The Power Balance – Why the Taliban’s Days are Numbered
Although many people don’t know this, and others have forgotten, the possibility of a large-scale terrorist attack on the US was a common discussion point on public media in the Middle East for several weeks before 9/11. Politicians, religious leaders and analysts of the regional felt that such an attack was becoming increasingly possible, but they weren’t sure if the timing was right.
In nationally televised debates, many believed that it wasn’t a question of if, but when to attack. Stronger militaries, better-trained mercinaries and a more prepared civilian population would have been able to stave off a counter-attack more effectively, many felt.
In other words, before 9/11, the balance of public opinion was heavily weighted in favor of attacking the US.
This wasn’t just indoctrinated Taliban. It was average people on the streets of major cities throughout the region.
Why all this hatred, you may wonder?
Well, it wasn’t hatred really. It was more like a seething resentment against the Western Way, which, I’m convinced, was really just misdirected anger. Faced with religious, political and economic oppression orders of magnitude more severe than anything we have ever seen in the US, they were just fed up. Realizing the difficulty inherent in changing the fabric of their own society, some elements realized there was significant support for directing a terrorist attack at the largest purchaser of Middle East oil – and supporter of oppressive governments – the US.
Of course, the picture was a lot more complex than this, but what I am describing is, I believe, the essential catalyst for 9/11.
More recently, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people finally and with great effect, rise up against oppression in that region. Through the crowdsourcing efforts of social media-savvy activists, networks of like-minded people spilled into the streets and organically shifted the sentiment of the entire region. In some cases, without bombs, planes or suicidal warriors. Tyrants have fallen, others have agreed to acquiesce their power, still others cling to crumbling regimes.
Most of this has been driven by the efforts of ordinary but passionate citizens who spontaneously volunteered as foot soldiers to the revolution.
And now suddenly Osama Bin Laden, the figurehead of Middle Eastern terror, is dead.
Many in the ranks of al-Qaida are saying this changes nothing, the organization is now stronger and larger than ever before and it still has a mission ahead of it.
But I wonder.
With the US already on a schedule to pull out of the region and a populace that is feeling increasingly empowered to use its own voice, speak its own truth, and demand democratic principles, it seems to me the days of groups like al-Qaida and the Taliban are numbered.
They’re simply not that relevant any more. The fight with the US is over. The attention of power brokers in the region is now squarely focused inward, on the people who live and work in their countries.
And this is as it should be.
The balance of power has shifted decisively. The game now is to protect those extraordinary citizens from further harm, and ensure that responsibility of creating and building a democratic government and a free and open society is entrusted squarely in their hands.