Requiem for the land of the West

(To Gino Lanzara)

The flow of history is constant, regardless of more or less deterministic cyclicality or unprecedented forms of evolution; rationally Samuel P. Huntington hypothesized that “...the fundamental source of conflict in the new world we live in will be substantially neither ideological nor economic ... but that the great divisions of humanity and the main source of conflict will be related to culture... that the most important conflicts will take place between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate world politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the lines on which the battles of the future will take place "; not by chance The Clash of Civilization1, as early as 1996 had predicted that post conflicts Cold War they would arise from the differences between different cultural and religious identities.

With the end of bipolarism, political theory had held that liberal democracy and Western values ​​were the only valid ideological alternative; according to Fukuyama, with the then imminent Soviet collapse, liberalism could only have triumphed, given that Communist China was also moving towards a liberal socio-economic order. With the evolution of history towards the universality of liberal institutions2 we arrive at the end of the story itself; it is a fascinating thesis, which even takes up a glimmer of Hegelian thought. But in this euphony that embraces philosophy, politics, economics, Huntington plants the seed of doubt: alongside Fukuyama's harmony, he combines his theses, which lead to glimpses of a twilight vision3, a sort of global de-westernization due to the demographic growth of other civilizations - notably the Islamic one -, and to the Indo Pacific economic growth: the West must resign itself to the fact that it is a civilizations, among others, lacking special imprimatur that would allow them to forcefully export their values.

Since 1945 there have always been a few superpowers that have acted as guardians attentive to the care of geo-economic and geopolitical interests, and that have managed to stop the most dangerous groups; today the economic expenditure and the difficult political management of a hypothetical conflict have made it possible to leave the planet devoid of controllers and prey to forces born locally, but which are not local, endowed with ample financial autonomy which, in fact, has given them the possibility of taking the blows inflicted on the Bataclan and Brussels.

Lacking decisive leadership everywhere, in the West the unpreparedness of a low-willed political phase emerged, not surprisingly witnessed by the furtive tears of the American president at a press conference. Of course, if the US is crying, Europe, which is going through one of the worst moments of political and social weakness in its history, certainly does not laugh, fought by the difficulty of even pronouncing the term. war.

Given that the story is based on objective reality and not on hypotheses, if the race for the White House had won the less muscular Al Gore instead of (by a handful of votes) George Bush, perhaps events would have taken another turn. Less than a year after his election, on 11 September 2001, 4 airliners were hijacked and brought to crash into the Twin Towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon; the fourth, probably destined for the dome of the Capitol in accordance with a fictional vision a la Tom Clancy, crashed in Pennsylvania.

The Qaedist attack, which showed the possibility of carrying out an offense equal to that suffered at Pearl Harbor, caused thousands of victims, its geopolitical consequences hundreds of thousands more. George W. Bush abandoned isolationist politics by adopting his own doctrine based on the concept of preemptive warfare capable of preventing potential future threats similar to those just suffered; a series of wars never declared against the so-called was launched rogue states, he identified himself mediatically un axis of evil, the emergence of international crises took place in unmanageable macro areas united by the more or less direct connection with the events of 11 September.

On October 26, 2001, in too short a period of time to discuss and approve acts of high institutional importance, the Patriot Act, which was followed shortly by the Military Order, who introduced the figure of enemy combatants caught both on American soil and abroad, to which to associate the case Snowden, which will still and for a long time be the object of historical political intelligence evaluation. Uncle Sam questioned his own civil liberties, the MO imploded.

As has happened for every historical moment, it is not always easy to identify the event that determines the moment of transition; undoubtedly 11/XNUMX was, because it marked the beginning of the end of the US planetary primacy, also because, to be honest, it is impossible to imagine who would aspire to the naming of a century that, in just twenty years, it has generously carried out attacks, a global financial crisis, Arab revolutions, wars and a pandemic.

In fact, September 11 ended the era that began in November 1989 with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and continued in 1991 with the Soviet breakup, and the one that saw the shift of world power from Eurasia to the North began. America, but also the objective emergence of the difficulties connected with the management of the anarchy of international relations which made it clear that it was not enough to defeat Russia to enjoy the dividends of peace.

For his part, Osama bin Laden could never have imagined neither such a resonant effect from the point of view of political consequences, nor the subsequent dynamics of events, especially if placed in relation to American reactions: October 7, less than a month after the attacks , began the war out of necessity in Afghanistan, the Qaedist refuge protected by the Taliban, a need that over time turned into an ideological choice that led Bush to clarify that the relative price would be paid by American freedoms4. In addition to being a tragedy, 11/XNUMX was becoming an opportunity: the invasion of Iraq5 war of choice, it was nothing more than the consequence of an imperial vision useful for spreading an economic-political model thanks to military force.

Illuminating (but contradictory in relation to belonging them and to the policy then established) as stated by Madeleine Albright6, so "... imposing democracy with weapons is an oxymoron". Maybe Maddie had read Huntington. The destabilization of the Iraqi pond with the concentric circles determined by the launch of the American pebbles, opened in the whole region to al-Qaeda unimaginable spaces.

La war on terror which paradoxically saw also the antagonistic powers of the cold war against the Taliban and bin Laden, characters created by the Americans themselves and put on the script of history, as well as heroes of the resistance to the Red Army, lined up on the American side, began to be a risk for the system itself American who did not understand why and how he should have deconstructed the terrorist threat by proceeding more rationally in search of principals and supporters.

More than a decline in power, we witnessed the decline of US unipolarity, caused by the rise of China, the partial consolidation of Europe, the progressive decrease in influence in Latin America and the (slow) recovery of Putinian Russia.

By way of in-depth analysis, it may be useful to recall how the Chinese leadership, already in 1999, in the people of Qiao Lang and Wang Xiangsui, two senior officers of the Chinese air force, had hypothesized asymmetrical conflicting activities accompanied by significant economic consequences; leaving aside senseless theories, there is no doubt that Beijing, for some time now, had begun to outline multilevel scenarios applicable to the theories relating to the decline and rise of nations, probably hoping for an American weakening as long as it is not yet too pronounced, as it is potentially a harbinger of problems. addressable. Even today those facts concern contemporaneity; despite what was said, the world has remained the same, even in light of the other events that have taken place. That there have been consequences is beyond doubt, but that their geopolitical relevance is still being analyzed is equally true.

11/XNUMX ushered in the period of overestimating media extremes7. The most immediate American response is geopolitically directed against Saudi Arabia8, which recently went back to the headlines with the declassification of documents relating to the period in question, which contributes to various charitable organizations and which therefore plays an indirect role by also financing al-Qaeda, but which nevertheless remains an indispensable regional ally.

Faced with the NATO hypothesis of mutual intervention, the Americans do not see the military option necessary, so much so that they reject the aid proposals, until the 2003 change of course with the attack on Iraq, a barrier country between Arabia and Iran; an imperialistic, not imperial, very serious error that benefits Iran and eliminates an irreplaceable diaphragm. After all, how can one even think of invading those who ensure hydrocarbon supplies and, in addition, control the sacred places?

However, al-Qaeda, with its instrumental attack, aims to solicit the American military response to press the more moderate Arab states and those in relation with the USA to reveal theirs ambiguity. It starts with Afghanistan there fictio belli area of endless war to terrorism which is an element of tactics, not a political subject or ideology.

After 20 years, Jens Stoltenberg, SG of NATO, declared that Afghanistan is in bankruptcy cases; to the extreme, the same could be said of the Atlantic Alliance after the fall of Kabul, a symbol of a unilateral failure in the stars and stripes.

Post 11/XNUMX Afghanistan should have been an opportunity to rethink an Alliance to adapt to a post-Cold War system with different objectives; the impact with reality proved to be wearing since NATO had to deal with three innovative factors: hybrid actors, shifting focus eastward, long wars without a post conflict.

The terrorist groups change shape over time, but the Qaedist constellation remains; America initially has an imperialist reaction which, subsequently, becomes imperial, i.e. intervening when it is necessary and not only when imperialistically you can. Here too, perhaps, it is a pity not to have read Huntington in time. THE neocons Americans are not geopolitical, and try to create an unnatural bond that binds Iraq, culturally tied to Iran, to the USA.

The ideology does not shape the strategy, at least the opposite happens: the Americans lend something unexpected assists in Tehran; in trying to prevent a local continental power from becoming hegemon, in the face of Saudi harmlessness, the US facilitates the Shia crescent.

America finds itself tired, it concerns itself with its mistakes, it realizes that it cannot be everywhere; terrorism decreases, offsetting the rise of China which finances the Yankee wars with the purchase of public debt with stars and stripes: after all, if according to Napoleon the enemy who makes a mistake must never be interrupted, why bother Washington?

Furthermore, 11 September affects the global economy in a phase already characterized by a slowdown in growth underway since the end of 2000. Among the most penalized categories are the insurance industry, tourism and airlines; with regard to companies, past management errors and inherent weaknesses quickly emerge; it is therefore possible that not a few, between politicians and companies, try to exploit the attacks to achieve never too much desired rationalization measures.

The time has come for the Americans to go back to dealing with direct threats, that is the asymmetrical competition with China. While the rise of Beijing shakes the US, the use of ISIS in an anti-Iranian and anti-Sunni radical function allows for the negotiation of the JCPOA with Iran, but when ISIS ceases to exist, the truce ends on nuclear power that needs to be dealt with again.

Let's now see the story from the point of view Oriental by Huntington; the impression aroused by al-Qaeda it created the image of an emerging Islamic force capable of exerting uncontrollable influence over its supporters. For the Qaedist commanders, the success of the attack was proof that the concept of jihad is changing consciences, and is instilling the conviction of the possibility of inflicting enormous losses with a single strike, a strategy developed and pursued in the decade following the Twin Towers with suicide bombings, psychological warfare, economic jihad9, ambitions of unconventional terrorism10. If we consider that all the attacks carried out in the West after 11 September were largely carried out by indigenous people, the need was determined to formulate adequate policies towards resident Muslims, policies that have raised many ethical and moral problems. social, constitutional.

The elimination of Bin Laden was the culmination of the anti-terrorist campaign, an aspect that was belatedly enhanced by the president them Biden on his wonderfully chaotic withdrawal from Kabul; from the Qaedist point of view it was a basic event, which triggered evaluations, analyzes and criticisms about the real and enduring offensive capabilities of the organization. The 2012 dem USA election campaign, if on the one hand it could claim to have dealt a fatal blow to Qaedism, on the other hand it had to take note of the tragic consequences of the attack on the US legation in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed.

But it is politics that still reigns supreme, even if not always so capable. The media success enjoyed by President Obama in 2009 with his address at the University of Cairo, is not followed by the facts: the following Arab springs lead to regional instability and the collapse of several regimes identified by al-Qaeda like Infidels, so much so that the organization claims them as its own success, followed by a sort of permanent popular mobilization (under liberal slogans) to Trotsky until the overthrow of all corrupt regimes. Sayyid Qutb would certainly have been happy, deep believer, intellectual and Egyptian nationalist, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, for this reason imprisoned and then executed by Nasser.

The return of pragmatic executives not oriented towards inspirations dictated by the Islamic Brotherhood as in Egypt, marks the umpteenth failure of American politics. The disappearance of Bin Laden, advocate of the war against the West, according to a clear and orderly organization, is succeeded by al-Zawahiri, creator of the notion of internal jihad, devoid of the warrior charisma of Bin Laden but endowed with ample capacity for ideological structuring; as Lawrence Wright writes about it The very high Towers "... lFaith is stronger than arms and nations, and the ticket to enter the sacred area where miracles occur is to be ready to die."; that the superficiality of the US secret services was undoubtedly decisive, is just another element that connotes a hegemon that is obviously still immature from the point of view of the international political system in transformation.

From the moment of the attacks al-Qaeda and then Isis have achieved notable successes: they have managed to open three fronts with the USA (internal, Afghanistan, Iraq); they have sharpened the contrasts between Islam and the West; they have given new life to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; they have cracked Western unity; they made further proselytes by escaping the chase unleashed on them. The USA, from the moment of the massacres, which one lesson learned, they have learned on the skin of their people that America is no longer safe, especially in the face of an enemy almost heedless of certain retaliation.

On the American side, the feeling remains that the fight against terrorism, which began on 11 September and ended with the elimination of Bin Laden, was nothing more than lost time between Baghdad and Kabul, basking in the illusion that everyone, before or then, they would follow Washington on the path of a democracy exported and delivered by the Clintonite indispensable nation. America, in fact, found itself alone, and unable to grasp the meaning of the question posed by Henry Kissinger: Does America Need a Foreign Policy? And the former Secretary of State adds: “The pre-eminence of the country runs the serious risk of becoming irrelevant to many of the currents that cross and transform the world order. The international scene exhibits a strange mixture of respect and submission to American power, accompanied by the occasional exasperation of its recipes and confusion about its long-term goals. "

In support of Kissinger's thinking, given what happened between Iraq and Afghanistan, it could be assumed that many policy maker Americans had neither culture nor knowledge to understand the jihadist threat; the fact is that the memory of the longest war is fading into a slow and equally long requiem for the West.

1 expression that appeared in a 1991 article by the British orientalist Bernard Lewis, published in The atlantic monthly and titled The Roots of Muslim Rage; in the form of theory it saw the light in 1993 on Foreign Affair which answer to The End of History and the Last Man from 1992 edited by Francis Fukyama

2 representative government, free markets and capitalist consumerism

3 See Oswald Spengler, The Sunset of the West

4 The birth of the Homeland Secutiry department would have given the system the strength of a ministry.

5 Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton also voted in favor

6 Secretary of State of the Second Clinton Administration.

7 See Islamic State

8 15 out of 19 attackers had Saudi passports

9 Attacks on industrial centers, trade and energy, and depleting enemy armed forces through wars in many different and distant arenas.

10 Al Qaeda implemented a single project for anthrax spore production, which was directly supervised first by Ayman al-Zawahiri and then by Khaled Sheikh Muhammad. Attempts to implement offensive capabilities in cyberspace cannot be ruled out