Two requirements governed my initial thinking about an appropriate response to the attacks of 11 September: first, the urgent need for effective action by the US Government that would greatly reduce the threat of future mega-terrorist incidents; and, second, the necessity of recognizing the appropriate legal, moral, and political limits that apply to waging such a defensive war. Since 12 September, I have grown increasingly concerned with the gross mishandling of this response pattern, especially the blending of a necessary response to a persisting mega-terrorist threat with the intensification of a pre-existing American empire-building project of global proportions. Because the territorial parameters of warfare seem of secondary importance in understanding and evaluating both of these dimensions of American policy it seems appropriate to identify the originality of this multi-layered globalism by resorting to the admittedly slippery terminology of post-modernism.
Such a conceptualization is further reinforced by al-Qaida mirror image: a concealed non-territorial dispersion of presence, a non-negotiable assault on American power and its citizenry, and an aspiration to supersede states in the Arab and Muslim world with the re-establishment of a multi-national Islamic umma as a prelude to the eventual Islamizing of the entire world. Superficially, Osama Bin Laden's visionary politics resemble most closely pre-modern political solutions, but on further reflection, such an interpretation is not satisfactory. Considering the wider historical circumstances, the technologies of conflict being deployed on both sides, and the impossibility of achieving a reversal of time, the term post-modern, if carefully delineated, fits this Islamic utopia, and its encounter with the West, and specifically the United States, better than any alternative vocabulary.
The most important and relevant alternative would be 'globalization', which is also vague and variously construed. The point of departure for the analysis presented here is to draw attention to the specifics of the disjuncture in world politics generated by the 11 September attacks. An important