The site of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, USA, is now a one-acre pool. 2983 names are engraved on the guardrail by the pool. At night, the soft yellow light will pass through the hollow characters. Each character is exquisitely carved, and the arrangement is exquisite: passengers on the same flight, employees from the same company, and firefighters from the same team. As for the other victims, the designer visited their family members to see if anyone had ever eaten together or commuted together, as far as possible to make every two names next to each other have a connection during their lifetime.
On August 30, 2021, the US military withdrew its last soldier from the chaotic Kabul International Airport, ending the 20-year war on terrorism.
On October 7, 20 years ago, nearly a month after a series of terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists against the World Trade Center in New York, the United States and NATO allied forces bombed several cities in Afghanistan, including Kabul. This started the war on terrorism.
Regarding the chaos in Afghanistan today, the Taliban accused the US military of causing all the chaos. The non-Taliban’s new government negotiators and the anti-Taliban Masood family also believe that the United States should be responsible. Burns, who was nominated by the Biden government’s ambassador to China and supported the dispatch of troops to Afghanistan, also said last year that if history can be repeated, “presumably there must be a better way than war.”
Clash of civilizations?
On the day of the September 11th incident, 26 minutes have passed since the second passenger plane hit the twin towers. The then-U.S. President Bush Jr. declared at Booker Elementary School in Florida: “This is a terrorist attack.” After a brief press conference, he took the flight. “Air Force One” traveled to three places and delivered three speeches in one day, each time emphasizing the characterization of “terrorist attacks.”
At that time, terrorism was still a vague concept, and governments in various countries generally lacked countermeasures. The establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the UN Security Council Resolution 1377, which identified international terrorism as the “most serious threat”, were all things after the 9/11 incident.
At that time, two views emerged from the US State Department. A professor of international relations who was the adviser on Central Asian Affairs to the U.S. State Department recalled China News Weekly. At that time, some people thought it was a “civilized war” between the extreme religious world and the “Western civilized world.” It is a “war of civilization” trap set by terrorists, and we should stay vigilant, focus on the terrorist organization itself, and avoid civilized opposition. The former view comes from Huntington and Bernard Lewis, the representatives of the “clash of civilizations” theory that emerged during the Cold War, while the latter comes from Edward Said, a well-known scholar who criticized the “clash of civilizations” and ignored the differences within the Islamic world. Germany.
In 1998, Lewis read in a tabloid newspaper in London that bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, declared war on the United States. He immediately pointed out that this person’s apparent “jihadist ideology” would pose a serious security threat to the Western world.
In Afghanistan, this kind of “ideology” is everywhere: Sunni Muslims such as the Taliban who believe in the Hanafi teachings are content to realize the religiousization of one place and one country, and they believe in the “base” of the Salafist teachings. Both the organization and later the “Islamic State” (IS) advocated treating foreign territories as holy war zones.
It was not until the September 11 incident that the US government paid attention to Lewis’ warning. The overwhelming majority of Wugu and the Pentagon supported Lewis’s views. The then Vice President Cheney praised “In this new century, his wisdom is being pursued by policymakers, diplomats, scholars and the news media every day.” Germany and his supporters in Washington have been accused of being “accomplices of terrorists” for their “critical West” stance.
On September 11, 2001, two passenger planes crashed into the North Tower and South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York, USA.
On August 17, 2021, people visit the 9·11 World Trade Center site in New York.
On August 31, 2021, the last U.S. troops evacuated from Afghanistan arrived in Kuwait. Picture/surging image
The 72-year-old professor of religion at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Rapoport was suddenly noticed by Washington. Based on the logic of “clash of civilizations”, he put forward his own definition and ideas of terrorism and anti-terrorism two years before the September 11 incident. His thesis “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism” was hailed as “the most famous, The most influential and most controversial terrorism research literature”.
In fact, this is still a continuation of the Cold War mentality. “It is not so much that Rapoport’s wave theory has influenced the US government, it is better to say that Rapoport’s views fit Washington’s Cold War mentality.” said the aforementioned professor. Similar to Fukuyama’s interpretation of the “wave” of democracy, Rapoport simply divides the history of terrorism into stages and uses a single factor to interpret the rise and fall of terrorism in different historical periods of mankind. Among them, the wave of terrorism from 1979 to the present was attributed to him as a “political movement aimed at religion”. In other words, its essence is the theory of clash of civilizations, that is, an extreme attack on other civilizations by one civilization.
Twenty years after the 9/11 incident, Radmar, who returned to China and became a senior official of the Afghan government, often discussed terrorism and the war on terrorism in their eyes with American diplomats. Radmad fled to Iran as a refugee in the early days of the Afghan War. He believes that in addition to the Cold War mentality, the expansion of the anti-terrorism war into a “war of civilization” is also a pragmatic choice, because most US officials “do not know at all. Islamic culture, I don’t even know that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda believe in different sects.” Until 10 years after the 9/11 incident, the US military still failed to figure out the boundaries of Al-Qaida, but defined it as “a cause”. A terrorist syndicate composed of various associated networks”.
The strong medicine didn’t work
After Radmad returned to his hometown of Kabul in 2002, he was one of the few English-speaking talents in the new government and moved to various departments and the presidential palace. The US adviser in the government told him: As long as we embark on a Western-style modernization path, the problem of terrorism will be solved. After he became the head of the Karzai government in charge of the reform of the local governance system, he found that all policies came from the proposals of foreign consultants from various departments.
Rapoport’s theory holds that the wave of international terrorism is rooted in the local political and social ecology. If the local social ecology changes and the wave loses its soil, it will gradually subside. He expects that with sufficient intervention, the wave of terrorism brought about by extremist religions will decline around 2025.
But even Bernard Lewis opposed the direct imposing of foreign institutions on the grassroots society in Afghanistan. He said that some things “cannot be imposed on others.” Western-style direct democracy “is a very powerful medicine.” It must be given to patients in small doses and gradually increasing, otherwise there is a risk of killing patients.
”Most of the policy proposals are not copying Western systems, but have successfully landed in South or Southeast Asian countries.” Radmar told China News Weekly. “The problem is that Afghan society is different from those societies.” He believes If we have to compare, Afghanistan is actually closer to the Soviet republics in Central Asia and West Asia. The disintegration of the Soviet Union has uprooted its original governance system, but the new system has either failed to be established or is out of touch.
Afghanistan’s problems are even more far-reaching. “Since the modernization reforms in the 1950s and 1960s, the old order between Kabul and the tribes has been broken.” The civil war and sectarian conflicts during the Soviet invasion and after the Soviet withdrawal were further torn apart. The traditional order of grassroots tribes, and the US government and its anti-Taliban leaders did not try to change this situation from the beginning.
During the period of government transition and power struggle from 2002 to 2004, the only leader with extensive influence in Afghan villages, towns and mountains, Zahir Sha, the last king of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, voluntarily withdrew from the power competition, and the rest of the leaders can only represent the interests of their own groups. .
Radmad revealed that when the Taliban regime was overthrown and the new government was established, they had made statistics. The support rate of the central government among the citizens of Kabul was about 50%. It is not low in other northern cities, but in rural areas. Only 10%. The overall understanding of Western concepts in Afghan society is far worse than that of most South Asian countries. The new government tried to control the religious system by including the imams of mosques and paying salaries, but the imams did not have the concept of “salaries” at all. They regarded this as bribery, which in turn stimulated their opposition to the secular government.
In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th incident, scholars at the University of Illinois at Chicago established five different models to verify Rapoport’s views and found that the US intervention not only did not eliminate, but promoted the development of local terrorist activities. After the U.S. government announced the elimination of major terrorist organizations in one place, the trend of terrorism thinking in the region will not improve in the next five to ten years.
When the U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) updated report on August 17, 2021, showing that there are at least Al-Qaida, the Indian branch of Al-Qaida, the Pakistani Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Islamic State. Dozens of terrorist organizations, including the Khorasan Branch (ISIS-K), are active in more than 20 provinces in Afghanistan. In ISIS-K alone, militants and jihadists from more than ten countries participated.
Return to the “traditional” war on terrorism model
In 2006, Afghan Shiite leader Balhi visited the United States and had a dialogue with Armitage, then US Deputy Secretary of State. Afghans asked why the United States did not cross the border against extremist organizations in neighboring countries of Afghanistan. Armitage said that these countries “have made anti-terrorism commitments to the United States, so we fund them.”
”I asked again: If one day you came to the conclusion that your funding was used to support terrorism, what decision would you make?” Balxi recalled to China News Weekly, “Armitage said: That is our strategic ally.”
”We have to pressure like Afghanistan’s neighbors to push them to fight terrorist organizations, but we must also obtain their permission to establish military bases and enter Afghanistan through their airspace.” US State Department Miller, the former special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told China News Weekly, “This gives these countries an opportunity to find a balance between extremist organizations and the United States.”
In the past 20 years, with the exception of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, the US government In transnational anti-terrorism wars involving allies, it is common to obtain authorization from the host country government and assist local security agencies to carry out targeted elimination and asymmetric strikes against terrorist organizations that endanger the national security of the United States, but does not intervene in large-scale wars. For countries that are not allies but are not required to deploy large-scale military forces after assessment, they will directly conduct asymmetrical attacks on related targets.
After the U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the U.S. government once again emphasized that asymmetrical combat methods will become the main means of the U.S. global war on terrorism in the future. In Biden’s concept, this means taking drone operations as the lead, occasionally supplemented by small-scale armed deployment, and no longer intervening in Afghanistan and Iraq-style all-out wars.
Currently, the global counter-terrorism strategy led by the UN Security Council consists of four types of measures, namely, national anti-terrorism construction, condemnation of terrorist activities, imposing sanctions on terrorist entities, and formulating other universally binding measures. The problem is that even 20 years have passed since the September 11 incident, the Security Council’s counter-terrorism resolutions are still lagging behind. As far as anti-terrorism sanctions are concerned, this method has been widely used after the September 11 incident. At most, more than 200 individuals and entities have been included in the list, but no clear screening criteria have been established.
In 2008, Ian Brownlee, an authoritative scholar of international law and a professor at Oxford University, emphasized that there is no “terrorism law” in the international community, because the international order framework for counter-terrorism involves jurisdiction, international criminal law, national responsibility law and other departments. This complicated situation makes it difficult to establish a complete anti-terrorism legal framework. The US government has been busy formulating its own anti-terrorism system until the political enthusiasm of the September 11 incident subsided, and it did not attempt to make a breakthrough at the international level.
In 2011, as the U.S. government returned to the “traditional” war on terrorism, the U.S. and NATO countries began to try to expand the authorization to use force through anti-terrorism legislation. In 2011, NATO proposed for the first time when reviewing a new strategic framework for dealing with comprehensive risks. Taking into account the real security situation full of diversified terrorist threats and asymmetric operations, military activities should jump out of the old concepts of the last century, and “with the development of military theory” This kind of change, the change of legal paradigm will be inevitable.”
Andrew Basevich, Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University, recently wrote an article reflecting that American society was absolutely shocked by the attack on the World Trade Center, but the direct consequence of this shock was overreaction. “In other words, the Bush Jr. administration started his misguided global war on terrorism, which is directly reflected in the long and futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”