Friday, November 11, 2005

Outbidding Al-Zawahiri


Ehsan Ahrari gives some compelling reasons to help Pakistan in yesterday's Asia Times.

I hadn't heard this, but Ayman al-Zawahiri, widely considered Osama bin Laden's number-two man, recently issued a worldwide call for aid to victims of the recent South Asia quake, and particularly to those in Kashmir. Ahrari, a Virginia-based defense consultant, writes that the deplorable response of the West and certain oil-rich Middle Eastern monarchies plays right into Al-Qa'ida's narrative about how the West cares only about oil:

Al-Qaeda is having a field day watching the community of nations perform so deplorably in regard to the human tragedy in Pakistan. It can, quite effectively, underscore three perspectives. First, that the illegitimacy of current Muslim governments in the wake of their failure to come to the rescue of a Muslim tragedy of epic proportions does not require any further debate, from the perspectives of al-Qaeda.

Second, the seeming lack of Western concern only underscores al-Qaeda's claim that the West does not really care about what happens to Muslims, as long as the compliant and sycophant Muslim regimes continue to preside over the political status that ensures the dominance of the West. Third, given the preceding two reasons, al-Qaeda's own unrelenting insistence on the violent overthrow of all extant Muslim regimes is further established, at least in the minds of everyone who is mildly sympathetic to that organization's criticisms.

What emerges from the preceding is a transnational pan-jihadi entity carefully studying the twists and turns of the US and Western responses to countering terrorism and coming up with its own countermeasures.

The Turks, Ahrari writes, are an exception to the tepid response of most Muslim nations:

Only one day after the earthquake, the government in Ankara responded by sending search and rescue teams and food and other aid to Pakistan. It followed up by sending $150 million in aid. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first foreign dignitary to visit the earthquake-devastated area, where he observed, "My wish is this—the world is using resources for armaments, they should also put aside resources for such disasters."

Remember, this is Erdogan the Islamist leading the avowedly secular Turkish cavalry to the rescue on the other side of Asia. Turkey will reap soft-power benefits from its aggressive action down the road.

The U.S. may suffer from distraction in the Iraq and donor fatigue due to the Asian tsunami and multiple hurricanes on its own shores. That said, the Congress should appropriate more money for earthquake relief in South Asia to help prove Al-Qa'ida wrong about U.S. intentions in the region and the Muslim world generally. If the legislature needs a selfish reason to be altruistic, remember that helping stricken Pakistanis also helps the U.S. position in Afghanistan by defusing Pakistani distrust of U.S. intentions in the region.

(Thanks as always to John Brown's Public Diplomacy Review for the initial item. Sorry I missed you at USC, John!)

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