Long ago I was an avid James Bond ? think Sean Connery ? fan. You remember the plot: someplace remote and hidden on an island or in a cavern lurked a madman out to dominate the world. He was surrounded by a small army of not-too-effective operatives but he had a plan ? like nuking all the gold in Fort Knox to leave him with most of the remaining gold ? or some such scheme.
To the rescue came Bond ? James Bond ? forced to find his way to the Master Criminal's lair and to foil the plot by first dressing in a tuxedo and consorting with some of the planet's most beautiful women. Then, with the help of some gadgets provided by the techno-wizardry of Q, our man penetrated the hideout, usually got captured and suffered a near-death experience until, at the last minute, he figured out a way to blow up the villain and all his henchmen and save one of the lovelies to help him live out the final scene.
The September 11 event had some of these elements but lacked, of course, the satisfying ones. There was, in Osama bin Laden, a Master Criminal, and he lived in a cave in a far off place. And sure enough, he was surrounded by a cadre of mindless operatives willing to sacrifice themselves for a cause none have yet convincingly articulated. There were, however, a few disappointing differences.
The world of bin Laden, the Taliban, and al Queda had very few women. No one went to any parties requiring a tuxedo (the dress code was third millennium B.C. Persian). It is doubtful there is a vodka martini in all of Afghanistan, shaken or stirred. The secret agents of 2001 ? the CIA ? had access to an array of gadgets which made the ones in the early Bond movies look like toys out of a Cracker Jack box, but none of these fellows was on the ground to intercept the attackers. No gorgeous women led any secret agents, apparently, to the Tora Bora mountain strongholds. And, worst of all, no Bond appeared to foil the attacks. When the adventure fantasy came to life, it did so with tragic consequences.
When Goldfinger was afoot, no one needed to ask questions about the details of his operation because in the last scene the whole network was blown to smithereens. Had one of these villains been successful, in the aftermath we might have wanted to know where the lackeys who carried out his schemes came from, what motivated them, and how we could take steps to stop them from doing it again.
In bin Laden's case it turns out many of the mindless and faceless lackeys protecting him were young boys recruited to radical religious boarding schools in countries like Pakistan. Many, perhaps most, were sent to these schools by parents too poor to feed them. America's first response to the attacks ? supported if not participated in by most of the world ? was to bomb the miscreants into the next world. This did not address the problem that more potential henchmen are being produced in the madrassas, or schools, every day. Let us remember the word "taliban" means student. This significant number of young, naive, ignorant and extremely enthusiastic boys and young men were the foundation of the culture which helped nurture and motivate suicide pilots.
We might remember that bin Laden wasn't the only one supporting these schools. Other wealthy Saudis do little for the miserable masses in refugee camps around the Islamic world but they send money to these schools which produce young men who literally worship Mecca. Doing nothing about this situation is to leave a festering sore to grow worse. Supporting secular schooling with dollars and an array of technical and institutional support, as requested by Pakistan, would be a good idea. Enabling the people in these countries to shape the education to their own needs can drain the venom out of the current system and help people frame a vision for the future useful to them. Call the bill to pay for secularized schools the "Saving the World from Future Fanatics Act."
There are several dangers here. Bin Laden conducted training camps and thousands who attended and were indoctrinated have scattered to countries all over the world where they may be plotting who knows what. It is absolutely clear from what is known about the identities of the men on the airplanes that they came from several key countries ? Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt ? and that they gathered momentum in Germany, England and other European countries.
America's current fantasy is the CIA and other spy shops will employ nifty gadgets which can hear a gnat breathing through three-foot thick walls and will gather intelligence without the nastiness of dealing with people whose loyalties are suspicious and who speak languages not taught at Yale. It won't work well enough. This is a job for intelligent, hard-working people who can infiltrate extremist groups and find out what they're planning on doing.
The new James Bond won't be English. He'll come from one of the Gulf countries, will be a native speaker of Arabic, a Muslim, and will have the tools to penetrate these cells. He won't drive a fancy car, drink martinis, or hang with super-models. He'll live an austere and dangerous life. He won't have a degree from Yale, won't live in a fancy house with many servants and won't be working in the shadows to recruit a few shadowy informants. In other words, he won't be the fantasy James Bond or the current CIA type. He'll be recruited carefully. Call it the "Reduced Dependency on Gadgets and Putting Agents on the Ground CIA Reform Initiative."
If the U.S. and its allies can do these two things ? address the production of radical young men by reforming the education system in the societies which produce them and recruit middle-class young men from Arabic countries to penetrate the cells of those most likely to conduct violence ? there is an increased chance of discouraging or even intercepting those who would repeat September 11.
There are other things the developed world should do, now that the need is obvious. The Islamic world would benefit from a Marshall Plan, especially one designed to keep subsistence farmers from being swept off the land. There are many needs in that part of the world and the West has not been good at addressing any of them. It's time to change that.
John C. Mohawk, Ph.D., a columnist for Indian Country Today, is an author and professor in the Center for the Americas at the State University of New York at Buffalo. A leading scholar of world history, culture and civilization, he is currently serving as the Director of Indigenous Studies at the Center.