Dallas -- THERE MAY APPEAR to be no relationship between the end of the Cold War, Oklahoma City, Chechnya and Islamic fundamentalist violence. I can hear the skeptical reader asking: "Have you been smoking something, Ms. Geyer?"
Well, before you stop reading and continue to be confused about the horrors of Oklahoma City, let me quote some insightful words from Don Edward Beck and Chris Cowan, two fine young analysts of the social psychology of groups and nations of our times:
"This is an extremely dangerous time. The Evil Empire no longer provides a common enemy. The end of the Cold War also thawed the ice sheet that covered deep value-system divides. Hot ethnic/survival cores are now bubbling and boiling everywhere -- in the Balkans, Africa and even here . . .
"The high levels of cultural diversity are fragmenting everybody into groups with us-vs.-them rhetoric on radio and television talk shows. Everybody is shouting at everybody. Thus, the survivalist, separatist, 'everybody is against us' feelings are becoming strong."
In the past, these two men said, the military and other disciplined forces of society would absorb, reform and basically control these violent men left wandering in society. But now, "the entire post-Cold War transformation has been botched. Nothing has been put in the place of the control systems that have protected us from these kinds of people in the past."
There are many good analysts of terrorism today -- new types and old. But these two social psychology professors at the University of North Texas at Denton are among this nation's best.
Mr. Beck is the chief adviser on social and psychological transformation to the South African government and, together, the two have brilliantly charted the phases of change that different peoples, at different stages of development, must go through if they are not to fail -- or go mad.
Of Oklahoma, Mr. Beck told me: "The domestic atmosphere is inflamed by the alarming increase in the number of Americans who are anti-federal government, paranoid about the threats and loss of control, and are hunkering down in cults, brigades, militias, patriotic cells and isolated enclaves. Unhappily, the alphabets [FBI, AFT, even FEMA] are replacing the Evil Empire in the minds of those who desperately need the Huns to be at the gate. This is very much like the Great Satan in Iran."
They also -- before anyone was even arrested -- said their "hunch" was that an isolated group, pathological, probably acted on its own. "People in this 'Hot Zone' are not well organized or coordinated. Each group is an independent, feudal kingdom. Often they are raving hit squads. They don't trust government or even each other. Revenge for the Waco deaths may have been the driving force."
What's more, while there are different forms of terrorism in the post-Cold War world, (they delineate four: strategic terrorism, true believers, warlords and tribalism), essentially "you see identical systems in Arkansas, in the Aryan nation, KKK, White Posse, White Supremacist . . . Jihad, the Hammas, extreme Zionist groups, Black Panthers, Maoist Red Brigades . . ."
The end of the Cold War did relieve the world of the fear of a massive superpower war, but it also "freed" the powers of human fears that had been frozen into complicity by regimentation.
Once the Cold War was over, the West's leaders should have filled that yawning vacuum with new visions that could have relieved and absorbed the dangerously released energies and anxieties. They did not -- and, from Oklahoma City to Chechnya to Bosnia to Algeria, we see the dark fruits of that failure.
Mr. Cowan: "Do not attack the militia movement. This will only confirm their strange but real belief that the feds are out to get them and membership will increase. Deal with fear . . . not through soft, egalitarian themes based on community and love/affiliation . . . but through aggressive initiatives. . . . Use the 'noble, brave Oklahomans' . . . [as] an example, a case study, a metaphor."
Finally: "Search for the superordinate goals that can overarch the groups. Revive the quest to renew the American character in the post-Cold War world and the 21st century. We desperately need new and positive thinking to fill this huge gap, which will only get worse without proactive steps. . . . The deeper forces must be understood and defused, then reframed and redefined."
Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist.