by Joe Shea
April 21, 2013
THE BIG, BIG WHY
BRADENTON, Fla., Apr. 21, 2013, 5:09am ET -- While our national intelligence agencies are fully versed on it, most ordinary Americans have never heard of the Chechen resistance, or even of Chechnya, a Muslim-majority region of southern Russia. Now the long-simmering revolution there has seen two of its young, desperate warriors - desperate not for food or money, but for a life that has wider meaning - strike at our shores - fruitlessly, senselessly, yes, but they did strike. Why?
They are likely part of the extended jihadist "family" of al-Qaida, the terror organization founded by Osama Bin Laden that toppled the Twin Towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
For most, al-Qaida needs no introduction. But their diversity is likely to confound the ordinary man, because it has popped up under different names in many different countries from the Middle East to South Asia to Africa, and despite our best efforts to decapitate it by killing Bin Laden and his top commanders, it still thrives.
As a wise man once said, you can't kill an idea. It is the idea of a Fifth Caliphate, a new Muslim pan-national state that quietly drives the jihadists and that utterly terrifies the modern, ordinary West. There is, at least so far, no easy or effective way to wipe it out, tamp it down or otherwise deal with it. It flourishes in poverty and wealth, in countries well and poorly governed, amid people educated and ignorant.
You can't kill them all, fight them all, or beat them all - you have to fight a sort of shadowy war that at best may lead to a sort of gentleman's standoff, where both sides agree to stop fighting and seek a more peaceful world. The United States could more easily negotiate a Fifth Caliphate, with far less bloodshed, than it can frustrate it. But our politics, and our allies, will not permit that. The nuclearization of the earliest elements of the Fifth Caliphate will accelerate its becoming a reality; that is yet another process that will be extremely difficult to interrupt.
If a non-state actor like al-Qaida is the first Fifth Caliphate proponent to obtain nuclear weapons, it can blackmail smaller states and cajole larger ones into joining them with far less difficulty. Ironically, using a nuclear weapon would be unlikely to help their cause; let us hope they have a strategic appreciation for the horror that such a use would generate across the entire planet, making their plans far less sustainable.
The Fifth Caliphate is not by any means an immediate or even slightly distant prospect. That day lies many decades in the future. For now, we are destined to fight and kill, year in and year out, until one day a peace is established.
There's no good news in this prospect, but that doesn't mean there also can be no hope. It is always possible, however unlikely, that as Christians wait for the return of the Messiah, so Muslims await the coming of the Mahdi, and who knows - perhaps He will come, or someone so recognized will come, to bring peace to the Muslim faith and an end to jihad. One may wait centuries for such a resolution.
The Fifth Caliphate is a different matter. No one needs a looking-glass to see that Pakistan is on the verge of a full-blown Islamic revolution, and that our faithless allies in Afghanistan and Iraq are not far behind. Iran is already there; Turkey would be the really hard nut for jihadists to crack. Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, the chaotic nation-states of Muslim orientation that got chipped off the Soviet bloc, and some of the officially pro-Western Middle Eastern states that are now sound allies might be turned - Kuwait, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Morocco and Jordan, and shaky partners likie Libya, Somalia, Tunisia, and Algeria, for instance, may suddenly prove far more pro-Islamic than they are pro-Western or pro-democratic.
Many of those states are just months from chaos today, and meanwhile, someone out there is planning the governance and boundaries of the Fifth Caliphate, the entity to which the Mahdi is expected by Muslims to return. In fact, the worst possible case scenario would see a consolidation that cascades these states together - sort of like the Soviet Union's breakup in reverse.
Was it Oscar Wilde who said, "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come?" When we look at the great consolidation of the United States - from the Louisiana Territory, to California, Alaska, and Pacific territories from Hawaii to Guam - why is it to unlikely that people of a homogenous faith and brown skin, much as the Americans were of homogenous Christianity and white skin - would not aspire to their own great empire? It is almost impossible that they would not. Wasn't that also the dream of Símon Bolivar?
It may be difficult, and perhaps overreaching, to see the tragedy generated by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. But how resonant those names are: in Tsarnaev, Tsar of the Russias; Tamerlane, of the great Islamic conquerors:
and struck for the Afghan Hills
You can forget the names, but history is always with us. It is what compels President Vladmir Putin of Russia to demand that we share all we learn about the Tsarnaevs with him; he will probably have all of their families and relatives imprisoned or killed if we do so. It is not as though there is no reason or motive for consolidation of the Fifth Caliphate: all of history bends itself in that direction.
No human being or national leader has ever seen the true consolidation of entities as large as Europe, South America or the United States, and probably never will. The number of presidents elected in the United States before such a thing occurs may number in the dozens. The European Union could come and go two or three times by then; Africa could suffer through multiple waves of consolidation; and the Middle East, ultimately, will consolidate, probably under the rule of the high priests in Qom (Iran), Cairo, Mecca, or once again in the cauldron of history, Constantinople - today's Istanbul.
For Americans, the great challenge is to have some sense of what is happening and why it happens, and if this is too large and too far-reaching an answer to the question of why the Tsarnaev brothers brought their mayhem and jihad to the Boston Marathon, I apologize. It's hard to imagine any answer, even this one.
As Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, Joe Shea has been privileged to host journalists from more than 50 nations at his former home in Hollywood, and to travel as a journalist for the Village Voice to 18 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.