Yes, it is true that without the ten trillion dollars in oil (and gas) revenues since 1973, the Arab and Muslim states would have far less power, and certainly little claim on our attention. But it is wrong of James Woolsey to limit his discussion to “terror” for two reasons.
The first is that much homegrown “terror” does not require a lot of money. Those responsible for bombings in Madrid and London, and Moscow and Beslan and Amsterdam and a dozen other cities in the West, actually had little need of “failed states” (whatever that phrase means) — that is, the kind of places that the Bush Administration thinks need to be permanently patrolled lest, all of a sudden, they be bristling with highly efficient Al Qaeda camps. And those could not possibly be established anywhere else, or even done without, given the template about “Al Qaeda terror camps in Afghanistan” that has been permanently imprinted on the brains of so many who cannot conceive of leaving Afghanistan to its own hopeless devices, with Western powers intervening only intermittently, with swift raids wherever possible, from afar and mainly from the air, to destroy whatever camps or weapons project might require destroying.
Instead, NATO troops and aid groups are engaged in a costly, misguided effort to somehow construct out of Afghanistan a new society. Yet despite the fact that the present Afghan society owes its miserable condition largely to Islam, Islam itself is not to be touched, not even to be attacked, but treated by those NATO troops with respect at all times.
If the venture in Afghanistan has largely continued without opposition, it is mainly because by comparison with the tremendous squandering in Iraq, what goes in Afghanistan appears to exhibit a kind of good sense — but only comparatively. It is true that before the Americans attacked Afghanistan in late 2001, Al Qaeda had the freedom to use parts of Afghanistan as a base for training camps. It does not follow, however, that such camps, or such training and planning, can only go on in such camps, nor that such camps can only be created in Afghanistan. They can be established right outside London or even within London, or for that matter in Paris or Washington, D.C. It is folly to require a huge NATO presence when, with advances in spy satellites and drones, it is possible to keep Afghanistan under observation, and to intervene as the occasion warrants without a permanent presence — and certainly without that attempt at a makeover of Afghani political and social institutions that reflects the same kind of naive hopes, and incomprehension of Islam, that the policy in Iraq reflects.
What James Woolsey should have gone on to say is that Arab and Muslim nations have received ten trillion dollars since 1973, and that much of that money has helped to spread Islam. It has paid for mosques and madrasas all over the Western world, not only the buildings but the permanent upkeep. Such money also goes into buying vast quantities of weaponry for Arab and Muslim armories, and pays for the weapons-of-mass-destruction projects of Pakistan, Iran, and other Muslim countries — projects which cannot be permitted to continue to the point of producing such weapons or, in the case of Pakistan, of acquiring the means of effective undetectable delivery.
He might have said that when you fill up your tank, you are helping to pay for the vast army of Western hirelings, including former diplomats and even C.I.A. agents. He could mention Edward Wilson, and Raymond Close, and describe their post-retirement activities. He might have also mentioned that you”re paying as well as for “Centers of Islamic Studies” and well-endowed chairs, hither and yon, designed to create a network within universities — see “MESA Nostra” — so that Western students would be forced to learn about Islam, and all subjects related to Islam (such as the various Lesser Jihads against Israel, India, and now even within Western Europe) from Muslim apologists and their non-Muslim collaborators.
Woolsey might have started to talk about the Money Weapon, started to talk about it as the critical instrument of Jihad, along with Da’wa and demographic conquest. And that would have furthered understanding a bit more than he was apparently willing, or able, at this time, to do.
It is Woolsey, after all, who was a great enthusiast for the Light-Unto-the-Muslim-nations Project in Iraq, and he, like Bernard Lewis, owes himself, and those he presumes to influence, a reckoning: what was it, exactly, that Woolsey did not understand about Islam, and what was it he did not understand about sectarian and ethnic divisions in Iraq, that had he understood, would have led him to have been far less of an enthusiast?