By Arnaud de La Grange  Le Figaro 9/11/06 Truthout

    The Pentagon’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review counted a surprise guest on the sidelines of one of its pages: Lawrence of Arabia, to whose strategies George W. Bush appealed to illustrate what asymmetric warfare and psychological action should be. The article notably cited the seizure of Aqaba in 1917 by a handful of Bedouins. In Washington, along with the author of “Guerrilla Warfare in the Desert,” people should also reread Wingate and many other theoreticians of anti-subversive struggle. They teach us that in order to fight guerrilla or terrorist groups, those groups must be isolated, that the “fish must be taken out of the water.” That one must rally the broadest possible segments of the population to one’s cause in order to return activists to marginality, to the indefensible sphere of political delinquency. Then, and only then, can one fight them; repress them in all legitimacy, with all effectiveness. Meanwhile, the “Long War” – that’s the new official terminology – conducted against terrorism from te banks of the Potomac seems to follow diametrically opposed pathways.

    In fact, everything takes place as though al-Qaeda’s would-be destroyers had been unceasingly knocking themselves out to enlarge the terrorist organization’s base of support the last five years. “Al-Qaeda’s only indispensable ally is American foreign policy toward the Islamic world.” This provocative assertion does not come from some French voice prompt to denigrate the hyper-power’s conduct, but from a very young CIA retiree, Michael Scheuer, who declared it a few weeks ago when the Central Intelligence Agency had just taken the decision to dissolve the “bin Laden cell,” a team specialized in tracking down the al-Qaeda leader and his principal lieutenants. “Today bin Laden and his organization tend to be considered as one threat among others,” deplored the former secret agent. He alluded to the intelligence services’ refocusing of their resources on Iraq.

    Today, we may add Iran. Last Tuesday, George W. Bush elevated Ahmadinejad’s regime to the same level of threat as Osama bin Laden’s organization, setting al-Qaeda’s Sunni extremism back-to-back with Tehran’s Shiite extremism. For the American president, the Iran of tomorrow risks being terrorism plus The Bomb. As we see from his definition of the new Horsemen of the Apocalypse, George W. Bush makes broad sweeps with his brush. As he knocks himself out to put all his enemies under the same standard, he contributes to unifying a front that demands nothing better.

    In another speech last week, he qualified the enemies he is fighting – from Iraq to Afghanistan – as “successors to the fascists, the Nazis, the Communists.” No less. For the Muslim street, America’s globalizing discourse is perceived as a general aggression. George W. Bush plays on a mélange of genres. And by ricochet effect, so does al-Qaeda. And one of the great strengths, the great successes of the terrorist organization resides in the enveloping character of its struggle. Alongside the religious dimension, its rhetoric salvages fields left fallow since the end of the Cold War: anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, the North-South cleavage.

    This broadened mobilization capacity is undoubtedly the key to al-Qaeda’s worrying ability to renew itself. And a major issue. We saw it at work again recently in the Lebanese crisis. By holding out against the Israeli army and by flouting its American ally, Hezbollah quickly forced the admiration of Arab and Muslim populations and quickly donned the vestments of herald of anti-Western imperialism. To the great displeasure of al-Qaeda, jealous of its status as Public Enemy Number One for the United States and Israel. Suddenly, the terrorist organization entered the game – from a media perspective, at least. Through the voice of its Number Two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, it promised reprisals for the Israeli attacks against Lebanon and Gaza. Among radical Islamist groups, the competition was launched.

    In these past few days, George W. Bush has reasserted that his soldiers in Baghdad and Kabul were conducting the great “ideological conflict of the twenty-first century.” A speech from which Paris has distanced itself. Before the ambassadors’ conference ten days ago, Jacques Chirac warned against the risk of a disastrous “divorce” between the West and Islam.

    Apart from outrageously polarizing the war against terrorism, the American president’s semantics are tactically counter-productive. Caricaturing the enemy is to know him less well, to combat him less well. When you put everything in the same subversive bag, you don’t head in the direction of understanding crises. Islam scholar Olivier Roy recently wrote in le Figaro’s columns: “We must recover the specificity of each conflict rather than gargling vague and inoperative terms such as “war against terrorism” or “Islamofascism.”

    Moreover, the caricature and dialectical outrageousness in vogue in Washington do not confine themselves to the spadassins of Islamist activism. They also have their “domestic” uses. Last week, American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld scandalized Democrats by assimilating Iraq war detractors to those who accommodated themselves to the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.

    Yet, these unconscious “doves” do not reproach the American president for making war, but for doing it badly. Or not in the right place. They resent his offering other lands for jihad between the Tigris and Euphrates, by draining the real anti-terrorism front along the Afghan-Pakistani border, for example. In short, for not having – to use an expression dear to George W. Bush – “finished the job.”

    Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.