All They Understand is Force
Like bin Laden, al-Zawahiri believed that it was time for jihadists to carry the war to “the distant enemy”….A key war-fighting principle, al-Zawahiri believed, was “the need to inflict the maximum casualties against the opponent, for this is the language understood by the West, no matter how much time and effort such operations take.”
Kevin quips, “That’s why they attacked the Twin Towers. Because everyone knows the only language westerners understand is force.” Several of his commenters note that that maxim has been trotted out for generations as justification for violence, a point which is well taken.
I would note, though, that there is a sense in which that sentiment and its cousin “life is cheap in [insert Third World country here]” are correct: The West has evolved a much stronger sense of the worth of individual life than is true elsewhere. This is almost certainly a function mainly of our vastly superior economic security–Maslow’s Hierarchy and all that–than of some inate cultural superiority. Beginning at least as far back as the time of ugustine of Hippo (354-430) there emerged a concept of Just War, something that remains largely a Western construct.
It’s quite difficult to fight a war–which necessitates killing the enemy without hesitation lest he kill you first–without dehumanizing him. That’s true even when fighting a culturally similar enemy, as in WWII or even the U.S. Civil War or the War for Independence. Certainly, some of our soldiers are doubtless using culturally insensitve names to describe the “thugs” they’re fighting. Still, they are immediately able to turn around and help build schools and otherwise attempt to create a better life for the Iraqi people. That’s an extraordinary thing. And it’s almost uniquely American.