Editor’s Note: We reprint this significant article from James Kurth about post-9/11 war, published in our Spring 2002 edition. He is the Claude Smith Professor Emeritus, Political Science, Swarthmore College, a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and former editor of Orbis.
The war that began with the terrorist attacks of September 11 has been defined in different ways, and these definitions are meant to have political consequences. President George W. Bush immediately defined the war as one against “terrorists with global reach” and “the states that harbor them.” He was careful not to identify the terrorists with the Islamic religion, for he intended to minimize the number of Muslims who would identify with them. The war was definitely not supposed to be seen as a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West. Osama bin Laden, in contrast, repeatedly spoke of a war between “the Islamic nation” and “the Jews and the Crusaders” (or Christians), for he intended to maximize the number of Muslims who would identify with his cause. For him, the war was indeed supposed to be seen as a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.