Soccer Bombing Should Not Prompt More U.S. Meddling

The synchronized and unconscionable bombings by the Somali group al-Shabab—of people doing nothing more than watching soccer games in Kampala, Uganda—counterintuitively illustrates why the United States should not be fighting Islamic militancy worldwide. Many of America’s editorial writers are screaming for stepped-up U.S. counterterrorism strikes in Somalia against the group. This option would be the worst possible course of action.

Many leading American newspapers and government officials see the soccer bombings as part of an ominous trend of local terror groups going international. As evidence they also cite al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas day, the Pakistani Taliban’s assistance of the clumsy attempt to bomb New York’s Times Square, and the recent arrest in Norway and Germany of three members of a separatist group from western China for allegedly orchestrating a terrorist bomb plot. Yet these international attacks by local groups, as with the strikes by the Somali al-Shabab, aren’t coming out of nowhere with radical Islamism as their sole cause, as the editorial writers imply. The groups are unforgivably attempting to attack innocent civilians; yet the U.S. government needs to carefully examine why these local groups might be taking their respective shows on the road. This would require looking in the mirror, which can sometimes be tough.

For example, al-Shabab was a local Islamist group that wasn’t getting much support from Somalia’s mostly moderate Muslims until the United States started supporting corrupt Somali warlords against it. The United States has funneled much economic and military aid into the country, and conducts counterterrorism attacks within its borders. Even now, al-Shabab explicitly said that it targeted Uganda in the soccer bombing because the nation is one of the two countries providing soldiers for the African Union (AU) forces that are combating the group. Also, the United States and its European allies are using Uganda to train Somalis to fight against al-Shabab. The group has threatened future attacks against Uganda and Burundi, the other country providing troops to the AU force, if they did not withdraw from Somalia. Although radical Islam is present, al-Shabab’s main motivation for the international attacks is much the same as the other local Islamist groups—to get rid of foreign interference in their countries.

Thus, many analysts now fear that al-Shabab—as local groups al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Pakistani Taliban have—will also attempt to strike U.S. targets. Not coincidentally, the Christmas Day bombing by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula came several days after the United States significantly augmented its support of a Yemeni government offensive against the group. Similarly, the Pakistani Taliban, like its Afghan brethren, has been concerned less with attacking internationally and more with overthrowing the local government. For the Pakistani Taliban, that changed with the Obama administration’s zealous drone attacks on the group in western Pakistan. The group’s unsuccessful bombing attempt on Times Square ensued.

Finally, leading American newspapers attribute a Chinese separatist group’s involvement in plotting terrorist strikes in the West to giving their members something to do because China has foiled them at home. This tack conveniently ignores Western support for China’s assertion that Uighur separatists are part of the wider threat of militant Islam, that the group has been placed on the U.S. terrorist watch list, and that some Uighurs were held in Guantanamo prison for years and then were finally released because they posed no threat to the United States.

In short, the United States is “internationalizing” local Islamist groups and their causes by needlessly helping the governments of Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and China fight radical Islam. U.S. intervention in such conflicts merely strengthens such groups, because they can adopt a powerful nationalist cloak and get greater popular support by battling to evict the unpopular superpower from their home soil. Contrary to U.S. government rhetoric, retaliatory terrorist strikes are not primarily underlied by poverty, hunger, refugees, bad economies, or illegal trade in arms, but by resistance to foreign interference and occupation.

The blowback from U.S. meddling in conflicts that don’t threaten American vital interests is no longer local. Retaliatory attacks from such groups are being directed toward the home turf of the United States and its major allies, and that does affect U.S. vital interests.

ivan-eland.jpgThus, the United States need not and should not be at war with radical Islam. In the past, when it suited American interests, the United States actually has encouraged and supported certain Islamists, such as the Saudi Arabian royal family, Mohammad Zia al-Haq’s Pakistani government, and mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan. Instead, the United States should concentrate on neutralizing the main trunk of al-Qaeda and quit making new enemies by unnecessarily meddling in local conflicts that don’t threaten U.S. vital interests.

Ivan Eland

This article first appeared in The Independent Institute and is republished with permission.

Published by the LA Progressive on July 17, 2010
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Ivan Eland

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He also has served as Evaluator-in-Charge (national security and intelligence) for the U.S. General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office), and has testified on the military and financial aspects of NATO expansion before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on CIA oversight before the House Government Reform Committee, and on the creation of the Department of Homeland Security before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Dr. Eland is the author of The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy, as well as The Efficacy of Economic Sanctions as a Foreign Policy Tool. He is a contributor to numerous volumes and the author of 45 in-depth studies on national security issues.

His articles have appeared in American Prospect, Arms Control Today, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Emory Law Journal, The Independent Review, Issues in Science and Technology (National Academy of Sciences), Mediterranean Quarterly, Middle East and International Review, Middle East Policy, Nexus, Chronicle of Higher Education, American Conservative, International Journal of World Peace, and Northwestern Journal of International Affairs. Dr. Eland's popular writings have appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Miami Herald, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Newsday, Sacramento Bee, Orange County Register, Washington Times, Providence Journal, The Hill, and Defense News. He has appeared on ABC's “World News Tonight,” NPR's “Talk of the Nation,” PBS, Fox News Channel, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, CNN, CNN “Crossfire,” CNN-fn, C-SPAN, MSNBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), Canadian TV (CTV), Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, BBC, and other local, national, and international TV and radio programs.