How powerful is the darkness as a superpower


Mohssen Massarrat

To person

Dr.-Ing., Graduate engineer, born in 1942; Studied mining, economics and political science; Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Osnabrück.

Address: University of Osnabrück, Seminarstr. 33, 49069 Osnabrück.
e-mail: [email protected]

Publication a.o.: (Ed.) Middle and Middle East. History and present. A problem-oriented introduction, Münster 1996.

Comments on far-reaching structures of conflict

September 11, 2001 revitalized the enemy image of Islam as a violent religion. The consequences of the associated discrediting of a world religion are obvious.


The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 hit the heart of the only remaining superpower. "The world trade center a pile of rubble, the Pentagon badly battered, the White House evacuated, the president on the run, the US government in a nuclear-bombproof bunker in Nebraska - a superpower could not be more comprehensively humiliated," wrote Martin Altmeyer six days after the event in the Frankfurter Rundschau. It remains to be seen whether the perpetrators were aware of this dimension of their crime. Your act has left deep wounds in the mental health of those Americans who fully identify with everything that America represents; the attack traumatized her and shook her self-esteem. For all that is known, the suicide bombers were determined Islamists. They came from a world that, since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, has represented a new political challenge for the United States and the West as a whole as a new power factor on the world political arena. The supposed threat to "Western civilization" from Islam, which is currently being painted on the wall, encourages black and white thinking to divide the world into hostile camps such as the Islamic against the Christian world, the Orient against the West, the state of God against Western democracy, and darkness against Enlightenment. This kind of dichotomous thinking experienced a renaissance. So it is hardly surprising that Samuel P. Huntington's theses about The Clash of Civilizations had a boom again. In fact, the exorbitant instrumentalization of the respective cultural values ​​by the extremist elites of the Islamic and Christian world and the revival of historically rooted enemy images also provided the supposedly empirical evidence for Huntington's simple interpretation patterns of a highly complex reality.

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  • The moral legitimation for the US war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the war goal of annihilating those who "hate our freedoms, our values ​​and our civilization" (George W. Bush), on the one hand, and the announcement of revenge "against the new crusade that the West is preparing again for the destruction of Islam "(Osama Bin Laden), on the other hand are an expression of that dichotomous thought scheme that leaves no room for a differentiated perception of the deeper backgrounds of a highly topical conflict. The exploration of alternative solutions for combating international terrorism became a futile undertaking. While the hard core of the Taliban and bin Laden's al-Qaeda announced their determined fight to the point of self-destruction, George W. Bush demanded unconditional submission from America's allies in the fight against terrorism. In this struggle between good and evil, the civilian population and civilizational achievements such as democracy were badly affected; the peace policy goal of banishing war as a means of politics became a long way off. The dictum of the US President: "Whoever is not for us supports terrorism" has in Europe, but especially in Germany too, from the "unrestricted solidarity" of the red-green federal government through the junction between Chancellor Schröder's vote of confidence and approval on German participation in the war in Afghanistan up to Foreign Minister Fischer's demand: "All or nothing" at the Green Party Congress in Rostock left its mark on German foreign policy with significant consequences. War as a means of politics became normal again in Germany as well.

    The war in Afghanistan to combat terrorism, which is not only at home there but also in Saudi Arabia and which has spread its network in other Arab-Islamic countries and beyond in Europe, and especially in the United States itself, is providing an anachronism. As far as the international terrorist network is concerned, war is virtually ineffective. In the Arab-Islamic world, it is the most powerful tool for even more hatred of the West and the USA and for the growth of a new generation of suicide bombers. The support of some Islamic states in the anti-terror alliance does not protect against this war being interpreted as a new Western crusade against Islam. Just as the participation of numerous Islamic states in the anti-Iraqi alliance in the second Gulf War could not prevent the Islamist-anti-American camp around Osama bin Laden from gaining a considerable influx from all Arab states. Like the second Gulf War and the ongoing bombing war against Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is part of the escalation logic of Huntington's "clash of civilizations" and contributes to keeping Huntington's vision entirely in line with the self fulfilling prophecy becomes a reality.

    Huntington's system of thought and logic make the ability to observe and analyze global conflicts considerably more difficult in practice. This ignores the fact that the roots of the conflicts are primarily not to be found between, but within cultures, that the rapid, economically one-dimensional and power-politically asymmetrically structured globalization in the last half century has produced far-reaching social rifts and dangerous cultural ruptures and that even the militant Islamism is to be understood as a reaction to this asymmetrically structured globalization. The perpetrators of the crime of September 11, 2001 are the product of the individual and collective identity crisis in the Islamic world, which is embedded in the process of globalization. It could well be true that pathological delusions or apocalyptic annihilation fantasies also played a considerable role in the perfectly staged inferno.

    The politically and scientifically advanced question, however, is how the inferno came about not only in the Islamic world, but also in Christian Latin America, in China, in India and in the entire Third World with indifference, secret joy or even open consent was responded to. Where does the anti-American hatred, which has evidently built up over decades, come from in the Arab-Islamic world and far beyond? From my point of view, four dimensions and problem areas can be considered in order to answer this question.

    The Israel-Palestine conflict is undoubtedly the most important focal point from which all anti-Western Arab nationalist and Islamic fundamentalist movements draw their motivation and legitimation. Israel is the largest military power also armed with nuclear weapons in the Near and Middle East and, precisely because of its military superiority, refuses to end its policy of occupation in Palestine. Rather, this country demonstrates its superiority as an occupying power on a daily basis by destroying Palestinian houses, confiscating Palestinian land, humiliating the Palestinians and causing them immeasurable suffering. Millions of people in the Arab-Islamic world also feel humiliated as a result. The Palestinians react to the injustice and powerlessness they perceive with the Intifada or with terrorist attacks.

    With the Arabs and Muslims all over the world, the humiliation of the Palestinians, which has now been going on for decades, has caused anger and feelings of powerlessness, which have resulted in terrorist attacks against Western tourists (e.g. in Egypt) or attacks against their own governments in their own country which, out of consideration for the USA, tend to be more reluctant to face the Israel-Palestine conflict. Osama bin Laden has now succeeded in channeling the pent-up anger into a modern "partisan war" against the world power USA through the "international brigade of Arab Afghans" founded in connection with the second Gulf War against Iraq and later by Al-Qaeda.

    In the eyes of the Arab-Islamic peoples, America is regarded as the decisive protective power of the Israeli occupation policy and is therefore held jointly responsible for the humiliation of the Arabs and Muslims. One of the painful truths of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which continued to escalate after the terrorist attack against the United States, is that Israel obviously attaches greater importance to the continuation of the current state of occupation on the one hand and the Intifada and Islamist terror on the other abandoning its occupation regime and creating a lasting peace.

    The Islamist Hamas was excluded from the Oslo peace process; for its part, it boycotted the peace process and triggered an escalation of violence through terrorist attacks in Israel. Jewish fundamentalists also took part in this escalation of violence. Rabin himself became a victim of this escalation of violence, which intensified further after his death and threatens to degenerate into an open civil war in Palestine and the final end of the peace process and the autonomy authority. In this context, too, the behavior of the US government towards the conflict in the Islamic-Arab world is viewed as a disinterest in or support for the irreconcilable policies of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon.

    Until the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Ghadjar dynasty in Iran at the beginning of the 20th century, the "Oriental Despotism" prevailed in the Middle East. After that, a process of modernization and desolation began in Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Syria nation building, which was pushed forward at different speeds and with different foundations. The election victory of Mossadegh in Iran in 1951 in the first free election of a parliament in the history of the Middle East signaled a new era of long overdue and now catching up democratization in the region. By overcoming endogenous obstacles to the democratization that has begun hopefully, for example the gradual suppression of the influence of powerful large landowners and tribal princes as well as the dismantling of the centralistic power structures of various monarchies and the further development of democratic structures, this region would in all probability be nationalist and fundamentalist currents, a lot of suffering and No destruction in the last half century. Support for the delicate democratic approaches from outside, which had just started to anchor themselves in society, would have been very beneficial for this development.

    But things turned out differently. The region of the Persian Gulf became primarily a geostrategic object because of the considerable oil wells stored there; the entire Middle East was drawn into the pull of the East-West conflict. From then on, the geostrategic oil interests of the West and the containment of the Soviet influence determined the foreign policy behavior of Western industrialized countries towards the states of this region. In this context, a completely different development then prevailed in the last half century than had originally been hopefully expected: in 1953 the democratically elected Mossadegh government in Iran was overthrown with the help of the CIA, then the Shah's regime was militarily upgraded to a regional superpower. This set in motion a gigantic arms race in the Persian Gulf, in which the Soviet Union was now involved by arming Iraq. The arms race finally erupted in the first (Iranian-Iraqi) Gulf War and then in the second Gulf War. In the first Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was supported and militarily strengthened by Saddam Hussein against Iran, only to be defeated in the second Gulf War with considerable military effort. It cannot be denied that this - also from its own geostrategic perspective, as the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait demonstrated - extremely risky playing off two Islamic states on the Persian Gulf aroused suspicion and hatred in the eyes of the people of this region. In any case, the Islamists, who were already anti-Western, were given new arguments to denounce Western and US policies in the Middle East among their own people as a targeted attack on Islam as a whole.

    Even after the liberation of Kuwait, the increased distrust of the US’s Gulf policy did not diminish. The USA established its own military bases in Dahram and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) as well as in Kuwait City, which especially in Saudi Arabia - the governor of the most important Islamic shrines in Mecca and Medina - caused additional unrest and growing distrust among pious Muslims not only on the Arabian Peninsula, but in all Arab countries and in the entire Islamic world as a renewed humiliation. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda gained a formidable size and following on the fertile soil of Islamic fundamentalism. As is well known, bin Laden and the Taliban themselves entered the political arena in the context of the anti-Soviet liberation struggle of the Afghan mujahideen with the support of Saudi Arabia and the United States.

    For over half a century, people in the Middle East experienced politico-military cooperation between the West and the Soviet Union and dictatorial regimes; they experienced military interventions, arms imports, wars, destruction and human suffering. There is not a single example of external democratic approaches being promoted in the region, that the values ​​of western industrialized countries such as pluralism, freedom of expression and the protection of human rights have been the guiding principles of their relations with the states in the Middle East. How should the Islamic populations of this region perceive and adopt the positive political achievements of the West when they have not come to know these positive values ​​through their own experiences, but on the contrary the negative effects of a policy that predominantly depends on the short-term economic advantages of free access to the oil wells and the opportunities in the context of the East-West contrast.

    This set back the process of democratization in the region by decades and caused considerable damage to the peoples of the Near and Middle East, but did not damage short-term American and Western interests, on the contrary.

    There is also a clear connection between the nationalist-fundamentalist regimes, the two Gulf Wars, the gigantic arms exports to the Persian Gulf region in the past 30 years and the falling oil prices. The latter are known to be an important factor of stability for the flourishing economies of capitalist industrialized countries. The policies of the USA and the West, based on their own short-term economic and geostrategic interests, are overtaken by globalized terrorism. Just as the impending climate catastrophe must be seen as a reaction of nature to a short-sighted economic action of the rich elites in industrialized and developing countries, globalized terrorism is the political reaction to the way in which the system of economic dominance is maintained and secured.

    In the Islamic as well as in the entire Third World, a societal transformation and industrialization that is historically overdue is currently taking place, which is associated with profound social ruptures, alienation, uprooting and individual identity crises. The pressure of globalization intensifies this process. The most sustainable form of socio-cultural and socio-psychological reappraisal of this indispensable and conflict-prone process, which took place in Europe over a period of two centuries, is democratization and self-determination. By interfering, intervening and supporting corrupt and dictatorial regimes as well as grafting their own industrialization patterns, the large western industrialized countries contributed to the socio-psychological and socio-cultural reappraisal of the social transformation being interrupted and distorted or not taking place at all. The great mass of the uprooted across all social groups perceives the identity crisis they have suffered as an externally controlled attack on their own cultural values ​​and is therefore predestined to follow enemy images, their salvation in nationalistic orTo seek fundamentalist perspectives and at the same time hold foreign countries, the West and America responsible for their own suffering.

    The current globalization is structured asymmetrically, it has increased the unequal distribution of income in the world in the last decades. Over a billion people in the third world are struggling for their daily bread and are desperate to make a living. The social and political instability factors slumbering in this injustice cannot possibly be contained militarily.

    The privileged rich north, which all too often arranges its relations with the states of the south according to economic or geostrategic usefulness as a military, raw material and oil base and therefore also makes political and military pacts with anti-democratic regimes, is in the zones of misery and longing for human dignity and justice. The socio-economic impoverishment and cultural uprooting while at the same time displaying the wealth of the elites through globalized communication systems represent the most fertile breeding ground for the flourishing of terrorism, drug trafficking and the mafia networks of today and tomorrow.

    In conclusion, it can be stated that reducing the causes of international terrorism to bin Laden and his al-Qaida, to Islamic fundamentalism or even to Islam itself is misleading. Rather, it is the socio-economic deficits and cultural ruptures, injustices and humiliations as well as the disregard for political, economic and cultural self-determination of the people that arouse extremism and readiness to use violence and in Islamic fundamentalism and Arab nationalism in the Near and Middle East, in Serbian nationalism in the Balkans, Find their expression in Hindu fundamentalism in India, in religiously channeled outbreaks of violence in Indonesia, in Christian fundamentalism in the USA and in Jewish fundamentalism in Israel. Growing readiness for the "clash of cultures", the increase in drug trafficking and criminal financial transactions, as well as the terrorist attack of September 11th are expressions of a profound instability in the world. On September 11, 2001, the United States would have to recognize that this policy "does not pay off" in the long term and can provoke new conflicts.

    The reform forces in Europe have a task that should not be underestimated in order to counteract this. A lasting peace in the Near and Middle East and a sustainable energy supply for Europe require an independent European Middle East, foreign and peace policy. Whether full solidarity with the United States favors this perspective is doubtful.