10 years ago the world changed a bit. For the families and friends of some 3,000 people in the USA and not just citizens of that country (over 60 UK died) it was a big change.
A disparate group of fundamentalist had lashed out at the world’s superpower that has in return spent a couple trillion dollars in trying to smash it and has incurred greater loss in military lives than those who died this day. The USA had no option but to strike back, however its methods have been questionable. In replacing Saddam it also destroyed the administrative structures of government in Iraq. In Afghanistan it has become buddies with a regime inherently corrupt which is morally fragile and more socially inequitable than intended at the start of the venture.
But the West has not changed much. Wearier of war and more distrusting of politicians, yes, but remaining blind to the root causes of this slap in the face.
Firstly the Arab states of the Middle East have been economically and culturally moribund since the bright period of their middle ages and have only bloomed economically through the presence of oil whose benefits have been mainly directed towards the ruling elite with the majority of the populace bought off by a dripping tap of money and token freedoms. Changes have happened but the major supporters of terrorism in the form of Syria and Iran remain untouched whilst Saudi recycles its money into buying our weapons.
Secondly the West remains blind to the wrongs of Israel in its expansion and settlement plans of the last four decades. Of course the disorganised eternally ever splintering Palestinian organisation with very self interested and non altruistic Arab friends offer little to the West.
The solution is not easy but we must change our Western foreign policies.
Palestinians should be encouraged and even forced to unite for the common cause of agreeing the borders and proper functioning of a Palestinian state. They must enter into a dialogue with Israel who in turn must engage with mutual respect. Both parties have been childish.
Secondly, our dialogue with Islamic states should be open, honest and respectful: it has not been in the past. We should be firm in our principles of equality, and respect for the freedom of expression of thought. We should not support countries that oppress their people. And now for the difficult part; but nor should we close the shutters on those with whom we disagree with. Yes there is a grey area in that there will be some countries that are not to our standards. Shades of grey should not be a recipe for inactivity. We must be supportive of forces for peaceful change. Such a move would be an improvement on our present policy where “friendly Arab” countries seem to be those that buy the most weapons from us. Arms sales should not be the guiding light of policy formulation as it is. We must also draw a firm line that terrorism as a weapon of ideology is not acceptable. Most important of all is the importance of moral consistency in the application of foreign policy. On that score we have failed miserably, a weakness which our enemies exploit. A higher moral ground is essential to a more peaceful world.