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They Hate Us Because...

The prevailing official dogma regarding the al-Qaeda movement is that they paradoxically both hate us because we're free, and because they are not free. Thomas Friedman, who's been critical of the administration in many ways, has bought into this dogma as much, if not moreso, than any other prominent commentator on current affairs. For my part, I certainly think it would be excellent thing if we saw a greater move toward liberalism and democracy in the Arab world, but I have my doubts that the infamous swamps would be so quickly drained. As today's Friedman offering notes, but doesn't seem to process, a lot of your radicalized Arabs in the world are people of (mostly North African) Arab origin living in Europe and, especially, France with its large Muslim population. Whatever these people are so mad about, it's not that the country they live in isn't democratic. Many of them were born in Europe, or spent most of their lives there.

And this, after all, should come as no surprise. The terrorists of the IRA and the ETA (and whatever you call that Corsican terrorist group) live in democracies as well. The object to the ground rules of democratic politics as practiced in Northern Ireland or Spain (or wherever) for what are basically unrelated reasons. Malaysia and Indonesia have given birth to more than there fair share of terrorists, and while neither quite counts as a fully paid-up member of the democratic brotherhood, both are far from being the most autocratic states in the Middle East. Indeed, harsh dictatorships like Syria and Iraq have barely generated any terrorists whatsoever, though the Syrian government maintains ties to Lebanese-born people involved in Hezbollah who retain a robust terrorism capacity. But the actual Hezbollah members are Lebanese, and while they certainly grew up under some adverse conditions (to offer and understatement) Lebanon has never been one of your more iron-fisted Arab dictatorships.

To make a long story short, the noteworthy and appalling lack of liberalism and democracy among Arab governments appears empirically to have only a tangential relationship to the actual psychology of jihad.

January 23, 2005 | Permalink

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» Why They Hate Us Revisited from Sebastian Holsclaw
Matthew Yglesias has an interesting post on the dynamics of terrorism and democracy.  I think he makes a key mistake that when analyzed further can actually be very helpful:As today's Friedman offering notes, but doesn't seem to process, a lot... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 24, 2005 10:25:39 AM

Comments

With the election over, Feidman has turned his brain back off again. Either that or he sees these guys are going to be running his sandbox (foreign policy) for the next four years, so there's no point pissing them off. "Kool-Aid? Yessir, make mine a double!"

Posted by: jimBOB | Jan 23, 2005 11:56:06 PM

Shorter Matthew: Hey, look, I can come up with a couple of examples that aren't explained by the theory, hence the theory must be almost completely wrong.

I suppose that logic wasn't one of the required philosophy classes in college, eh?

Posted by: Al | Jan 24, 2005 12:00:22 AM

Um, actually Al, that's a basic tenet of logic. All you need is one data point to prove a theory wrong.

*cough* pinhead *cough*

Posted by: jerry | Jan 24, 2005 12:07:37 AM

I think the "they hate us for our freedoms" phrase lends itself easily to being lampooned. Certainly it's not the sole motivation for a group like al Qaeda, but it plays a part.

Just like with all religious fundamentalist movements (even those that aren't associated with violence), there is an element of hate and dehumanization for those that feel differently than the fundamentalists in question.

An example from Germany this past fall: "These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don't shave under their arms and their sweat collects under their hair with a revolting smell and they stink," said the preacher at the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, in the film made by Germany's ZDF public TV, adding: "Hell lives for the infidels! Down with all democracies and all democrats!"

And a more recent example from the U.K.: A website giving advice on how to vandalize billboards and listing potential targets has been set up by a group calling themselves Muslims Against Advertising (MAAD).

We have similar, but smaller scale, problems here. The people that think Spongebob is gay and hate the freedom of women to have control of their own reproductive system have fringe members who do things like this.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Jan 24, 2005 12:23:55 AM

Just want to add that reasons why groups like al Qaeda (or Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya or Jamaah Islamiyya, for example) hate us are different from non-fundamentalists, in part at least, who are much more solely focused on our foreign policy.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Jan 24, 2005 12:29:41 AM

Black swans anyone? Friedman was awful this morning. Failure in Iraq will have greater practical impact on the French than it will have on us. This was the realpolitik basis for their opposition to the war in the first place - they saw the failure coming, and wanted no part of it. Why piss off your Arab population more than they are already? Where in the world did he find those militant arab girls? - I see more women in headscarves in suburban Washington than I do in Paris. Imagine if a French "journalist" had come here and interviewed some KKK members and tried to pass them off as typical white american conservatives - and then blamed US foriegn policy for their anger. That is essentially what Friedman did with those girls.

Posted by: S.weil | Jan 24, 2005 12:35:54 AM

BTW, Matthew, you might want to e-mail this post to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Because Mr. al-Zarqawi seems to be under the misapprehension that al Qaeda is fighting against democracy.

Now, I realize, Matthew, that you being a Harvard grad and all, you must have a much better grasp on what al Qaeda is really about than Mr. al-Zarqawi. So perhaps you could be a friendly neighbor and impart to Mr. al-Zarqawi your knowledge about how democracy affects jihad.

Pretty good timing on your post, BTW. *snicker*

Posted by: Al | Jan 24, 2005 12:45:40 AM

We're free these days?

Posted by: Deborah White | Jan 24, 2005 12:49:24 AM

How would you know how much terrorism there is in the more autocratic regimes? They don't have anything like a free press, and usually not a whole lot of foreign reporters. Unless somebody blows up a TV station while it's broadcasting or something and some of the images go out live, why would you find out?

How many of us heard about Allawi's group's efforts at terrorism in iraq while Saddam was running the place? I didn't hear a thing about it until they started doing background stories on Allawi after he was head of the IGC.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jan 24, 2005 12:56:54 AM

Wasn't there some famous work done about revolutions (and revolutionary attitudes) arising out of disappointed expectations?

Googling, found a lot of reviews of the Matrix, a little excerpt from Howard Zinn, and a full web site by someone named R.J. Rummel, who looks like a somebody.

Anyway, that social discontent and turmoil arise from disappointed expectations (rather than mere miserable conditions) explains two things:

1) Why terrorists have come from places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine rather than Syria etc

2) The plan of the Republican Party to create a servile workforce by destroying the rational expectation of upward mobility in the average Middle-Class American.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 24, 2005 1:05:20 AM

There used to be a lot of radical, Islamic "activism" in Syria.

Right now, however, the only terrorists that come from Syria are the ones the Assad/Ba'athist government want to come from Syria.

Here's why:

Hama, Syria: Political insurgency by Muslim groups beginning in the early 1980s culminated in an uprising in Feb., 1982. Government forces quelled the revolt but destroyed much of the city in the process; estimated deaths numbered more than 20,000.


Posted by: SoCalJustice | Jan 24, 2005 1:14:42 AM

Because Mr. al-Zarqawi seems to be under the misapprehension that al Qaeda is fighting against democracy.

Oh Al, good thing you know so much about terrorist psychology. What they say is always what they mean! They never time comments to attract attention or support at specifically opportune times that they may later disavow! Condemning democracy is the same thing as holding opposition it as the very raison d'etre of your organization! I say we take them at their word since they're so nice and trustworthy.

Posted by: Ruth | Jan 24, 2005 1:15:57 AM

Malaysia and Indonesia have given birth to more than there fair share of terrorists, and while neither quite counts as a fully paid-up member of the democratic brotherhood, both are far from being the most autocratic states in the Middle East.

I imagine that this is not merely because Malaysia and Indonesia are far from the Middle East.

Posted by: Ethical Werewolf | Jan 24, 2005 1:36:31 AM

Oh, Ruth, if you can't trust a terrorist mastermind who helped murder 3,000 Americans, who *can* you trust? Don't rock Al's word like that. Next he'll even be questioning whether Bush's every word can be believed, and before long he'll be too dejected to haunt Matt's comments. You believe all the terrorists you want to believe, Al! It's your right as an American!

Posted by: Anderson | Jan 24, 2005 1:40:05 AM

Just like with all religious fundamentalist movements (even those that aren't associated with violence), there is an element of hate and dehumanization for those that feel differently than the fundamentalists in question.

That's an age-old tactic common to all demagogues wishing to mobilize an insufficiently enthusiastic populace against The Enemy.

Note this administration's (hell, any administration) rhetoric in the walk-up to any war. Ghadafi? The next Hitler. Milosevich? The next Hitler. Saddam? The next Hitler. Iran's mullahs?

Posted by: Fantazia | Jan 24, 2005 2:09:11 AM

FWIW, posted this on Winds of Change:

. . .The 9/11 hijackers were not oppressed. Neither was Tim Mcveigh, nor the Columbine killers.

Now I do agree that lack of freedom can shield people from the consequences of their beliefs and ideologies, so more freedom can expose belief-systems and theories that do not work. But it's not only lack of freedom, it's also oil money which allows societies to believe & promote all sorts of things without suffering adverse consequences.

After 9/11, it was discussed whether or not it was appropriate to call the hijackers "cowards", in addition to being evil. I think so, for this reason: All these hijackers were taught from early on that they had a superior religion, a superior culture, that they were superior beings. Then they had to face the fact, and live with the shame, of recognizing that another society was more advanced technologically, militarily, economically. Their response to this shame was not to try to build their societies up, which would have been the courageous thing to do, but instead to try to tear other societies down, while killing themselves so that they would no longer have to face up to all these unpleasant, shame-inducing facts. . .

There are no circumstances under which the US will lose the WOT. The WOT is not about who will win and who will lose, its about preventing the bastards from killing people, and preventing the bastards from changing who we are and how we live our life, until they are destroyed or fade away. If we fight it well, relatively few people will die, and who we are and how we live, in a positive sense, won't change. If we fight it badly, more people will die, and who we are and how we live will change for the worse. But we will not lose the WOT under any scenario.

I have seen time and time again liberals confuse the point "Bush is making mistakes/following a suboptimal strategy" with the point "Bush is making mistakes/following a suboptimal strategy, and unless he changes course, and does what I say, we're probably going to lose". I don't understand the deadly attraction for liberals of adding the sentence "if we don't change course, and do what I say, we're going to lose". Then, when Bush doesn't do what liberals say, and yet we still muddle through and eke out a victory, liberals look like prize jackasses, and justifiably so.

Lastly, many liberals seem to see Iraq as "messy quagmire" or "botched surgery", the implication being that once you're in the quagmire or have butchered the patient, you can't really make it right no matter how "resolved" you are. I view Iraq more as "very ambitious foreign aid project", the implication being that even a very badly run/inefficient foreign aid project does a lot of good as long as you devote sufficient resources to it.

Posted by: roublen vesseau | Jan 24, 2005 2:16:54 AM

Roublen,

How do you define "lose"?

Posted by: WeSaferThemHealthier | Jan 24, 2005 2:36:48 AM

Bob McManus,

I think you are referencing the Davies J- Curve, which states that when people’s expectations deviate a certain amount from their real life conditions they tend to get violent.

Posted by: Lord Fluffy | Jan 24, 2005 3:32:37 AM

Read "Fighting for the Future" by Ralph Peters. Even though this collection of essays was published way before 9-11, it's shocking how well Peters nailed who the enemy is and what motivates them.

Posted by: Brad | Jan 24, 2005 3:53:43 AM

Eh, I think it's more likely that they hate us because they believe we're pussies, and at the top of the heap. It's got to be gauling for a culture that so devalues compromise and puts such emphasis on personal, familial and tribal honor, to be so blatantly far behind a culture which values compromise and "win-win" conflict resolution.

It's pretty easy to imagine that many middle-eastern muslims have a hard time imagining how they will modernize without losing what they may consider to be pillars of their culture. Like being able to treat women as property. Or honor killings. Or other shit that the west has managed to leave behind in the last 50 - 500 years.

And the fact is, they won't. They are going to lose those parts of their culture. And because, as opposed to the west, where human rights were an untested concept when they took hold, the middle east has someone to blame for spreading these tradition destroying ideas, they point the finger at us, saying, in effect, "it's your fault we will lose our culture."

And what the hell, to some extent it is. But I'm perfectly comfortable with that. I mean seriously, people get pissed off at Larry Summers because he dare suggest that genetic variation might account for some difference between the number of male and female math/science teachers but spare the Arab world their fury when women are killed by their brother/father/cousin/uncle because they lost their virginity when their brother/father/cousin/uncle/neighbor raped them? Does that strike anyone else as myopic?

So, as far as I can tell, those in the Arab and/or Muslim world who hate us do so because we will drag them into the modern world (and not just into the world of cell phones and computers. Into the world of basic human rights, and most particularly, women's rights. Muslim communities in Europe fall dramatically short on that count), and they're going to fight like hell. Reactionaries always do.

(cross posted at http://cognativedissident.blogspot.com)

Posted by: TW. Andrews | Jan 24, 2005 4:31:12 AM

Because Mr. al-Zarqawi seems to be under the misapprehension that al Qaeda is fighting against democracy.

Whether Zarqawi's outfit could be considered "Iraq's Al-Qaida affiliate" was a point of contention, so I don't believe that Zarqawi can or would speak for Al-Qaeda.

Also, and I'm no more an expert in terrorist psychology than Al, but my theory is that this kind of rhetoric acts as bait to us. In other words, their purpose in uttering such absurdities (we declare "fierce war" on democracy) is to embarass us and encourage us to engage. And ultimately, though Al mighr disagree, we end up satisfying more of their goals than our own.

Posted by: Dan | Jan 24, 2005 4:44:47 AM

Um, actually Al, that's a basic tenet of logic. All you need is one data point to prove a theory wrong.

*cough* pinhead *cough*

In statistical analysis, that's what we call an outlier. I'd save your ad homenim for cases where it might do some good.

Posted by: TW. Andrews | Jan 24, 2005 4:46:57 AM

You know I always wondered why when this question comes up people always feel compelled to give a single reason of “why they hate us”. I think its much more complicated then that. It’s probably a combination of various things. For instance you might have some who fight because they believe that their religion dictates that they do. You might have others who live in horrible poverty and see no hope for the future, who lash out against us in the hopes of changing things. You have others who may hold a sense of secular nationalist pride who view American actions in that part of the world as imperial in nature and feel an obligation to change that. Then there are those that have a different idea of what the world should look like and see America as the biggest obstacle to the world changing. I am sure there are other reasons as well. And naturally many may hold a combination of the reasons above. People seem to be always looking for a silver bullet where none exists.

Posted by: Lord Fluffy | Jan 24, 2005 5:22:44 AM

"The prevailing official dogma regarding the al-Qaeda movement is that they paradoxically both hate us because we're free, and because they are not free."

The creepiest thing to me about the entire GWoT has been the administration's intense desire to avoid discussing our enemy's war aims.

As OBL said:

"Security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don't strike for example – Sweden?"

As a free people engaged in what may well be a long struggle against extremists, having the American people understand the actual nature of that struggle is essential in achieving our eventual success.

Obscuring the nature of that struggle in pursuit of the administration's short-term political goals is contrary to our national interests.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 24, 2005 5:49:38 AM

Well, now when Mr. Bush has just announced a world-wide jihad in his inauguration speech, it'll be much easier to find out what the jihadist love and what they hate - just by asking Mr. Bush's official spokesman.

As far as I understand, Mr. Bush does like 'freedom', apparently, so the hypothesis 'they hate us for our freedom' seems to be incorrect. It's actually the opposite - they want to liberate us, make us free.

Posted by: abb1 | Jan 24, 2005 7:13:50 AM

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