Friday, April 9, 2010

They Hate Us for Our Policies, Stupid!

I shouldn't have to remind my sophisticated readers that CATO is a libertarian think tank - not a liberal institution. So Doug Bandow's presence on staff there is significant. Today he publishes, Blowback: The Lessons of the Moscow Bombings for America.

He states that Bush's explanation for terrorism "they hate us for our freedoms" is bunk:

after 9/11 President George W. Bush and his neoconservative supporters reassured Americans: we were attacked because we are beautiful. Evil, nasty, mean foreigners hate Americans because we are free, fabulous, nice, selfless, and all-around good guys, busily spreading freedom, liberty, capitalism, democracy, and the hallowed American way around the world.
Terrorism long has been a common tool used by individuals, groups, and occasionally nations to promote political ends. Why some people hate other people often is complicated. Nevertheless, the historical pattern is clear. Terrorism has been deployed against Russian Tsars, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, British colonial officials, and Algerian governments from French colonial to recent military. Basque and Irish separatists employed assassination and bombing. Until Iraq, the most promiscuous suicide bombers were Tamils in Sri Lanka. Needless to say, in none of these cases did terrorism occur in response to American freedom or other values.
How about American foreign policy? Do you think?
More tellingly, it is impossible to deny that U.S. foreign policy has inadvertently created enemies and turned Americans into targets. For instance, nearly three decades ago President Ronald Reagan intervened in a multi-sided civil war in Lebanon, taking the side of the minority Christian government which controlled little more than the capital of Beirut. The American military actively targeted Muslim and Druze factions; the U.S.S. New Jersey bombarded Lebanese villages. It should have surprised no one when the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks were attacked. Had Washington kept its forces at home, Islamic terrorists likely would have stayed home as well. They would have had no cause to pack their bags and head to America to wreak havoc and murder.
Bandow cites carnage caused by more recent American foreign policy. Because I have already dealt with that extensively in these pages (and because I don't hate America), I'll skip to Bandow's concluding paragraphs:
There is no reason to expect Afghans, or Muslims elsewhere, to cheerfully wave off such deaths. We Americans may believe that we are beautiful. But others around the world likely are less convinced as the U.S. government is killing people, supporting tyrants, and engaging in other less than beautiful behavior. The fact that we believe, however reasonably, such conduct to be necessary--that "the price is worth it"--does not mean others will agree with us.

Terrorism cannot be justified, whether committed by Russian anarchists, Tamil Tigers, Basque separatists, the Irish Republican Army, Chechen militants, al-Qaeda, Palestinians, or Afghan and Iraqi insurgents. But terrorism can be understood and explained. And we should use that knowledge in making policy. It may be inevitable that the U.S. government will make some enemies. However, Washington should stop carelessly making unnecessary enemies.

America is not invulnerable. Washington cannot expect to act in the world without consequence. Jesus insisted that people "count the cost" before following him (Luke 14:28). Policymakers should do the same before they casually thrust the U.S. into military conflicts, political struggles, and other volatile controversies abroad. It turns out that the cost of global intervention can be high indeed.
We, like the Russians, reap what we sow.


  1. I agree with you about Reagan/Lebanon, Vig. But at least Reagan (unlike Bush 2) had the common sense to rethink his policy and get those soldiers the hell out of there. Not all of our Presidents have been that pragmatic.

  2. Interesting to tie up with Jesus... him that Hebrew scholars have taught he was considered a kind of terrorist to the scholarly and priestly cast of his day. That was a qualifier used for turning him over to the Romans. I digress it all, I know... and I've always gotten into some kind of trouble for insisting there is no qualification for the murder of innocents. Period.
    Still; today I am listening to reasoning for a Palestinian state... thankfully beyond it's origins steeped in terror politics. jus saying...

  3. It is true that our own foreign policy has created terrorists. Secondly, I'm with Will.

  4. I agree with Will and Mike,one of the few times I've had something good to say about Ronnie.

  5. You guys have a short memory. Ronnie Raygun turned right around from a withdrawal from Lebanon with an invasion of Grenada. He was vain, and he needed his vanity war.

  6. DB,
    you're right. I was trying to remember Grenada,then came up with Daddy Bush, should have thought of Panama. Plus Ronnie's ongoing Nicaragua terrorism. Guess he wanted something even easier.
    I stand corrected.

  7. Terrorism tends to appear when a minority feel ignored and want to say "Hello! We're here!" and lets face it, it's hard to ignore people who blow things up.

    Islamic terrorists are on another level altogether. They believe the use of terror can, ulitmately, subjugate all humanity to Islam.

    Well that's my opinion sober.

    I'll pop back after a few vodka's and see whether I agree with myself...

  8. This is such a reality check in truth, as expected the right wing Repuglickers would never agree to nor admit that we are and have been practicing terrorism against other entities/countries for decades.

  9. I said that Reagan was pragmatic, not that he was always correct. As for Nicaragua, there were big-time assholes on both sides of that conflict. In retrospect, yes, we clearly should have been more constructive and far less concerned about the Soviet factor.

  10. If memory serves, the firt use of the word 'terroristism' in English was a description of our founding fathers' military tactics by a British general. Since then, it has often been ised to describe unconventional warfare, which should not be confused with terrorism.

    Terrorism is targeting civilians to achieve political ends, the bombing of the Beirut barracks was not terrorism, because the target was military.

    The US has been a sponsor of terrorism, especially in Central and South America, as well as a victim.

  11. Tom C:

    Terrorism is targeting civilians to achieve political ends, the bombing of the Beirut barracks was not terrorism, because the target was military.

    Absolutely correct. Absolutely.

  12. The fire-bombings of Dresden (ordered by Churchill) and Tokyo (ordered by Roosevelt) would also have to be considered acts of terrorism, would they not?

  13. I, along with Four Dinners (I think) would argue that Dresden, Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima - to the degree military targets were not destroyed - resulted in the killing of civilians for military ends. Admittedly, the line I'm drawing is a fine one.

  14. The latter 3 I think that you could possibly make the argument for, Vig. Dresden, though, was not by then the end result all but determined? It seems, to me, like it was a much more punitive act than a military one.