Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why Can't They Just Say It

Bruce Hoffman, in the Washington Post, reviews the balance of power between the US and Al Qaeda. He lists the five core elements of Al Qaeda strategy, which is fine as far as it goes. At the end of his piece, he writes this:
Remarkably, more than eight years after Sept. 11, we still don't fully understand our dynamic and evolutionary enemy. We claim success when it is regrouping and tally killed leaders while more devious plots are being hatched. Al-Qaeda needs to be utterly destroyed. This will be accomplished not just by killing and capturing terrorists -- as we must continue to do -- but by breaking the cycle of radicalization and recruitment that sustains the movement.
Remarkably, however, Hoffman couldn't find room in his two-page column to explain what exactly it is that is sustaining this cycle of radicalization and recruitment. It is indeed remarkable that 8 years after 9-11, most Americans don't understand what is fueling this cycle, and the reason is because "analysts" like Hoffman, "journalists" like Chuck Todd, and political "leaders" like Joe Lieberman refuse to explain it. Most Americans think the Muslim world hates us because we're Christian and we watch subversive Hollywood movies. Or because Muslims want to take over the world and impose Sharia law everywhere. This is because there are, in fact, some Muslims that dislike our culture, and would like to see Sharia law imposed. Just as there are some Americans who hate Islamic culture, and would like to see Christian values imposed everywhere (for example, our last President.)

The problem is that these Muslims aren't the ones blowing themselves up. The ones who are joining Al Qaeda, and volunteering for suicide missions are motivated by a short list of very specific grievances, and they are not targeting all westerners, or all non-Muslim countries. They are targeting those countries which they believe have committed these specific offenses.

Specifically, they are targeting the US because we:

  • Interfere in the internal politics of Muslim countries, from illegally overthrowing democratically elected leaders to supporting brutal and repressive Arab dictators like the Saudi or Egyptian regimes,
  • Are currently bombing, invading, or occupying five Muslim countries,
  • Torture and humiliate Muslims, whether in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or Bagram, and refuse to accept any responsibility, as well as imprison them indefinitely without charges or trials,
  • Indiscriminately kill Muslim civilians, including women and children,
  • Give arms, money, and unconditional support to Israel, enabling it to illegally occupy Palestinian territory, and to keep innocent Palestinians in a virtual concentration camp in Gaza.

Now, you can argue about the morality and strategic value of these actions all you want. I clearly think that each and every one of them is stupid, counter-productive, and immoral. But you cannot argue with the fact that the people who flock to Al Qaeda do so because they are angry about these things. 

Polls have shown that large majorities of Muslims all over the world admire the American ideals of liberty, justice, and equality. They do not hate America for who we are; they hate us for what we do. 

But if we continue to do these things, they will eventually learn that who we are, after all, is no more than the sum of what we do. And they will be right.

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