Academics and Research / News

Middle East expert says we’re worse off 10 years after 9/11

Fawaz Gerges, an expert on the Middle East, told the Bridges to the Future audience that America’s response to the 9/11 attacks has backfired and put the country in a more dangerous situation than it was 10 years ago.

Gerges, professor of international relations of the Middle East from the London School of Economics and Political Science, addressed a crowd of more than 600 with his talk — “Broken Middle East: A Wasted Decade on the War on Terror?” at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts on Jan. 10.

Gerges said before 9/11 al-Qaida was a small militant group most Muslims and Middle Eastern countries rejected. The goal of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri was not to defeat the United States, but to win over Muslims.

“They wanted to trigger a response from the U.S.,” Gerges said. “They had failed to win the hearts and minds in the Muslim world and the only way they could reverse that and call America the head of the snake is if the U.S. would lash out against Islam.”

According to Gerges, the U.S. government played into the hands of al-Qaida by declaring the War on Terror.

Gerges said the better way to respond would have been to genuinely promote change and democracy in the Middle East.

“We need to talk about institution building, human rights, the building blocks of democracy,” he said. “If we’re genuine about building democracy, we need to promote the rule of law in that part of the world. Instead, we have made it very clear to bloody dictators that as long as they cooperate, it’s business as usual.”

Gerges said the perception in that part of the world is that the U.S. supports the oppressive order, which only feeds extremism.

Gerges is the author of two recently acclaimed books: Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy (Harcourt Press, 2007) and The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Bridges to the Future was created in 2002 to build a framework of programs that stimulate civic dialog and discussion among Colorado communities. Events are scheduled in each of DU’s three academic quarters: fall, winter and spring.

Eliza Griswold, award-winning American journalist and poet, will speak at the spring 2011 Bridges to the Future event on March 22. Check the Bridges site closer to the date to RSVP.


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