASHINGTON HAS NOT
FOUND THE WORDS TO ARTICULATE
THIS DOCTRINE EFFECTIVELY.
MUCH OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN LEFT
TRYING TO INFER FROM ITS ACTIONS
WHAT IT PLANS FOR THE FUTURE.
MICHAEL IGNATIEFF IS AMONG THE
MANY COMMENTATORS WHO HAVE
COMPLAINED ABOUT THIS.
AS HE SAYS, "THE IRAQ WAR HAS
HAD SOME GOOD IMMEDIATE
CONSEQUENCES.
A TOTALITARIAN REGIME HAS
FALLEN.
THE TRUE DIMENSIONS OF SADDAM'S
TERROR STAND REVEALED IN DETAIL
FOR THE FIRST TIME.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF
FORMERLY OPPRESSED SHIITES CAN
BE SEEN MARCHING TO THEIR
SHRINE.
IRAQIS AT ALL LEVELS NOW EXPRESS
THEMSELVES WITH RELATIVE
FREEDOM.
IF SOME OF THEM USE THIS FREEDOM
TO DEMAND THAT THEIR AMERICAN
LIBERATORS GO HOME AS SOON AS
POSSIBLE, THEN THAT, TOO, SHOULD
BE SEEN AS AN ACCOMPLISHMENT OF
THE WAR.
IN SUM, AS IGNATIEFF SAYS, AND I QUOTE, IF
THE CONSEQUENCE OF INTERVENTION
IS A RIGHTS RESPECTING IRAQ IN A
DECADE OR SO, WHO CARES WHETHER
THE INTENTIONS THAT LED TO IT
WERE MIXED AT BEST. UNQUOTE.
STILL, HE GOES ON TO SAY THAT
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAS
PRODUCED NO CLEAR POLICY ON
INTERVENTION.
AFTER IRAQ, WHAT?
IGNATIEFF LOOKED FOR WHAT HE
CALLS POLICY COHERENCE.
A POLICY ON FOREIGN INTERVENTION
THAT COULD BE STATED CLEARLY AND
EXPLAINED IN A PERSUASIVE WAY TO
THE AMERICAN PUBLIC AND THE
WORLD.
BUT, SOME AMERICAN DEFENDERS, OR
DEFENDERS OF THE AMERICAN
POSITION MIGHT POINT OUT, THAT
ITS ACTIONS HAVE BEEN, OF
NECESSITY, LARGELY IMPROVISED
MONTH BY MONTH, AND NOT MUCH OF
IT CAN BE EXPRESSED AS LONG TERM
POLICY.
NOR DO THE AMERICANS FIND IT
CONVENIENT OR COMFORTABLE TO
BE ABSOLUTELY OPEN ABOUT THEIR
INTENTIONS.
IT SEEMS CLEAR THAT
DESTABILISING THE MIDDLE EAST IS
ONE MAJOR GOAL.
THEY WANT DEMOCRATIC CHANGE
THERE, AND THEY'RE WILLING TO
BET LIVES AND GREAT FORTUNES ON
THEIR CHANCE OF ACHIEVING IT.
DESTABILISING THE VARIOUS
TYRANNIES WILL BE PART OF THEIR
METHOD.
IN CANADIAN POLITICS, THE EFFECT
OF SEPTEMBER 11th HAS, OF
COURSE, BEEN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.
THE CRISIS HAS ROLLED OUT AS A
PAINFUL SERIES OF MISSTEPS,
CONTRADICTIONS, HESITATIONS,
MISUNDERSTANDINGS, AND THEN,
FINALLY, A REFUSAL BY THE
GOVERNMENT OF CANADA, WITH THE
SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE, SO FAR AS
WE CAN TELL, TO BECOME INVOLVED.
OUR NATIONAL DISCUSSIONS ARE
SLOWLY LEADING US TO AN
UNDERSTANDING OF OUR PLACE IN
THE WORLD, A NEW UNDERSTANDING,
I THINK.
SINCE THE 1960s WE HAVE BEEN
REDUCING MILITARY EXPENDITURES,
ALLOWING THE AMERICANS OR
EUROPEANS TO TAKE UP THE SLACK
IN NATO WHEN NECESSARY.
WE'VE KNOWN THAT NOTHING REALLY
BAD CAN HAPPEN TO US, BECAUSE
THE AMERICANS WON'T LET IT
HAPPEN.
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE
TRUDEAU PERIOD TO THE PRESENT,
WE HAVE NOT CONSIDERED MILITARY
PREPAREDNESS A SIGNIFICANT
ELEMENT IN THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT.
NOW WE BEGIN TO REALISE THAT
THIS HAS MADE US MORE OR LESS
IRRELEVANT IN WORLD POLITICS.
WE JOINED THE AMERICANS ON
AFGHANISTAN, AND ON THE WAR
AGAINST TERROR IN GENERAL,
PERHAPS.
AND WE DECLINED TO JOIN THEM IN
THE WAR AGAINST IRAQ.
BUT IN NEITHER CASE DID OUR
DECISION MEAN MUCH TO ANYONE
EXCEPT THE MEN AND WOMEN IN THE
ARMED SERVICES.
MEANWHILE, ANTI-AMERICANISM IN
CANADA HAS DEVELOPED TO LEVELS
NOT EXPERIENCED IN THE LAST HALF
CENTURY, AND CANADA-U.S.
RELATIONS HAVE RADICALLY
DETERIORATED.
SOMETHING ELSE REALLY STRIKING
HAS HAPPENED.
THE LIBERAL PARTY HAS CHOSEN A
NEW LEADER WHO HAS RUN FOR THE
LEADERSHIP, SO FAR AS I CAN
TELL, WITHOUT ENUNCIATING A
FOREIGN POLICY.
I DON'T BELIEVE ANYTHING LIKE
THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED BEFORE
DURING A CRITICAL PERIOD.
THE FACT THAT THIS CAN PASS
WITHOUT PUBLIC COMMENT OF ANY
LENGTH, SUGGESTS THE PLACE OF
WORLD AFFAIRS IN THE POPULAR
IMAGINATION OF THIS COUNTRY.
LAST WEEK IN A LECTURE ON
TERRORISM, VIVIAN RACKOFF QUOTED
A SAYING THAT ALL TERRORISM IS
THEATRE.
TERRORISM BY ITS NATURE MUST BE
A KIND OF PERFORMANCE.
ITS TARGETS MUST BE SYMBOLIC,
NOT SIMPLY INSTRUMENTAL.
CONSIDERED IN THIS WAY, THE
ATTACK ON ISRAELI WRESTLERS AT
THE OLYMPIC GAMES IN 1972 WAS A
PERFORMANCE ON THE WORLD STAGE,
AND IT WAS CELEBRATED BY THE
TERRORISTS FOR PRECISELY THAT
REASON.
IT WAS A DEMONSTRATION OF WHAT
COULD BE DONE.
IN THE SAME SENSE, THE PURPOSE
OF THE BOMB IN BEIRUT WAS NOT TO
KILL A CERTAIN NUMBER OF
MARINES, IT WAS TO SHOW THE
AMERICANS THEY COULD NO LONGER
STAY IN LEBANON, BECAUSE RADICAL
ISLAM WOULD MAKE THEIR LIFE
UNENDURABLE, AND MAKE THEIR
POLICY UNACCEPTABLE TO THE
PUBLIC BACK HOME.
ON A MUCH LARGER SCALE,
SEPTEMBER 11th WAS CHARGED WITH
SYMBOLISM, USING A GREAT
ACCOMPLISHMENT OF AMERICAN
TECHNOLOGY, THE COMMERCIAL
AIRLINER, TO DESTROY 2
SKYSCRAPERS, ICONS OF AMERICAN
CAPITALISM AND MATERIALISM.
IT WAS THIS INTENSE SYMBOLISM
THAT CREATED AN UNPRECEDENTED
IMPACT, AND SET IN MOTION ALL
THAT FOLLOWED.
THE GERMAN PHILOSOPHER JÜRGEN
HABERMAS REMARKED THAT LIVE TV
TRANSFORMED THIS EVENT INTO A
GLOBAL TRAGEDY, AND, AS HE PUT
IT, MADE THE WORLD POPULATION A
BENUMBED WITNESS.
HABERMAS SUGGESTED THAT,
QUOTE, PERHAPS SEPTEMBER 11th COULD BE
CALLED THE FIRST HISTORIC WORLD
EVENT IN THE STRICTEST SENSE.
THE IMPACT, THE EXPLOSION, THE
SLOW COLLAPSE, EVERYTHING TOOK
PLACE IN FRONT OF THE UNIVERSAL
EYEWITNESS OF A GLOBAL PUBLIC. UNQUOTE.
PARTLY BECAUSE OF THE UNIQUE
QUALITY THAT HABERMAS
IDENTIFIES, SEPTEMBER 11th
TURNED INTO THE ORGANISING
PRINCIPLE OF WORLD POLITICS, AND
INAUGURATED A NEW CLIMATE OF
OPINION.
IT REPLACED THE COLD WAR AS THE
POINT OF REFERENCE FOR WORLD
POLITICS.
IN A CERTAIN WAY, HOWEVER, IT
WAS MORE CONFUSING THAN THE COLD
WAR, AND PERHAPS ALWAYS WILL BE.
NO ONE WOULD, FOR A MOMENT, WISH
FOR A RETURN TO THE GEOPOLITICAL
ATMOSPHERE WE LIVED THROUGH
UNTIL THE SOVIET UNION FELL.
BUT IN A CERTAIN WAY, THE COLD
WAR WAS, BY COMPARISON, ALMOST
COMFORTABLE.
FOR ALL ITS REAL AND POTENTIAL
HORRORS, IT RESPONDED TO THE
UNIVERSAL HUMAN NEED TO SEEK
MEANING THROUGH STRUCTURE.
IT WAS, UNLIKE THE CONFLICT NOW
ENGAGING THE WORLD, IT WAS
INTELLECTUALLY COHERENT.
THE STRUGGLE INAUGURATED BY
RADICAL MUSLIMS AS I SUGGESTED,
WAS ALREADY LONG IN PROCESS
BEFORE MOST OF THE WEST BEGAN
DISCUSSING IT.
AND WHEN WE DID START TO THINK
ABOUT IT, WE HAD GREAT
DIFFICULTY NAMING IT, AND
UNDERSTANDING IT.
WAS IT PRIMARILY A RELIGIOUS
EVENT IN ORIGIN, AS MANY STATED,
OR WAS IT SOMETHING ELSE?
NO BRIEF DESCRIPTION CAN COVER
THE DIVERSE ARRAY OF IMPULSES,
BELIEFS AND DESIRES BEHIND
SEPTEMBER 11th OR BEHIND ISLAMIC
TERROR IN GENERAL.
I THINK THE CASE OF SYRIA
ILLUSTRATES THE PRINCIPLE.
NOW, SYRIA EXPORTS TERRORISM AND
WE KNOW THAT CERTAIN ISLAMIC
MOSQUES WITHIN SYRIA PREACH
TERRORISM, BUT WE CAN'T IGNORE
THE FACT THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF
SYRIA AND THE ISLAMISTS
TRADITIONALLY DESPISE EACH
OTHER.
IN 1982, SYRIA IDENTIFIED THE
ISLAMISTS, THE MUSLIM
BROTHERHOOD, AS A THREAT TO THE
NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, SO THE
PRESIDENT, HAFEZ AL-ASSAD, SENT
AN ARMY INTO HAMAH, THE CITY
THAT BECAME THEIR HEADQUARTERS.
HIS TROOPS KILLED ABOUT 10,000
PEOPLE, AND DESTROYED THE CITY.
DAMASCUS AND THE ISLAMISTS MIGHT
AGREE THAT THE U.S. AND ISRAEL
ARE BOTH EVIL, BUT BEYOND THAT,
THEY HAVE BEEN, SO FAR AS
OUTSIDERS COULD TELL, ENEMIES.
IN RECENT YEARS HOWEVER, THE
GOVERNMENT HAS ENCOURAGED
CERTAIN OF THE MOSQUES, AND THE
MOSQUES HAVE EMPHASIZED THE
INTRANSIGENT WAHHABI ISLAM OF
SAUDI ARABIA.
AT THE SAME TIME, SYRIA
CONTINUES TO KEEP MANY ISLAMISTS
IN PRISON.
AND OF COURSE SEPTEMBER 11th
FORCED SYRIA ONTO THE DEFENSIVE.
THEN, AS I SAID, A SOVIET CLIENT,
NOW IT WAS ROBBED OF ITS PATRON,
WITH THE FALL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN
IT LOST A CLOSE ALLY.
MORE RECENTLY, IT HAS CO-
OPERATED IN CERTAIN WAYS WITH
THE UNITED STATES.
SO ITS ENTIRE SITUATION IN THE
WORLD IS ENORMOUSLY COMPLICATED.
MIDDLE EAST FORCES RANGING FROM
BAATHISTS TO RELIGIOUS PARTIES
EXHIBIT DIVERSE IDEOLOGIES, BUT
THEIR GOALS ARE RELATED.
MOST ARE ANTI-AMERICAN, AND
ANTI-WEST, MOST LOOK BACK TO A
GREAT PAST, WHICH THEY BELIEVE
WAS SOMEHOW STOLEN FROM THEM.
JUST ABOUT ALL OF THEM
GROTESQUELY OVERSTATE THE POWER
OF ISRAEL, AND DEPICT THAT TINY
SLIVER OF LAND AS A MAJOR THREAT
TO THEIR PEOPLE.
IN FACT ISRAEL AND ZIONISM HAVE
BECOME THE GREATEST ASSETS IN
THE RHETORICAL ARMOURY OF ARAB
GOVERNMENTS.
AN ARAB STATE MAY STARVE ITS
CITIZENS AND ALLOW THEM FEW
RIGHTS, BUT IT CAN ALWAYS CLAIM
THAT AT LEAST IT PROTECTS THEM
FROM WHAT IT IS TAUGHT TO FEAR
MOST.
AND WHAT THEY ARE TAUGHT TO FEAR
MOST IS ZIONISM.
AND SO LONG AS ANTI-ZIONIST
PROPAGANDA DOMINATES THEIR
MEDIA, THEIR STORY REMAINS
POSSIBLE.
ARABIA HAS, FOR A LONG TIME,
BEEN A NETWORK OF INTERLOCKING
TYRANNIES, EACH OF THEM A
FAILURE IN ITS OWN WAY, ALL OF
THEM, COLLECTED FRAGMENTS OF A
WORLD THAT ONCE DREAMT OF UNITY,
AND EVEN IN THE AGE OF NASSER, 4
DECADES AGO, BRIEFLY GLIMPSED IT
AS A LIVELY POSSIBILITY.
THE RESULT IS, SORTING OUT THE
MEANING OF ANY SPECIFIC ACTION,
EVEN SOMETHING SO FLAGRANT AS
SEPTEMBER 11th, CAN BE
DIFFICULT.
OBVIOUSLY SEPTEMBER 11th
EXPRESSES OSAMA BIN LADEN'S
RELIGIOUS ZEALOTRY, BUT IT
CARRIES ECHOES OF THE ARAB
NATIONALISM THAT WAS, IN LIVING
MEMORY, THE MAIN POLITICAL
CURRENT IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
IN THE PRESENT CRISIS, RELIGIOUS
FUNDAMENTALISM AND POLITICAL
NATIONALISM APPEAR TO BE
OVERLAPPING.
IN FACT, SEPTEMBER 11th SEEMED TO
SUGGEST TO SOME THAT RELIGION
WAS BEING USED AS A NEW LANGUAGE
FOR OLD POLITICAL GOALS.
POLITICS IN THE MIDDLE EAST HAS
SEVERAL CURIOUS QUALITIES, AND
ONE OF THEM IS THAT FAILURE,
EVEN LONG TERM FAILURE SEEMS TO
HAVE NO NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCE.
YASSER ARAFAT, FOR INSTANCE,
HAS, OVER 40 YEARS ACCOMPLISHED
NOTHING FOR THE PALESTINIAN
PEOPLE.
THEIR LIVES HAVE NOT IMPROVED,
NOR HAVE THEY ACQUIRED A STATE
OF THEIR OWN, AS PROMISED.
BUT PERHAPS ARAFAT HAS MASTERED
SYMBOLISM BETTER THAN ANYONE
ELSE.
IN ISRAEL AND THE TERRITORIES,
PALESTINIAN BOMBING, EITHER
ENCOURAGED OR TOLERATED BY
ARAFAT HAS PRODUCED NO SOCIAL
BENEFITS AND CREATED MANY
DIFFICULTIES.
YET REASONABLY RELIABLE POLLS
SAY THAT ARAFAT REMAINS BY FAR
THE MOST ADMIRED PALESTINIAN.
ACROSS THE MIDDLE EAST, AMONG
THE PALESTINIANS, THE IRANIANS,
AND THE LEBANESE, THE
DISTURBANCES OF THE LAST 2 YEARS
HAS BROUGHT A FEW HOPEFUL SIGNS
OF DEMOCRATIC POLITICS.
ALL OF THEM IN SOME WAY THE
RESULT OF SEPTEMBER 11th.
EVEN SAUDI ARABIA HAS BEEN
SHOWING MODEST SIGNS OF CHANGE.
IT HAS BEEN A GREAT
EMBARRASSMENT THAT ONE OF THE
ALLEGED ALLIES OF THE UNITED
STATES IS ALSO THE MOST RIGIDLY
CONSERVATIVE AND DICTATORIAL OF
THE ARAB STATES.
SAUDI MONEY HAS BEEN USED TO
PREACH AND PRACTISE RADICAL
ISLAMIST POLITICS AROUND THE
WORLD.
AT HOME THE SAUDIS HAVE RUN A
STATE THAT IS, IN MANY WAYS, AS
BACKWARD AS ANY ON THE FACE OF
THE EARTH.
FOR A LONG TIME HIGHER OIL
PRICES ALLOWED THE SAUDIS TO
PROVIDE RELATIVELY GOOD SERVICES
AND INCOMES FOR THEIR PEOPLE,
BUT AS OIL REVENUES HAVE
LOWERED, AND THE POPULATION HAS
INCREASED, DESPERATE SOCIAL
PROBLEMS HAVE APPEARED.
IT IS SAID THAT ABOUT A THIRD OF
YOUNG MEN HAVE NO JOBS.
SURPRISINGLY, THE SOLUTION NOW
OFFERED BY THE SAUDIS IS THE
BEGINNING OF DEMOCRACY.
IT ANNOUNCED THIS MONTH THAT IT
WILL HOLD ELECTIONS FOR
MUNICIPAL COUNCILS NEXT YEAR.
THIS IS NO MORE THAN A FIRST
MODEST STEP TOWARDS REFORM, BUT
IT ACKNOWLEDGES, AS THE SAUDIS
SELDOM DO, THAT THEY NEED
CHANGE.
KENNETH POLLACK OF THE BROOKINGS
INSTITUTION IN WASHINGTON, HAS
SUGGESTED THAT WITH LUCK, THIS
COULD BE A TURN TOWARD DEMOCRACY
IN THE ARAB COUNTRIES.
AS HE PUTS IT, QUOTE, AS LONG AS THE
SAUDIS KEEP MOVING DOWN THIS
PATH, NO MATTER HOW SLUGGISHLY,
IT WILL BE HARD FOR THE OTHER
COUNTRIES OF THE REGION NOT TO
FOLLOW. UNQUOTE.
PERHAPS AMERICA'S VIGOROUS AND
ANGRY RESPONSE TO SEPTEMBER 11th
WILL LEAD TO OTHER IMPROVEMENTS
IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
MEANWHILE, SEPTEMBER 11th AND
ITS AFTERMATH HAVE RAISED 2
ENORMOUS QUESTIONS THAT WILL BE
WITH US FOR MANY YEARS.
BOTH OF THEM WILL HAVE TO BE
DEALT WITH BEFORE WE CAN TRULY
UNDERSTAND EVEN THE ACTIONS OF
THE MOMENT.
FIRST, THE AMERICANS OBVIOUSLY
BELIEVE THAT THEY CANNOT
SURRENDER THEIR SPHERE OF
INFLUENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
THEY MAY NOT USE PRECISELY THOSE
WORDS, SPHERE OF INFLUENCE,
BECAUSE THOSE WORDS CARRY
POWERFUL 19th CENTURY ECHOES OF
EUROPEAN IMPERIALISM AND
POWERFUL 20th CENTURY ECHOES OF
THE NAZIS AND THE SOVIETS
CARVING UP EASTERN EUROPE IN
1939.
NEVERTHELESS IT IS, IN FACT, A
SPHERE OF INFLUENCE THAT THE
AMERICANS ARE TALKING ABOUT AND
FIGHTING FOR.
IN THIS SENSE, AMERICAN POLICY
IS GROUNDED IN THE QUESTION OF
OIL, AS THE ENEMIES OF THE
AMERICANS INSIST.
BUT WHAT'S AT STAKE IS THE
WORLD'S OIL, NOT SPECIFICALLY
OIL FOR THE U.S.
THE AMERICANS UNDERSTAND THAT
FOR MANY YEARS TO COME, THE
WORLD ECONOMY WILL REQUIRE A
PRESENCE IN THE OIL FIELDS OF
THE MIDDLE EAST.
IDEALLY THIS PRESENCE WILL
RESULT FROM CO-OPERATION WITH
MIDDLE EASTERN DEMOCRACIES
ARISING FROM THE PHYSICAL RUBBLE
AND THE POLITICAL CHAOS OF THIS
PERIOD.
AS I SAY, THAT IS THE IDEAL
SITUATION, BUT ONE WAY OR THE
OTHER, THE U.S. WILL REMAIN
THERE.
THIS MEANS THAT IF NECESSARY, IT
WILL CO-OPERATE WITH NEW
VERSIONS OF THE OFTEN HIDEOUSLY
UNATTRACTIVE GOVERNMENTS THAT
HAVE DOMINATED THE REGION FOR
GENERATIONS.
THE QUESTION THIS RAISES WILL
CAUSE PAINFUL DIFFICULTIES
FOR IDEALISTS, AND WILL NOT BE
MUCH EASIER FOR THOSE WHO PRIDE
THEMSELVES ON HARD BOILED
REALISM.
WHAT DOES THIS KIND OF POWER
MEAN IN THE 21st CENTURY?
IS IT EITHER MORALLY ACCEPTABLE,
OR PRACTICALLY WORKABLE?
WILL CITIZENS OF THE
DEMOCRACIES, INCLUDING THE U.S.,
CONTINUE TO PAY FOR IT, AND
CONTINUE TO IGNORE THE ETHICAL
PROBLEMS IT RAISES?
IN THE PAST, THE EUROPEANS COULD
MAINTAIN THEIR OVERSEAS
INTERESTS MORE OR LESS OUT OF
SIGHT.
BUT IN OUR TIME, TV CAMERAS WILL
GO EVERYWHERE THAT AMERICANS GO.
AND EVEN IF AMERICANS AND OTHERS
AGREE TO REVIVE AND MAINTAIN
THIS SPHERE OF INFLUENCE
CONCEPT, AS SEEMS REASONABLE TO
ME, WILL IT REMAIN POSSIBLE IN A
TIME OF TERRORIST RESISTANCE?
BECAUSE POLICY HAS BEEN MADE ON
THE RUN SINCE SEPTEMBER 11th,
BECAUSE IT SHOWS ALL THE MARKS OF
IMPROVISATION, WE'VE HARDLY
BEGUN TO SORT OUT THOSE ISSUES.
THE OTHER QUESTION SEPTEMBER
11th HAS LEFT WITH US, IS
RELATED TO THE NATURE OF OUR OWN
SOCIETY.
ISLAMISTS HAVE PRODUCED WHAT
THEY BELIEVE IS A PERSUASIVE
ARGUMENT THAT WE MIGHT CALL, THE
ANTI-WEST NARRATIVE.
IN THEIR TELLING, THE WEST,
THROUGH VARIOUS CORRUPT MEANS,
HAS TAKEN OVER THE WORLD,
HUMBLED WHAT IT CONSIDERS LESSER
RELIGIONS AND HUMILIATED ISLAMIC
COUNTRIES IN PARTICULAR.
SOMEHOW THE WEST HAS MANAGED TO
ACCOMPLISH ALL THIS WHILE
SLIDING INTO DECADENCE, WEAKNESS
AND COWARDICE.
HOWEVER THAT MAY BE EXPLAINED,
IT'S CLEAR THAT THE WEST FROM
THIS PERSPECTIVE, AND ABOVE ALL,
AMERICA, MUST BE OPPOSED BY MEN
OF VIRTUE.
WE'VE NOW HEARD THIS STORY MANY
TIMES, OFTEN TO THE
ACCOMPANIMENT OF BOMBS.
BUT IF AN ANTI-WEST NARRATIVE
EXISTS, IS THERE A PRO-WEST
NARRATIVE?
CAN WE STATE WHY OUR
CIVILISATION DESERVES TO BE
DEFENDED?
30 OR 40 YEARS AGO, NO ONE
BOTHERED TO ASK SUCH A QUESTION,
THE ANSWER BEING OBVIOUS.
BUT IN RECENT TIMES, OUR MORAL
POSITION HAS CHANGED.
I THINK OF 1992, AND THE 500th
ANNIVERSARY OF CHRISTOPHER
COLUMBUS' ARRIVAL IN THIS
HEMISPHERE.
AT THAT TIME, INSTITUTIONS
ACROSS THE UNITED STATES,
INCLUDING THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT, MADE A POINT OF NOT
CELEBRATING HIS VOYAGE.
IT WAS COMMEMORATED TO BE SURE,
IT WAS DULY NOTED, BUT IT WAS
UNDERSTOOD THAT ANYTHING
EXPRESSING ENTHUSIASM OR EVEN
APPROVAL, WOULD OFFEND
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES.
THE IDEA THAT SOMETHING SPLENDID
HAPPENED IN 1492, WAS NOT TO BE
EXPRESSED.
A COUPLE OF GENERATIONS OF
APOLOGIES TO VARIOUS GROUPS,
HAVE PUT LIBERAL DEMOCRACY ON
THE DEFENSIVE.
IN PARTICULAR THE MOST
ARTICULATE AND INTELLECTUAL
MEMBERS OF SOCIETY, AND AMONG
THEM PERHAPS PARTICULARLY, THE
EDUCATORS AND THE JOURNALISTS.
TODAY WE DON'T MUCH LIKE
EXPRESSING APPROVAL OF THE
INSTITUTIONS THAT SUSTAIN OUR
LIVES.
WE TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED,
COMPLAIN WHEN THEY ARE
THREATENED OR DAMAGED, BUT
RARELY SPEND MUCH TIME
EXPLAINING WHY THEY MATTER TO
US.
MANY BELIEVE THIS IS PRECISELY
HOW IT SHOULD BE IN A FREE
SOCIETY.
ON THE OTHER HAND, A SOCIETY
UNDER ATTACK, AND SEEKING TO
REMAIN FREE, PERHAPS EVEN TO
EXTEND ITS FREEDOMS TO OTHERS,
MAY DECIDE THAT IT'S ESSENTIAL
TO EXPRESS THE COMPELLING
JUSTIFICATIONS FOR ITS OWN
EXISTENCE IN ITS PRESENT FORM,
OR SOMETHING LIKE IT.
PERHAPS HOWEVER, THIS HAS ALWAYS
BEEN A PROBLEM IN THE SECULAR
DEMOCRACIES.
PERHAPS IT'S MERELY ONE OF THE
MANY PROBLEMS ON WHICH THE
EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER 11th, 2001
CAST A FRESH LIGHT.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[applause]

Watch: Robert Fulford on A World Reconfigured