Oil and globalization fuel Al Qaeda terror network (+video)
President Obama touts the killing of Osama bin Laden as a major blow to Al Qaeda leadership. Mitt Romney says the terrorist network remains a major threat. They're both right. Middle East oil and the forces of globalization continue to fuel Al Qaeda offshoots around the world.
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In previous centuries, the September 11 attacks would have hardly been known to the world; but in 2001 they hit a key node of a globalized world – New York – producing ripple effects around the world. All financial markets, including oil, were affected. Big businesses felt the shock waves. That kind of impact could never have been felt in a much less globalized world.Skip to next paragraph
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Today's communications and the 24/7 media age also allow terrorists to seem more threatening than their capabilities suggest. We can all watch terror threats unfold in real time. Even a hapless underwear or shoe bomber can stir global fear. And a small, well planned attack such as the one that recently killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya gains global coverage.
Yes, Al Qaeda’s leadership has been decimated, making a massive 9/11 attack far harder to achieve. Obama is right. But Al Qaeda’s bankrupt ideas live on and are communicated to millions, partly via affiliates and offshoots. Oil has helped fuel and motivate them, while globalization has allowed them to exploit that fuel to do things that otherwise would be more difficult and costly.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat terror networks. This work starts with targeting the circumstances and causes that fuel terrorism in the first place. For one, the next American president must work to decrease world oil dependence by investing in renewable energy.
But terrorism, while fueled by oil and aided by globalization, has other causes as well. America can also take the lead, with its Arab, European, and Asian allies, to support economic development in the Middle East as an anti-terrorism strategy. The US must also continue to help these nations fight poverty, improve employment opportunities, develop civil society, and broaden education.
The next administration will need to remain vigilant in fighting terrorism, but the best defense in this case is a strong offense.
Steve Yetiv is a professor of political science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He is the author of “The Petroleum Triangle: Oil, Globalization, and Terror” and “The Absence of Grand Strategy: The United States in the Persian Gulf.”