To add for a moment to the sobering observations of VDH and Jonathan Foreman, I took a look this morning at “Renewing American Leadership,” then-candidate Barack Obama’s essay in the July/August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, outlining his anticipated foreign policy vision. Notably, the word “India” appears only three times: one throw-away line in a paragraph about Pakistan, promising to “encourage dialogue between Pakistan and India to work toward resolving their dispute over Kashmir”; and two even more fleeting references — one about India’s being one of a handful of emerging powers with whom we need “effective collaboration on pressing global issues,” and the other targeting India (as well as the United States and other big “pollute[rs]“) for “binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions” as part of a “global response to climate change.”
It is perhaps unfair to single out Obama. Most of the major candidates published similar essays in the Foreign Affairs series, and there was precious little discussion of India. But I think it’s fair to say our new president does not appear to have thought much about it, and may soon come to appreciate that President Bush did think about it, and worked hard to strengthen ties with New Dehli. (Victor aptly predicts a new Democrat appreciation of other Bush national-security measures.)
A feature of this morning’s coverage is the standard and increasingly less relevant questions that come up whenever we see global jihadist attacks: (a) Is this an al Qaeda operation? and (b) Are these just home-grown terrorists animated by local issues?
When he guest-hosted Hannity & Colmes last night, Rich had a very edifying couple of segments with Mark Steyn and Richard Miniter. Mark made the excellent point about the reluctance to come to grips with the fact that these attacks on iconic targets, which we’re now seeing in Mumbai/Bombay but of course have seen elsewhere, are fueled by an ideology. That’s exactly right. The obsession over whether al Qaeda or its endless jumble of affiliates pulled off the operation is a misguided attempt to mimimize the challenge. The bin Laden network is not unimportant, but it is tapping into something that is much bigger than itself.
It’s become fashionable for pundits to confine the threat of radical Islam to a relative fringe of disgruntled takfiris and rationalize that if we could only eliminate them all would be well. But that fringe represents only a strain of the virus.
In July 2007, our intelligence community released findings of a National Intelligence Estimate that indicated jihadist ideology had become so extensively propagated in the West that the mediating influence of terrorist organizations like al Qaeda was no longer essential in order for radical cells to spring up and interconnect. Naturally, these local operatives are spurred, in part, by local and regional issues. But, though the mainstream press recoils from this reality, such local issues are fitted to an ideological framework that is global, hegemonic, and more about the ultimate triumph of fundamentalist Islam than, say, a Palestinian state, Kashmir, Danish cartoons, economic inequality, or whatever this week’s complaint is.
The jihad, moreover, is about much more than terrorism. Terrorism is one method of extortion, but is far from the only one — though it makes other methods in what Robert Spencer aptly calls the “Stealth Jihad” far more successful.
Now consider India. It has about 140 million Muslims. At a high level of abstraction we may say that’s only about 13 percent of the population. But in the real world, it is a critical mass by any estimation. There will be a breathtakingly large number of fundamentalists in any group of that size. The thrumming jihad over Kashmir gives them legitimacy and influence among many factions of Indian Muslims. They are animated by local grievances, but they also see themselves as part of something much bigger and more ambitious, a perception that is only bolstered by the support they get from Pakistani Intelligence — which has probably done more than any entity outside the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi financing channels to promote the global jihad. [REVISION: I should, of course, have included the Iranian regime with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi financiers — I’m down with a nasty head cold today and not hitting on all cylinders.]
We’re noticing India today because of the brazenness of the ongoing attacks. But there have been at least 15 terror strikes by Islamic radicals there in the last three years, and a spate just since July. It’s surely not a coincidence that the pace has picked up as India and the United States first agreed to and then finalized the details of a cooperation pact that Congress approved in early October. Jihadists would clearly like to reverse strengthening America-India relations. So would Pakistan (which has long leveraged its ties with jihadists against India) and China.
It will be very important for the Obama administration to continue cultivating India, and to be seen as doing so. Anything less, especially after the events that started yesterday, will embolden radical Islam.