THE AGE OF sacred terror dawned on September 11, 2001.1 Yet the United States still has no satisfactory grand strategy for neutralizing a stateless, religiously inspired network of militants who seek to bring down great powers by acts of apocalyptic destruction. Instead, current policy thinking cleaves towards two extreme positions--one morally and politically unpalatable and the other risky and destructive.
The first, premised on the belief that it is too late to fine-tune the policies that have alienated Muslims, involves the abject capitulation of the United States to the implicit demands of Bin Ladenism. The United States would abandon Israel, jettison its strategic relationships with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and forsake its leverage and standing in the Arab world. The second envisages a full-scale Western mobilization against transnational Islamist terrorism--a total war on terror. Under this scenario, the West's intelligence, law-enforcement and military assets would be brought to bear against any actual or potential terrorist strongholds or supporters. Meanwhile, Muslim governments would bandwagon operationally and politically behind a hegemonic America. The former would amount to negotiating with terrorists, and indeed yielding them victory. The latter would amount to furnishing Osama bin Laden, at prohibitively high risk, with precisely the violent "clash of civilizations" that is integral to his apocalyptic eschatology.