Sunday 16th May 2004 - 5:00pm - 6:15pm
World Economic Forum in Jordan 2004
Participants engaged in a lively discussion about the causes and cures for terrorism and, as moderator David Ignatius, Associate Editor and Columnist, The Washington Post, USA, said in his summation, they displayed the wide gap between the US and Arab perception of the problem.
Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, discussed his country s experience with terrorism as it evolved from the last years of the Soviet occupation to September 11. Afghanistan became "a playing field for Osama bin Laden," he said, and the United States failed to grasp the threat until it was too late. Christopher Shays, Congressman from Connecticut (Republican), USA, agreed, saying, "September 11, 2001 was like December 7, 1941," a day that will live in infamy and broke America out of its complacency and sense of security. Abdullah expressed hope that an Afghanistan free of terror "can serve as a bridge," both economically as well as geographically between Central Asia and the rest of Asia.
Asked by a participant from Jordan about the effect of the war in Iraq on terrorist activity, Shays acknowledged that terrorism had "absolutely" increased since the war began, but said that activity would have increased regardless of US action in Iraq. "I know we led with our chin," said Shays, "I know we were extraordinarily arrogant." Shays called for a US policy that involves less hubris, "more along the lines of [US Secretary of State] Colin Powell." Shays lamented the fact that the "[US] State Department lost out against the Department of Defence" when President Bush put the latter in charge of rebuilding Iraq.
Shays said "the people of the United States don t know the Arab world, and they don t know the Middle East." A critical first step in stemming terrorism, he said, is "building the bridges" between the two worlds. Farouk Qasrawi, Adviser, Royal Hashemite Court; President, Jordan Institute of Diplomacy, Jordan, agreed with Shays, and received applause when he called on Arabs to stop blaming Israel and the United States exclusively for the Middle East conflict. "If we don t look inside," he said, "we ll get nothing." He disagreed, however, with those that speak of "Islamic terrorism," and argued that terrorism has much more to do with systemic problems and questions of perceived "divine justice." To call this a jihad, he said, is "a misanalysis."
Panellists and participants expressed a general sense that Arab reform was critical to combating terrorism. Shafeeq Ghabra, President, American University of Kuwait, Kuwait, lamented the "blocked reality" of the Arab world, in which many find refuge in radical Islam. The status quo will change, he said, and warns that "a set of failed states" may follow. Ghabra expressed hope in the Arab people whose "aspiration for a good life" forms the impetus for good, new leadership.
In the discussion, a participant explained one rationale for terrorism by highlighting the Israeli Palestinian conflict and saying, "when justice is lacking, the people will turn violent." Shays said he agrees that a people pressed against a wall will often react violently, but that when Hamas blows up a bus in Israel, they only have themselves to blame for a failed peace. Ghabra added that the United States should have vigorously pursued a Middle East peace plan simultaneously with their action in Iraq.
Another participant asked why the United States did not pursue a more comprehensive approach to stopping terrorism at its root. Shays said that, as a former volunteer in the US Peace Corps, he understands and believes in the benefits to the United States of helping other countries grow. The United States, he said, should focus more money on development in order to build a strong middle class in Arab countries. He pointed out that the United States has spent a lot of money in this regard in Jordan. One reason for this, he said, is that the Jordanian government does not always say what other Arab states might want them to say, and often take unpopular stances in order to be right.
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Professor of Political Science, Kuwait University, and President, Jusoor Arabiya Leadership & Consultancy Center, Kuwait
1975, BA in Political Science, Georgetown University; 1983, MA in Political Science, Purdue Universi...
Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan, Office of the Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan, Afghanistan
1983, training in Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, Kabul University. 1984, specialist, Noor Eye In...
Associate Editor and Columnist, The Washington Post, USA
1975-76, Editor, Washington Monthly. More than 10 years' experience as Reporter, Wall Street Journal...