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Three "Selfs"


From: Christ in der Gegenwart, 20/2011, P. 215 et sequ.
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    The consequences of Osama bin Laden's death for the Arab region are uncertain. What lessons does the West draw from the events?


"Nothing is as it was before," so was the dictum of 11 September 2001. This insight is trivial, because at no time in history it is, as it was before. Nobody can step twice into the same river, in a world that is everywhere evolutionary.

Anyway, after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon many things remained as before. The Bush administration responded to the world terrorist Osama bin Laden in the way in which Washington always responded, whenever it felt attacked as a major power: by military intervention, this time not in Central and South America but in the Middle East - with a disastrous destabilization of the region around Afghanistan and Iraq. This has indirectly accelerated the expansion of the murderous enterprise around the world, even with the "ally" Pakistan, where the arch-enemy lived well-protected in the center of military power and intelligence service. Other parts of the world have become still more dangerous due to radical groups: the Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria ... And we are always talking only about Al Qaeda's attacks on the West, although the respective commandos operate in the same manner in Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and elsewhere.

It remains to be seen whether after the death of Bin Laden now everything will be different than it was before. Whether Al Qaeda is technically responsible for them or not, the purposeful terrorist attacks on and the persecutions of Christians in Egypt or Nigeria scotch the optimistic expectations regarding the "democracy" revolts. The assessments therefore differ widely.

The "Spiegel" predicts the decline of Al Qaeda; at least in the Middle East, Jihad, the political ideology of holy war is almost "irrelevant." What matters for a growing majority of young Arabs is not the fight against America's hegemony or "the self-assertion of a religion that is oppressed by pro-Western regimes." They want their share in prosperity and progress, from which so far only the clans of the rulers benefited. "But the unsophisticated jihadi thinkers had no answers to such questions. The beleaguered autocrats who sought to hold on to power did not succeed in appeasing the anger at the unfair distribution of wealth, neither by religious arguments nor by sham reforms."

The "Frankfurter Rundschau" also supposed that Bin Laden's death "may be regarded as a symbol of the gradual decline of this movement." "The U.S. and Europe should spare no efforts to achieve that the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia become economic and political success stories."


Arab Springtime and Al Qaeda

The "Welt" is far more skeptical about the course of events. The established balance of the Middle East and of its wide environment has admittedly begun to waver, but a new order is not at all in sight. "Nothing is over, little is predictable ... Every move makes the whole structure vibrate - a crash is not excluded." Also the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" does not see jihadism as finished. At any rate, after the outbreak of the "Arabellion", a "striving for the end of oriental despotism" is noticeable; it aims at building pluralism, civil society, and democracy, "whatever that may be."

The American terrorism expert Richard Clarke gave a markedly cautious opinion to the "Zeit": We do simply not yet know what impact the current Arab turmoil will have on Al Qaeda. The countries concerned are too different. "The Arab Springtime in Yemen suits Al Qaeda. This could also be the case in Libya. Also in Egypt, the government may still move in an Islamist direction. To say that the Arab Springtime was a major setback for Al Qaeda, would be an exaggeration."


20 July 1944

Moreover, it remains uncertain whether the so-called jihadists are stripped of their religious motives by to Bin Laden's death and the end of his quasi-sacral myth of inviolability. In one of many radical Islamic Internet forums you could read, "We have not fought for Osama, we are fighting for Allah."

Immediately after the death squad of Abbottabad, an editorial in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" has somewhat effusively celebrated the triumph over the religious motives of Islamic terrorists, "The idea that 'the' Islam is a uniform path for all people - from Morocco over Mongolia to Malaysia - is humbug." Just a day later, at the same place a much more restrained assessment could be found, "Religions do not change in their heart; they only adapt themselves. In the case of Islam, with a Scripture proclaimed by God, this is more difficult than in Christianity where violence is called more clearly into question than in Islam. Here, the recourse to radical forms is simple. Fundamentalists who leaf through the Koran have an easy job with their half-educated interpretations of divine law. Those might be mistaken who rejoice at the near defeat of the militant Islam after the death of the Al-Qaida leader."

However, what conclusions does the Western world draw from recent developments? The massive self-doubts, the self-deprecation and the sharp criticism accompanying the American elimination of the mass murderer Osama bin Laden in comments and talk shows is very irritating for us. Church officials joined in the chorus of worriers and began, with a lot of ifs and buts, to call the legitimacy of tyrannicide into question - a theory that had been well-founded in a long tradition. Others speculated about whether the war against Bin Laden was really a war. In order to be able to speak of a "martial quality", it had to be considered whether the terrorist organization had still sufficient command structures, bases, training camps and weapons. Should the soldiers, who under personal threat of death forced their way into the center of the perpetrator of crimes against humanity, first convene a round table in the midst of a dramatic situation in order to discuss in detail and controversially the criteria which at that moment were given for a war situation or for simple self-defense?



It is ridiculous when people, in retrospect, claim unduly to know everything better - people who from a comfortable armchair watch others do for them the highly dangerous task of protecting the life of future generations.

In particular, the German superior attitude has a bizarre effect. For in our country the men of active resistance against the Nazi terror are undoubtedly venerated as heroes and saints, the men of the 20th July, who had sought to protect Germany and foreign nations from damage by a bomb attack on Hitler that failed in the end. In this case, we have not the slightest doubt that they were right: The planned liquidation of the criminal "Führer" was an act of humanity, perfectly justified, in accordance with custom, decency, morality, natural law and order. The Wehrmacht officers involved in the "Operation Valkyrie" had previously admittedly worried about questions of conscience, namely, whether they were e.g. allowed to violate their oath of allegiance to the commander in chief, but the answer was clear. We can definitely suppose a similar examination of conscience also by those responsible for the "Operation Geronimo", so the secret code of the commando action against Bin Laden, as by those of the 20 July 1944. The situation is similar; the pressure to act is high in view of daily brutal killings by Al Qaeda everywhere in the world. Here, too, you can precisely learn from history.


Who is to Blame for the Chaos?

And one more thing: Not the direct action against Bin Laden, which preventively saved many lives and would have saved many more lives if it had been done ten years ago, is fatal and questionable with regard to international law. This applies rather to the war against Afghanistan and later Iraq, which was fomented by George W. Bush junior in the martial manner of a cowboy and thus produced a devastating, more explosive situation in the Middle East. Now also the nuclear weapons state and most unsafe "ally" Pakistan has got into this trouble - and as a result perhaps India, which is soon before China the most populous country in the world. Bush has to answer for the chaos, not Obama.

A first clear lesson from the case Bin Laden can only be: The West must exercise anew a determined but prudent and wise self-affirmation, which takes the cultural assessments of others seriously, and strongly faces these challenges. The successful Abbotabbad commando, which was accomplished in a quite special way by using the "surgical scalpel" to avoid the worst "collateral damage", speaks a clear language. It commands respect, just in a cultural area that is dominated by an archaic view of masculinity. Unlike Bush's dilettante acts of war, this successful message is understood in extremist Muslim circles - among people who, like Bin Laden, want to bless the world with the Sharia law "eye for eye, tooth for a tooth". Now they have to realize that also the West understands, and that it is able to cope with this challenge without blood-revenge ideas by a multiculturally correct answer - without betraying its democratic principles.

After all, democracy should and must be and remain able to defend itself. This is the crucial message of the American anti-terrorist measures to all jihadists who made fun of the supposedly effeminate mentality and the juridical helplessness of our liberal system, and who with the help of the prevailing legal positivism played a cat-and-mouse game with the constitutional state. It remains therefore incomprehensible why in Frankfurt am Main extremist Islamic Salafist followers were allowed again by courts, in the context of the so-called right to demonstrate, on the occasion of a rally to agitate publicly for a holy war - although as usual camouflaged with religious "words about peace". The requirement of prudence and proportionality applies also to the judiciary and the supreme constitutional courts. The highest independent state authority, too, must self-critically analyse its course of action - in the sense of democratic self-assertion. There is a fine line between encouragement and objection. This applies also to international law and international criminal law. The will to self-assertion is and remains essential for strengthening democracy both nationally and internationally as well as the universal rights.

This includes permanent self-control and moderation also for the West. As correct as it is to promote worldwide the awareness of human rights and democracy, so important is it to content oneself and not to overdo one's own viewpoints. Neither by the German nor by the American system the world will make a full recovery - neither politically, nor culturally or economically. This, too, is a clear experience with and after Bin Laden. There are limits set even to solidarity and sympathy. Each sphere of civilization has both the human right and the human obligation to look after development and progress at all levels, and as good as possible to settle independently its own affairs. Germany is of course not defended in the Hindu Kush - reality has proved this. Beyond political overeagerness, even if it is owed emotionally to an ally, there has to be also rationally more openness to reality: i.e. to the question of what is feasible for us and what is nationally reasonable.

The Cologne political scientist and member of the Bundestag Matthias Zimmer writes in the journal "Merkur" (May): "Even if military operations are sometimes justified by humanitarian reasons and make it look as if one acted on behalf of universal solidarity: The resource solidarity can be used only if it is not disconnected from particular interests." With regard to the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan, one had for a long time conveyed the impression that the soldiers would be employed there only as aid workers who defend e.g. the rights of women and girls. Meanwhile, the public debate has changed, the German interests are scrutinized. "What those interests are, however, is less obvious. A comprehensible implementation of the alleged national interest ... does not exist. Here a special structural feature of solidarity becomes evident: It abates with increasing distance." Self-control means moderation. Thomas Assheuer explains it in the "Zeit" in this way: "The capitalist modernity ... has confused itself with the rest of the world. It seriously believed that all men are Americans at the bottom of their hearts, and waited eagerly to be redeemed by the Western way of life."

But Assheuer remains hopeful: After Bin Laden's death one will give up the unfortunate idea that there had been in the end a "world war" between "a superpower with a fixation about its enemy" and a worldwide murderous terrorist organization." This might promote the universality of human rights. "For in the moment in which they do no longer belong to the humanitarian set of the Western war rhetoric, the human rights are politically 'free' again: They become again a revolutionary idea that is valid for all cultures, and are no longer suspected to be merely the moral carrot of the West in the war on terror, in order to enforce immoral interests."


Opportunity for a World Police Force

The "Tagesspiegel" even sees the targeted action against Osama bin Laden as the great opportunity to achieve worldwide progress in the fight against violence. "Contrary to all prophecies of doom about the decline of the Western world, it has seen lately on the contrary a strong spiritual ascent," inter alia due to President Obama, who enjoys sympathies in many parts of the world. "The hour must be used to promote the establishment of a world police force. That's why the U.S. action in Pakistan is a step forward in world history."

But what matters far more is whether the West will take advantage of the recent successes against terror, i.e. correct itself, examine its conscience, and change its ways. For in the confrontation as well as in the dialogue with Islam is not only about political and economic but above all about cultural, religious perspectives: Who has the better moral sources and makes use of them? And who does really strive for a godly life and find thus the meaning of life, both privately and publicly, individually and politically? Regarding globalization, the religious question has returned as political question, although the sustainable impetus of secularization has influenced all cultures. What kind of life do we want to lead in the West and in the Orient? As Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists - and non-believers? The respectful coexistence of nations and civilizations depends considerably on a successful development of the intellectual and spiritual forces, and not only on a - certainly necessary - more equitable exchange of goods and services, knowledge and skills. Self-assertion - self-control - self-correction: These three "self" play a decisive role for the world peace - more than anything else. Hope dies last. After Bin Laden really differs from before Bin Laden.


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