It is a war in defense of our way of life against enemies who oppose that way of life, and who oppose it from common cultural and religious motives. Whatever specific aims, hopes, and delusions the al-Qaeda hijackers may have had, they could not have succeeded, they could not have drawn so many recruits, raised so much money, and found support and sanctuary, unless their motivations appealed to a wide group of people.
The war on terrorism is unlike the Cold War; the battle lines are not drawn in ideologically explicit terms. Had we asked in the 1950s, "Why do the communists hate us What are they after" the answers would have been clear: Their Marxist ideology of socialism, dictatorship, and world conquest calls for the elimination of our free capitalist system, and endorses the use of any means to achieve that end. It's all spelled out in The Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, and an endless stream of Communist Party propaganda. The motivations of the 9/11 hijackers in particular, and of al-Qaeda in general, are not as transparent. They are complex and at times contradictory, rooted as they are within a highly complex history that reflects as many conflicts within Islam as it does between Islam and the West.
It is now commonly known that the September 11th terrorists were members of Bin Laden's worldwide al-Qaeda organization. This is an extensive network of terrorist groups such as Egypt's al-Jihad, which was responsible for the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and among others. This organization represents the violent extreme of a fundamentalist movement that has been gaining ground among Muslims since the 1970s. While the goals of the movement are fairly clear, it should be noted that they reflect the opinions of a majority of Muslims about as much as David Koresh and his followers reflected the views of the average Christian. One goal is to drive the Western powers out of the Middle East, removing Western military, economic, and cultural presence from the region. Bin Laden's three immediate demands, repeated in virtually every statement, are
1. To stop American support for Israel.
2. Lift sanctions against Iraq.
3. Remove American troops from Saudi Arabia.
A second goal is to unify the Islamic world and rally it in opposition to the West. "This war is fundamentally religious," bin Laden said last November, in one of his statements broadcast by al-Jazeera TV.
"The people of the East are Muslims. They sympathized with Muslims against the people of the West, who are the crusaders. Under no circumstances should we forget this enmity between us and the infidels. For, the enmity is based on creed. Muslims must stand together. We must be loyal to the believers and those who believe that there is no God but Allah."
This is why troops in Saudi Arabia are such an important issue to bin Laden: they are stationed in the land of Islam's two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina.
A third goal of the Islamists is to create a strict form of Islamic