The world, since September 11, seems to have been locked into a bitter dispute on whether America’s large-scale military assault on Afghanistan is a holy war. Promoters of civilization clashes concluded that it certainly is, and the missionaries immediately agreed. For Harvard scholars like Samuel Huntington, this confirms the greatness of social sciences in predicting major wars, while for retired policy advisors like Francis Fukuyama, it marks another end to history.
When you look at it un-carefully, it appears that the war is indeed very holy. Osama B. Laden is Muslim, George W. Bush is Christian, and American pilots are probably trained to say prayers from the Bible before a devastating bomb is dropped from the sky. When you look at it very carefully, however, and you do the proper arithmetic you will find that there is absolutely no such a thing as a holy war; the truth lies in economics.
The Reasons Why
One of the reasons why the war on Afghanistan is not holy stems from the fact that, in many ways, this war is pretty much the same as the Gulf War, and the latter was never holy. When, in the early 1990s, America ‘invaded’ Iraq, one of the bombs that landed on Baghdad was found to carry a message that looked holy: here is your Muslim present Mr. Hussein, the message read. The media took it seriously and the thesis that America was waging a holy war against Islam received wide acceptance. The truth, however, is that the war was about oil, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were defended and they both were Muslims.
Another reason is that America’s many wars have historically been administered by the Pentagon/White House connection; the Pope of the Vatican was never important. It is not in the constitution of America that the president has to gather signatures from priests before he starts a war. George W. Bush knows little about Christianity (some suggested he never saw a Bible), and the White House bears little resemblance to the holy Church.
Furthermore, in today’s America, a person, to qualify for presidency, only needs to have big bags of money; a religious degree is absolutely unnecessary. On the contrary, the more religious a person is the less likely HE will be elected. The separation between the church and the state is what the White House stands for, and it is very likely that George W. Bush subscribes to the idea that humans are derived from the apes.
On top of that, there are severe political restraints on the US government to make the military assault on Afghanistan a holy war. The whole military campaign on Yugoslavia was based on the idea that the mission was to civilize the Serbs and protect the Muslims, and, for that matter alone, today’s invasion of Afghanistan cannot be holy.
The Wholly Truth?
Once you have done the above arithmetic (even after accounting for the air strikes on Libya and Sudan), it becomes apparent that America’s large-scale assault on Afghanistan is not holy at all. What then is the motivation for such a big assault?. One answer is the obvious: Osama Bin Laden has committed a crime against humanity and he, like Slobodan Milosevic, should be brought to justice. This is the thesis formulated on September 11 and soon validated by the US coalition. (The fact that the coalition against terror includes Christians and Muslims provides another proof that the war is totally unholy).
While there is no doubt that the US is honest about bringing terrorists to the Hague, the hypothesis that the war is PURELY a function of Bin Laden is not that easy to grasp. If the aim is to solely hunt down terrorists, then the other question is: why did Bill Clinton not run after Bin Laden in 1998 to smoke him out of his caves while the Clinton administration believed that he was the mastermind of the Dar es Salaam é Nairobi massacre?.
There are two explanations for this. The simple one is that Bill Clinton is not much of an adventurer like George W. Bush (who has the genes of his father); the more complicated one is that the war may have to do with the Business Cycle as well. George W. Bush may have taken a different path from that of Bill Clinton because in 1998 the US economy was booming to its ears following the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis (thanks to investors who were forced back home), while in 2001 that picture is no longer on the wall. With layoffs mounting every day, the stock market continuing to fall, and no signs at all that interest rate cuts are working their magic, it is hard to dismiss the parallels between now and the Great Depression as superficial. Consequently, to try to put the economy back on track, a Keynesian expansionary fiscal policy a la Vietnam may have been believed to be necessary. In the face of a shifting economic gravity towards Asia and wild concerns by Samuel Huntington about America’s cultural ranking, this hypothesis should not be totally dismissed.
Why ‘Civilizations’ Will Clash
I did not mean to conclude that terrorists of any kind should go unpunished (or, for that matter, a new world order is not under way). Terrorists, be them Christians, Jews or Muslims, should be severely punished. This is because if we do not punish them right on time, more of them may feel like to join in later.
My point is rather different: it is about predicting major wars. Should we expect a major international conflict whenever a terrorist strikes back?. If the Business Cycle hypothesis is accepted, then the answer is definitely NO. When terrorists strike back one may or may not expect a major conflict; that depends on whether the business cycle is in its peak, trough, contraction or expansion phase. The fact that the Gulf War DID end the US 1991 major recession adds weight to this assertion.
There is another point: unlike Samuel Huntington’s, our thesis predicts that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be ideological or cultural, but primarily economic.