disease or environmental degradation, the challenges have become transnational
rather than international. That is the defining quality of world politics in the
National security used to be considered by studying foreign frontiers,
weighing opposing groups of states, and measuring industrial might.To be dan-
gerous, an enemy had to muster large armies. Threats emerged slowly, often
visibly, as weapons were forged, armies conscripted, and units trained and
moved into place. Because large states were more powerful, they also had more
to lose.They could be deterred.
Now threats can emerge quickly.An organization like al Qaeda, headquar-
tered in a country on the other side of the earth, in a region so poor that elec-
tricity or telephones were scarce, could nonetheless scheme to wield weapons
of unprecedented destructive power in the largest cities of the United States.
In this sense, 9/11 has taught us that terrorism against American interests
"over there" should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America
"over here." In this same sense, the American homeland is the planet.
But the enemy is not just "terrorism," some generic evil.
blurs the strategy.The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more spe-
cific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism--especially the al Qaeda net-
work, its affiliates, and its ideology.
As we mentioned in chapter 2, Usama Bin Ladin and other Islamist terror-
ist leaders draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within one stream
of Islam (a minority tradition), from at least Ibn Taimiyyah, through the
founders of Wahhabism, through the Muslim Brotherhood, to Sayyid Qutb.
That stream is motivated by religion and does not distinguish politics from reli-
gion, thus distorting both. It is further fed by grievances stressed by Bin Ladin
and widely felt throughout the Muslim world--against the U.S. military pres-
ence in the Middle East, policies perceived as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, and
support of Israel. Bin Ladin and Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say:
to them America is the font of all evil, the "head of the snake," and it must be
converted or destroyed.
It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate.With it
there is no common ground--not even respect for life--on which to begin a
dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.
Because the Muslim world has fallen behind the West politically, economi-
cally, and militarily for the past three centuries, and because few tolerant or sec-
ular Muslim democracies provide alternative models for the future, Bin Ladin's
message finds receptive ears. It has attracted active support from thousands of
disaffected young Muslims and resonates powerfully with a far larger number
who do not actively support his methods.The resentment of America and the
West is deep, even among leaders of relatively successful Muslim states.
Tolerance, the rule of law, political and economic openness, the extension
THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
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