US vs Islamic Militants: Invisible Balance of Power by Sajjad Shaukat is, in essence, a review of western military history as it relates to Balance of Power theory. The latter is based on the premise that in the absence of an international body capable of enforcing international law, "balance of power" between dominant nations is the only force capable of containing wanton military aggressors with "excessive" economic and political power. This 2005 book presents the novel theory that the rise of stateless terrorist groups has created an "invisible balance of power," which performs the same function in curbing US state terrorism as the Soviet Union did prior to its collapse.
Shaukat begins by tracing various balance of power relationships starting with the Peloponnesian War in ancient Greece, through the rise of European nation states and the complicated alliances that followed and finally the Cold War balance of power between the US and the Soviet Union. He points out that during the 1945-90 Cold War period, the threat of Mutually Assured (nuclear) Destruction was responsible for a lengthy war-free period in the developed world, although the two super powers continuously jockeyed for political advantage via proxy wars in the Third World.
Wanton State Terrorism By the US
Shaukat goes on to demonstrate that since the demise of the USSR, the US has felt free to blatantly and repeatedly violate international law. As examples, he cites
- The 1998 air strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan, condemned by Iran and China as a violation of international law.
- The 1999 air strikes against Serbia, condemned by Russia and China as "terrorism" and a violation of international law.
- The 2003 invasion of Iraq, condemned by UN Secretary General Kofi Anan as a violation of international law.
US Military Failures in Iraq and Afghanistan
However since 2003, the political influence of "group terrorism" has replaced the USSR in providing a clear check on US military ambitions. Shaukat points to failure by the US military to achieve their objective of turning Iraq and Afghanistan into economic colonies to improve strategic access to Middle East and Central Asian oil and gas resources.
He then gives numerous examples of political and diplomatic objectives Islamic groups have accomplished via specific terrorist acts. He describes the use of suicide bombers and random bombings to force the UN and Spain to withdraw from Iraq and the US from Saudi Arabia, as well as the use of high profile kidnappings and videotaped executions to pressure the Philippines, Russia, India and Kuwait to withdraw troops and workers.
Suicide Bombings as a Rational Response to Genuine Grievance
Shaukat also disputes propaganda efforts by Western leaders to portray suicide bombers as psychological deranged and/or jealous of western democracy and culture. In fact, I think he makes a compelling case for suicide bombings being a totally rational Third World response to US state terrorism, in the absence of an international body strong enough to prevent the US from victimizing weak nations. He argues that the rise of militant Islamic groups is clearly a direct response to the increasing dominance over the world economy by wealthy nations and their corporations, to the detriment of most of the citizens of the globe. He then points out that suicide bombings are always a direct response to genuine grievances (either state terrorism in the form of massive civilian casualties from carpet bombing, shelling, random shootings at checkpoints and in house to house searches, unlawful detention and torture of innocent civilians, including women and children -- or "coercive diplomacy" (imposing free markets, privatization and denationalization on Third World countries). Finally, and most importantly, he points to the wide support Islamic militants movements in Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir receive from intellectuals in Muslim nations.
The Concept of Moral Force
According to Shaukat, the latter relates in part to the greater "moral force" enjoyed by "group terrorism," in contrast to US state terrorism. Many in the Third World who have directly experienced US "state terrorism" and/or "coercive diplomacy" view the war launched by the Islamic militants as a "just war," aimed at correcting a massive injustice. In addition to facilitating recruitment, this also gives "group terrorism" substantial military advantage over state terrorism, as it results in greater discipline, morale, cohesion, toughness, courage, and, if necessary, readiness to die.
Shaukat sees very little support in the Third World for US attempts to revise the definition of state terrorism based on the so-called "intent" of the aggressor (for example, if the US accidentally kills civilians in pursuing a terrorist leader or tortures prisoners to access information vital to security, this doesn't count as terrorism).
Future Dangers and Potential Solutions
Shaukat devotes a full chapter to the potential dangers the world faces from a continuation of the "invisible balance of power." Chief among them is the real risk Islamic terrorists will access and deploy nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.