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Never Intervene in Islamic Countries

by Alamgir Hossain

23 Nov, 2006

When the UN-lead forces drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan, I was indignant of the US, like those overwhelming majority of the Muslims worldwide. However, it was not long afterwards that my perception changed totally. During their five-year rule, the Taliban robbed the dignity and future of the entire women folks of Afghanistan. All sorts of human rights violation and introduction of cruel and often barbaric Sharia laws caused immense sufferings to the people of Afghanistan. Desperate economic condition and hardship drove as many as 25% of the entire population to refugee camps in neighboring countries, notably in Pakistan. Had Taliban continued to rule the country, nobody knows how many people would have been left inside Afghanistan today.

With the removal of the Taliban, women got their universal rights to education,¬ jobs and other kinds of human rights. Foreign aids poured in and reconstruction of the war-ravaged country resumed, the Afghan refugees from neighboring countries started returning home in great numbers. In the 1970s and early 80s, Afghanistan was one of the most liberal Muslim nation in the world.¬ There was a hope in my mind that the Afghans were on their way back to the good old days and would emerge as a prosperous, democratic and peaceful nation.

But when the United States decided to ouster Saddam Hussein, my enthusiasm was rather lukewarm. I was not opposed to it in that Saddam Hussein was no less a harmful ruler than the Taliban for Iraqis and the neighbors. I was, however, slightly skeptical about the timing. United States should probably have put the house in Afghanistan in order before casting eyes on Saddam Hussein.

Nearly four years after the invasion of Iraq , I see the invasion was a mistake ‚€“ not on the moral ground but on the practical ground. Nearly five years after the ouster of Taliban regime, I realize that the invasion of Afghanistan too was a mistake ‚€“ again on the practical, not the moral, ground. My realization is that there are way too many tragic problems in the Islamic world that are needed to be fixed by the international community. Unfortunately, they are just not fixable.

I think I was na√Įve not to learn from the UN and United State's experience of failure in Somalia in 1993. Somalia was a huge tragedy which should have been fixed. When the US decided to withdraw after suffering about 50 casualties at the hands of the al-Qaeda fighters, I was disappointed. I thought the United States should not have given in to the brutality of the terrorists so easily. Perseverance would ultimately have made the US victorious and Somalis would have been benefited.

Subsequently, violent terrorist activities by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and numerous other Islamist groups, increased dramatically across the world. Too many commentators and experts have blamed the United States' withdrawal from Somalia which must have emboldened Osama bin Laden and his Islamist terrorist comrades. I, too, have supported such a theory for quite some time. But today, my realization is totally different. Those commentators and experts were wrong, totally wrong. So was I. Only president Clinton was right in his decision to pull out of Somalia.

What I realize today is that the problems in the Islamic world cannot be fixed by outside intervention, howsoever dire the crisis and howsoever noble the intervention be. In stead of blaming President Clinton for emboldening al-Qaedqa by showing meekness in Somalia, we should have learned lesson from that experience. Withdrawal from Somalia should have been taken as benchmark for future actions.

We also could have taken lesson from the Russian experience in Afghanistan. In stead of learning from it, commentators and experts blamed the US for abandoning the Afghans after the Russians had withdrawn from there. I also agreed. The country spiraled into a disastrous civil war and we blamed the US for not staying there and fix the problem before leaving. But today, I realize that it was not the US who was wrong. Instead, those commentators and experts were wrong; so was I. America did the right thing by leaving.

Had the US stayed on in Afghanistan after the Russian withdrawal, the terrorists would have immediately targeted their weapons at the Americans. Jihadists from across the world would have continued to poor in to drive the American infidels out of Afghanistan this time round. The Americans departed leaving the Afghans and their allies to take care of their homes without interference. Even then, the US could not avert the wrath of the Islamists. They went to Somalia for the noblest of cause for bringing law and order in the civil-war stricken country, but got terribly pounded by Osama's al-Qaeda, whom the United States' had never harmed but only helped. The United States suffered multiple other attacks by al-Qaeda in Africa and elsewhere before the worst nightmare of 9/11 (2001) descended within her own territory this time round.

Striking the world's greatest power so violently within her boundary had definitely beaten the pride of the US ‚€“ a beating, which was too difficult to digest. Of course, it is difficult when this country has the power to destroy the entire planet earth scores of times. Almost every American lost his/her sanity for the time being. I thought Clinton too. They did not give sanity and reason to look back and reflect on the lessons they learned in Somalia barely 8 years earlier. Arrogant desire to squash Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and their Taliban ally overpowered all other thoughts of the Americans. Probably, there was that humane desire to help the devastated people of Afghanistan too. There was probably that guilt also played in the minds of the ideologues in Washington for making an alleged mistake by leaving the Afghans alone after the Russian withdrawal, which caused extreme misery and hardship to Afghan people. And there they went and dislodged the Taliban from power virtually in no time.

Some of the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters died and others took refuge in the mountain and yet others got shelter and assistance from across the border inside Pakistan. Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf promised to squash the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. Afghanistan looked rather quiet and peaceful for the first one or two years except some stray incidences of violence. President Bush and his advisors thought the Afghanistan was put in order already. They thought now was time to take care of Saddam Hussein. When deadly fanatics like the Taliban and al-Qaeda problem was apparently taken care of so easily and with so little cost, removing Saddam for the good of the Iraqi people and for creating a friendly partner in Iraq must have looked an attractive and noble mission for the conservatives ideologues in Washington. So they went to Iraq and the disastrous situation that slowly built up is all there to see.

Despite my rather optimistic view about Iraq invasion at that time, there is no scope of doubt in anyone's mind by now that it was a grave mistake. Behind the rhetoric and hopeful views, President Bush and all his architect advisors of the Iraq war have by now realized that it was a grave mistake, too. Even Henry Kissinger, an architect of the Vietnam War and President Bush's advisor for the Afghanistan and Iraq said: "Military victory is no longer possible in Iraq today" [ AP, 20 Nov 2006 ].

What many people may not also realize is that the Afghanistan invasion was also an equally big mistake. It looks increasingly unlikely that the NATO-lead UN forces in Afghanistan are just not going to succeed there. After the Iraq invasion, the Jihadists found a more fertile, secure and welcoming ground and poured into to Iraq, who otherwise would have headed to Afghanistan. The Iraq war has given the Afghans only a bit of temporary respite. As the US forces are increasingly poised to leave Iraq, these Jihadists next destination will be Afghanistan . The NATO is already seeking reinforcement but nothing is going to work. Sending more troops will only put more targets within the reach of the Jihadists. Although reinforcements can cause a greater distress on the Jihadists, the headcounts of death on the foreign forces side will also go up. A stronger foreign force can only linger the conflict causing greater casualties on either side. But it is the Jihadists who are going to prevail. The only difference will be the matter of time.

I now feel that the ideologue architects of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions in Washington were too carried away by the United States ' stunning successes in replacing tyranny with democracy, peace and prosperity in Japan and Germany after their invasion of those countries during the WWII. They also probably had gotten carried away by the success of foreign interventions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. After the disastrous conflict in the Balkan region, foreign intervention quickly brought the conflict under control and the reconstruction and reconciliation was moving on well.

These are truly hopeful cases which would inspire many an ideologues to intervene in other conflicts for the good of the affected people. What the ideologue architects of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars did not realize is that the people they are going to deal with in Afghanistan and Iraq are not they same as those in Germany, Japan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. United States had to deal with Buddhists in Japan , Christians in Germany while the UN forces had to deal with the Christians in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Although there are Muslims involved in the Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo conflicts, but they were only to benefit from the UN intervention there in their goal to achieve autonomy and even independence, while the native Christians had everything to loose. It is a situation like United States' assistance to the Islamists in Afghanistan against the Russian in the 1980s. So long the Islamists need help in achieving their goals at the cost of the interest of the Christians; the UN forces would be welcome there. Once the goal is achieved, Jihad will starts against the foreign interveners, if not withdrawn immediately.

Following the recently concluded midterm election, the victorious Democrats are pushing for an early withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. This is an excellent opportunity president Bush should snap immediately. Victory is not simply achievable in Iraq. The longer the US stays, the higher is the price in both life and costs. So, taking the troops out of Iraq under the pressure from the Democrats would be the best strategy present Bush should follow. Apart from saving life and money, this will also give the president an opportunity to shift some of the blame of failure on the Democrats. Some blame of the quagmire that is to follow after the withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq could also be placed on the shoulders of the Democrats. This will be the best opportunity for the President to salvage the short-term prospect of the Republican Party at home.

The United States must also realize that the mission in Afghanistan, in which they have a big involvement, is doomed to fail. The longer they stay there, the worse the situation gets and turns themselves a bigger enemy of the Muslims. Furthermore the Jihadists trained in Iraq would definitely head to Afghanistan if the infidel Western forces stay there. Alongside the Iraq war, the United States must also find an exit from Afghanistan as early as possible.

It is also essential for the international community to learn lessons from these experiences failures; first in Somalia, then in Afghanistan and Iraq. And the lesson they must learn is that they must never intervene in Muslim countries. Problems are too many in the Islamic world but they are not just fixable. A humanitarian effort to fix them only makes the situation worse for the world. UN's effort to bring law and order in Somalia invited the Jihadists and subsequent withdrawal of US-lead forces resulted in emboldening, strengthening and the multiplication of Jihadist forces. Then the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have made the world the most dangerous place vis-√ -vis the Jihadist threats are concerned. Intervention in non-Muslim countries such as in Liberia, Haiti, Serbian Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina etc. brings democracy, peace and prosperity amongst the people. But the same in Muslim countries turns the world into a more dangerous place.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan¬ is forcefully insisting on sending troop to Sudan. A resolution has also been passed at the UN for sending troop there, which has been held back by the Sudan Government's disapproval. If the world has learned a lesson, the first thing they should do is to keep away from Sudan. Al-Qaeda has already warned against sending foreign troop to Sudan. If the UN really sends foreign troops there; it will definitely act as a recipe for strengthening of the Jihadists forces further. Let the Muslim world alone. Islam is the complete and perfect code of life and they know how to live best by themselves. The outside world needs to learn to be impassive about what happens inside the Muslim world.

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