From his cave in the no-man’s land of the Hindu Kush, Osama bin Laden is surely cheering on the generals in Yangon. He knows that the monks are a far greater threat to al-Qaeda than the CIA. Across the Middle East and Africa, al-Qaeda is regrouping and growing, fed not merely by an irrational hatred of the United States and the West more broadly, but by the rational assessment by millions of Muslims that they will never win freedom or justice through non-violent means, because the world’s powers will continue to put their economic and strategic interests – which are tied to the existing system and its local leaders – ahead of supporting the systemic transformation of the world’s economy and political system that would be necessary to bring about real democracy and peace.
As so many Muslim friends have complained to me, “The US talks the talk of supporting democracy and peace, but you never walk the walk.” The Myanmar monks are walking the walk, and in so doing offer a direct and poignant example to followers of Hamas and other militant Muslim groups that violence is not the only or even the best way to win freedom. But they’ll only succeed with our help. The question is, what are we, all of us, in Karachi and Dubai as well as London and Seattle, willing to sacrifice for the monks of Yangon, and their comrades across the Muslim world? The fate of the “war on terror” depends in good measure on how we answer this question. [complete article]