Blame America Second
Joyner: “Andy Rooney explains why the [9/11] tragedy was really our fault:”
Americans are puzzled over why so many people in the world hate us. We seem so nice to ourselves. They do hate us though. We know that and we’re trying to protect ourselves with more weapons.
We have to do it I suppose but it might be better if we figured out how to behave as a nation in a way that wouldn’t make so many people in the world want to kill us.
James, in typical Republican fashion, simply notes that this constitutes “blaming America” and moves on, without pausing to consider whether, maybe, five years constitutes a decent interval after which some introspection is in order. Because, really, what are the odds that, if most of the world’s attitudes toward your nation ranges from passive resentment to active hostility, that it’s because your country is just too good for this awful, fallen world?
First, by definition, saying that the reason people attack America is because we have earned their anger constitutes “blaming America.” Second, I’ve never argued that our enemies attack us because we’re “too good” or even the trite nonsense about how they “hate us because we are free.”
While most of the world likes the United States and most of its people would instantly leave their present circumstances for a chance to live here, many nonetheless resent our policies. To some extent, that’s an inevitable fact of being The World’s Sole Remaining SuperpowerTM but it’s also a consequence of our asserting the right to intervene anywhere, anytime we deem our interests to be served by so doing. Unlike traditional Great Powers, we do not seek merely to dominate a natural geographic sphere of influence but to shape events around the world.
As I noted in a September 2004 review Imperial Hubris, Michael Scheuer points out that the grievances that led al Qaeda to hate us do not require us to engage in any Roonian contemplation. Their goals have been frequently enumerated by our enemy since their first declaration of jihad against us in 1996:
· The end of U.S. aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state;
· The removal of U.S. and Western forces from the Arabian peninsula;
· The removal of U.S. and Western military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands;
· The end of U.S. support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India;
· The end of U.S. protection for repressive, apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera;
· The conservation of the Muslim world’s energy resource and their sale at higher prices. (Scheuer, 210)
Essentially, we should abandon Israel and stop trying to influence events in the globe’s eastern hemisphere. Is that a reasonable price to pay to appease al Qaeda? And would doing so at this point earn further enmity, given that they might reasonably think we’d backed down? Those are questions we can debate, I guess.
President Bush argues that, if we take bin Laden at his word, he’s unappeasable:
Osama bin Laden has called the 9/11 attacks, “A great step towards the unity of Muslims and establishing the righteous [Caliphate].” Al Qaeda and its allies reject any possibility of coexistence with those they call “infidels.” Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: “Death is better than living on this earth with the unbelievers amongst us.” We must take the words of these extremists seriously, and we must act decisively to stop them from achieving their evil aims.
Matt Yglesias says that, while bin Laden might say that, he doesn’t really mean it. Or, at least, while he’d like that outcome, he’s reasonable enough to see it as a dream rather than a short-term goal around which to organize. That may well be. For that matter, as I argued yesterday, I don’t see the establishment of a new Caliphate as viable regardless of their intention.
Still, while Rooney, Henley, Yglesias, Bush, and I would all agree that we can do a better job of both explaining our actions to others and thinking through their big picture implications beforehand, that’s a very different thing than saying that we essentially had the 9/11 attacks coming because we were such busybodies.
Where I’d disagree with Rooney is just who “us” and “we” and “the nation” are that matter. It’s not me and Andy and James Joyner: it’s the people in power. It’s the US government.
Actually, it is Andy, Jim, and me–along with about 300 million other folks. While I often don’t agree with our elected representatives, even those for whom I voted, they operate, as the anti-war bumper sticker put it, in my name. Those four planes that hit five years and two days ago weren’t aimed at President Bush but at America.