The Radical Islamist Challenge to Historic Notions of Sovereignty

[Washington Post] Henry A. Kissinger - The declining role of the state in the Middle East is inherent in the way those states were founded. The successor states of the Ottoman Empire were established by the victorious powers at the end of the First World War. Unlike the European states, their borders did not reflect ethnic principles or linguistic distinctiveness but the balances between the European powers. Radical Islam threatens the already brittle state structure in the region via a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran as the basis of a universal political organization. Jihadist Islam rejects national sovereignty based on secular state models; it seeks to extend its reach to wherever significant populations profess the Muslim faith. Since neither the international system nor the internal structure of existing states has legitimacy in Islamist eyes, its ideology leaves little room for Western notions of negotiation or equilibrium. The U.S. does not have the option of withdrawal. We can retreat from any one place, such as Iraq, but only to be obliged to resist from new positions, probably more disadvantageously. Even advocates of unilateral withdrawal from Iraq speak of retaining residual forces to prevent a resurgence of al-Qaeda or radicalism.

2008-04-08 01:00:00

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