Combating the Causes of Terrorism
By Christoph Bautz
[This article originally published in: FriedensForum, August 28, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.friedenskooperative.de/themen/aktzg22.htm. Christoph Buatz is a spokesperson for Attac Germany.]
The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the following "war against terrorism" offer a foretaste for the conflicts of the 21st century. Anti-terrorist war, secret services and missile defense shields costing billions do not give security. It is high time to reflect on the connection of global inequality and the genesis of terrorism and fundamentalism. Combating the social inequality increasing worldwide in the course of neoliberal globalization must be an integral element of an effective strategy against terrorism.
Many causes of this terrorism are cultural, political and socioeconomic.
On the cultural plane, one important cause lies in the arrogance of the West where the Anglo-Saxon cultural model is regarded as universalist and praised as a formula for the good life. Other cultures are subordinated as backward or reactionary compared to the Western cultural model. This can be seen in relation to the Arab culture in Bin Laden's culture of origin, Saudi Arabia. A backward, puritanical and conservative Islam collides with a cut-price US-American culture financed out of petro-dollars. The self-confidence of the Arab region in earlier centuries was destroyed. An inferiority feeling toward the West spread as the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk described in strained words: "The West has no idea of the feeling of humiliation that a large majority of the world population must live through and overcome without losing their minds or adjusting to terrorists, radical nationalists or fundamentalists. Today the problem of the West is less finding out what terrorist in what tent, which alley and what distant city prepares new bombs to rain down. The problem of the West is more understanding the mental condition of the poor, the humiliated and the majority constantly standing in injustice who do not live in the western world." The perpetrators - not underprivileged themselves - imagining that they acted representatively for them counted on their applause.
In an area full of regional trouble spots whose roots go back to the time of colonialism, many political reasons could become causes of terrorism. The intensive partiality of the West and especially of the US for certain parties to conflict and their connection with economic- and power-politics goals contributes to a fortified stereotype. Here the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Gulf war, the eleven year embargo against Iraq, the Afghanistan war in the eighties and the Kashmir conflict could be emphasized.
The social inequality both between the North and the South and within the individual states has increased worldwide in the course of neoliberal globalization. Many regional production systems and markets are destroyed by the primacy of international competition and increasing liberalization of markets for goods, capital and services. Suddenly the Indian rice farmer should compete with the US-American agricultural multinational.. Free trade under these conditions is as fair as a football game on a steep slope, above is the North and below is the South. In many developing countries, social relations and traditional bonds are lost through the destruction of regional markets and the frequent rural exodus into the slums of mammoth cities. For many people, the consequences are lack of perspectives, regional uprooting and individualization. In such crises, the turn to extremist ideologies appears very enticing to many persons.
The necessary change of the world economic order means a reconquest of creative possibilities over against the economy. Politics must oppose an international framework to the globalization of capital and corporations. In particular, the international financial markets should be strongly re-regulated. A monkey wrench could be thrown into the works of international speculation through the introduction of the Tobin tax. Speculative businesses become unprofitable through this trifling tax while funds for developing countries arise. Further steps must follow, closing tax havens, selective use of capital transfer controls during the eruption of financial crises and stabilization of exchange rates between the leading currencies.
As part of the movement critical of globalization, Attac is a force for a more just world economic order. The socioeconomic causes of terrorism must be combated instead of continuing to turn the spiral of violence.