11 September and the Widening North-South Gap: Root Causes of Terrorism in the Global Order

By Elnur, Ibrahim | Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

11 September and the Widening North-South Gap: Root Causes of Terrorism in the Global Order


Elnur, Ibrahim, Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)


One feature of the globalized society is that disaster can happen at the global level, so we are now in this process where either we grasp the moral and political implications of this increasingly shared fate we have with other people or very bad things will happen.

Robert Wright, 13 March 2001 (see: Wright and Kaplan, 2001)

MAKING SENSE OF TRAGEDIES AND CHAOS: AN INTRODUCTION

BEYOND THE IMMEDIATE PREDICTIONS and short to medium range implications, New York's tragic events may stand as a moment for fundamental moral and political choice. It may mark the end of a certain global order and the emergence of a new one rather than the consolidation of the existing unipolar order. In that sense it may not be far-fetched to see 11 September as symbolic as the 1956 Suez Canal war. No observer can avoid some direct or indirect reference to the symbolism involved in choosing the targets for the criminal attack nor can analysts and policy makers alike avoid looking at its root causes of violence and terrorism when long term policy responses are considered and/or assessed. Eradicating international terrorism or "drying its sources" using the Middle Eastern popular policy phrase involve more than identifying the immediate "visible" or "invisible" enemy directly responsible for the criminal acts. It entails identifying and eliminating its root causes. It is these root causes that provide some elements of a claim to "justice" and "legitimacy" for these otherwise small isolated minorities of organized terror. It does not matter whether or not such claim to legitimacy was systematically held or reinvented (the Palestinian cause of bin Laden after New York and Saddam after the invasion of Kuwait). Without falling into the trap of formal logic, undermining the basis for such claims to "justice" and "legitimacy" is the only way to eliminate their implicit or explicit characterization of their acts as being a "public good" and as the only available route to making peace the "public good."

OUR/THE "GLOBAL VILLAGE": THIRTY YEARS APART

Some thirty years or so, I was studying "introduction to development" in the other bank of the Nile. The first lecture was on the widening gap between the rich and poor nations. A week or so later, I started teaching "introduction to development" at the other bank of the same Nile. In both cases the widening gap between the two worlds was highlighted but there was a fundamental difference. Back in the 1970's the gap was less visible, less dramatically felt and hopes to catch up were still high not only among ordinary people, but among the elites, decision makers and international bureaucracies. Thirty years later, the gap was still widening. The twin effects of globalization (and the associated processes of differentiation and marginalization) and the information and communication revolution (transcending both income and alphabetization barriers) combined to make such a gap so glaring, so visible and so utterly discouraging for any notion of hope. "The international demonstration effect was already identified in the 1950s but it has become stronger and more widespread. However, because of tenacious incidence of poverty and unemployment, this means that "whole society sees their expectations frustrated." (1)

"Those young people are exposed to information and stimuli about a wide range of novel goods and services which are inaccessible to them" Gert Rosenthal points this out as one of the reasons for threats to urban security and the rise of violence in the cities, "which all seriously affect levels of social integration and governance." (2)

The central issue of the widening North-South gap seems to be trapped in a narrowly defined boundary of resources, hastily reading of the long term trends and an undifferentiated notion of the South that stresses the achievements of the "few" escapers at the expense of the "no-where" majority of LDCs. Historically, there was almost no gap between South and North. …

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