Scale of Russian challenge
Amidst the pictures and reports of the people of Beslan laying their dead to rest, the Kremlin now needs to look to the future: and consider just what the scale of the terrorist challenge is. Although the chaotic and incomprehensible nature of the attack and the way it ended might seem to suggest an encouraging stupidity among the terrorists, we probably shouldn't comfort ourselves with such thoughts. As details emerge, it seems the attack on School No. 1 was carefully planned
: weapons had been stashed under the floor of the school prior to the attack. Not only that, the terrorists carried gas masks, comms equipment, and wore NATO fatigues. The terrorists had also learnt from the 2002 siege of the Moscow theatre by taking steps to counter a possible gas attack: they smashed the windows of the gym.Russian society might look like ours, but it's not. We call states that lose the monopoly on the use of violence within their own borders 'failed states': and isn't this precisely what Russia is in danger of doing? The twentieth century was the century of Empires, and that century taught us that eventually cultural conflicts rip empires apart. As this article
in the Moscow Times suggests, perhaps it's time for Russia to confront some uncomfortable truths about the Muslim peoples to its South. Radical Islamism is a disease that feeds off oppression and violence: this is why President Bush is addressing the root causes in the Middle East. This is what Iraq was about. However, if we are to be wise as well as firm, we must recognise that just because a fascist terrorist endorses a cause, that cause does not immediately become null. The moderate people of Checnya could be an ally in the war on terror, if only Moscow would let them. Violent and implacable extremism is more easily destroyed if isolated.