In 1993 Samuel Huntington published his landmark book "The Clash of Civilizations." Not all of his predictions are likely to come true, but there is no doubt that we already are in the throes of a war between Islamic Fundamentalism and Western Civilization. Suicide bombing of innocent civilians and the beheading of civilian hostages has become the trademark of Islamic terror. If these acts can be considered the mark of a civilization, it is certainly the anti-thesis of Western civilization, and bears no resemblance to the great civilization of Islam as it has been known through the centuries.
The announced aim of many of the acts of terror is the destruction of Western civilization, while others are depicted as the desperate acts of "freedom fighters" battling for the cause of the Chechens, the Iraqis, or the Palestinians. But they have the same common denominator - total disregard for human life. It is barbarism pure and simple, and the barbarians are now at our gates. In the age of modern technology, they can attain destructive power completely out of proportion to their relatively small numbers, and thus represent a real danger to even the most powerful of nations.
For years Israel seemed to be the sole target of Islamic terrorists. In September 1972, 11 Israeli athletes were massacred at the Munich Olympic games. In May 1974, 21 children and five adults were murdered at the schoolhouse in Ma'alot. During those years, punctuated by many acts of Palestinian terror, most of the world stood by, believing that Israel would remain the only target of such horrible acts.
Even with the advent of the Palestinian suicide bombers Israel found itself alone, with many excuses being offered for these murderous acts. Some European countries made "deals" with the terrorists, believing that they could buy themselves "immunity" from terror. But it was not long before the wave of terror spread like a plague over much of the world. The Twin Towers in New York, the attack in Bali and then in Madrid demonstrated how vulnerable was the world. When hundreds of children were taken hostage and murdered in Beslan two weeks ago, Israelis could not but be reminded of the tragedy in Ma'alot 30 years ago.
France, which had spearheaded the opposition to the US-British operation to depose Saddam Hussein, was under the illusion that it had gained a degree of popularity even among the crazies of the Islamic terror, but found to its chagrin that it was as exposed as all the rest. Two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, were kidnapped on August 20 in Iraq, then sold to a group of Islamic fanatics, and are now being held hostage, to be released only if France revokes the recent law prohibiting the wearing of Islamic head scarves in French schools. They are the latest journalists to be taken hostage, some of whom, like Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal correspondent in Pakistan, and Enzo Baldoni, the Italian reporter in Iraq, have already been executed by their captors.
On September 11, 2001, the president of the U.S., George Bush, realized that he was facing a full-scale war. Slowly, other world leaders - as their countries are hit by terrorist attacks - are arriving at the same conclusion. Hopefully, this will bring about the degree of international cooperation that is required if this war in defense of Western Civilization is going to be pursued effectively.
Deliberately or unintentionally, acts of terror affect the domestic politics of democratic countries. On more than one occasion, Israel has experienced this as election time approached, as terrorist incidents have a tendency to sweep away all other issues before an election. In their wake, the electorate tends to measure the candidates in terms of their perceived ability to lead the war against terror. Something like this seems to be happening right now in the U.S., as the November election approaches. The murder of hundred of children in the school in Beslan has refocused the concern of many on the danger of Islamic terrorism, and the need to pursue the war against it. The two candidates for the presidency will be measured by many in terms of their perceived ability to lead the country in this war. This phenomenon may explain the sudden jump of Bush in the polls after what happened two weeks ago in North Ossetia, thousands of miles away.
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