I'm not really suggesting I have any solutions, I'm just trying to understand what's going on, and maybe help a few others make some sense of it too. If I thought I had any serious answers I'd be writing books about them and getting rich and famous. Or something.
Giving radical Islam some time might be part of a solution, but I'm not sure we can wait long enough, they've got a pretty dangerous agenda. If Jillyvn and I are right, that such fanaticism comes from powerlessness, that points at a fairly obvious solution, but things are never as simple as we'd wish. It's way too easy to offer glib and simple solutions to complex problems. As somebody once said, every complex problem has a solution that is simple, obvious, reasonable, compelling, and wrong.
Yes, I do believe that much blame can be laid at the feet of ethnic rivalries and 19th-early 20th century European imperialism, but I don't believe that's a complete explanation either.
Consider, for instance, a fundamentalist Muslim thinking along these lines:
Islam used to be a glorious and powerful civilization, stretching from Spain in the west, across north Africa into the Middle East and almost to India, and up into south eastern Europe to the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For a thousand years we contested successfully with Christian Europe for control of the lands around the Mediterranean. What happened? Why did we lose that contest?
And here's where religion leads people astray. A fundamentalist is going to look for answers in terms of what pleases and displeases God, and it becomes a very simple calculation: God must have turned His back on us, or we would still be successful. Why? Because we've turned away from Him, allowed western secular influences to corrupt our virtues, fallen away from the rituals and practices God prescribed for us so long ago. And what's the solution? Return to the old ways of mediaeval Islam, then God will smile upon us again and all will be well. I've heard exactly analogous arguments advanced by fundamentalist Christians in response to what they perceive as the moral decay of western civilization. There were even a few people who blamed the 9/11 attacks on the United States on exactly that: "God's mad at us for our evil ways."
That's a huge oversimplification, but I believe the essence of it is correct. That's where the Taliban were coming from--Gwynne Dyer (Canadian historian, smart guy, and an expert in these matters) described them in a speech at the local university a year ago as the hicks from beyond the furthest range of hills--and I think it's at the root of what motivates Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. What they want is not the destruction of the West, though they wouldn't weep over its demise, what they want is fundamentalist Islamic governments in all the Islamic nations. Their particular targets are secular Islamic states like Egypt and Turkey. Flying airplanes into buildings a few years ago I believe was an attempt to provoke the United States into a thunderous and ill-considered reprisal that would lead to popular uprisings and the overthrow of secular (or not fundamentalist enough) governments across the Middle East. And I think it's to the great credit of the United States that it did not respond as Osama anticipated. It's shown less good judgement since, unfortunately; invading Iraq just plays into their hands, but that's another subject.
Okay, enough ranting for a while. I have a life to lead...