Harvard's al Qaeda Apologist
After four long and bloody years of unresolved war, shouldn't America begin thinking about the possibility of an equitable diplomatic settlement with Osama bin Laden? Isn't it finally "Time to Talk to Al Qaeda?" So asks the headline on a Boston Globe op-ed piece published September 14. And so answers its author, Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou of Harvard University: Yes, he says. Let's make a deal.
Bid Laden and his confederates are widely "misunderstood" in the United States, according to Mohamedou, associate director of Harvard's "Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research." We like to flatter ourselves that the war on terrorism is "an open-and-shut matter of good versus evil," but the truth is very different, he suggests. Al Qaeda is not, in fact, a totalitarian and "apocalyptic" movement; it is an "industrious" and "committed" rational actor pursuing "political" and "limited" objectives. And September 11 "was not an unprovoked, gratuitous act." Rather, the murder of 3,000 office workers in New York is best understood as a "trained commando" operation "in the context of a war that had twice been declared officially and publicly."
And there being no realistic way for Americans to win such a war--against a "diffuse, ever-mutating, organized international militancy movement" enjoying "the rear-guard sympathy of large numbers of Muslims"--it becomes the better part of wisdom for us to seek a truce with al Qaeda in return for "some degree of satisfaction regarding its grievances."
The Scrapbook knows what you're thinking here: There's a numbskull on the Harvard payroll. Been there, done that.
But wait. There's more. This is new. This is worse.
For it turns out that Dr. Mohamedou's Globe op-ed is merely the condensed version of "Non-Linearity of Engagement," a 30-page treatise he produced, on Harvard's dime, back in July. And "numbskull" doesn't begin to describe the thing. It seems that Harvard University's associate director of "humanitarian policy" and whatnot believes the United States should belatedly "acknowledg[e] the logic in which terrorism is used as a method of warfare, according to a principle of indiscrimination whose rationale is negation of the notion of innocence of the civilian population, and imputation of collective responsibility." As Osama bin Laden himself has observed, American foreign policy is effected by politicians whom Americans have freely elected. And in that respect, concludes our man in Cambridge, al Qaeda clearly claims "a valid jus ad bellum case" against any and every one of us--man, woman, or child.
In the end, Mohamedou says, "these 'terrorists' are de facto combatants, and justice . . . is what they are after." Which is the true source of bin Laden's strength. And the reason that "no leading Muslim intellectual or scholar has denounced him."
Not at Harvard, anyhow.