Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a “senior administration official,” insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:
“The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren’t for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It’s like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn’t work.”
This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike “the law enforcement approach,” does “work.”
The official is correct that it is wrong “to think that somehow we are responsible — that the actions of the jihadists are justified by U.S. policies.” But few outside the fog of paranoia that is the blogosphere think like that. It is more dismaying that someone at the center of government considers it clever to talk like that. It is the language of foreign policy — and domestic politics — unrealism. ~George Will, The Washington Post
Will is correct to draw the lesson from the London plot that intelligence-gathering, law enforcement and international cooperation have been shown to be not only necessary elements in counterterrorist operations but the vital elements. This makes the administration’s bizarre theories about democratisation and neocon blather about “draining the swamp” appear like so many old welfarist theories that held that changing the socioeconomic conditions of the urban environment would reduce crime. Mr. Bush, for his part, adds to that fundamentally liberal prescription for doomed social engineering a willingness to use main force in a vain attempt to eliminate all criminals from a neighbourhood.
Of course there will always be those jihadis who will not care about any change in policy, because they are carrying out a basic religious obligation–as they see it in any case–and will always be hostile to the non-Islamic world. Everything we do to swell their numbers and increase their base of supporters simply worsens this basic, but far more manageable problem.
And insofar as this unavoidable jihadi mentality is true throughout the Islamic world as a whole (that is, all Muslims are under the same obligations to make the same struggle against infidels, so all Muslims should be equally likely to be radicalised), it cannot intelligibly explain the choice of targets or the particular origins of the terrorists, which have been overwhelmingly men either from or closely connected to nations under allied, despotic governments that are, for the most, officially hostile to Islamists in politics and society (Egypt, Pakistan), or from nations that were then under the occupation of Western armies (Saudi Arabia).
One can find outliers that can be explain with reference to the Islamic duty of jihad–a Tunisian here, some Yemenis over there–but is it not remarkable that you do not have swarms of Malaysian hijackers and legions of Azeri suicide bombers? The Libyan terrorist, once the symbol of violent fanaticism in my childhood days, seems to be a thing of the past. Admitting a causal connection between occupation and terrorism does not have to be treated as an admission of indirect culpability for the terrorist acts themselves–this is what people seem to get hung up on in their “never blame America” mindset–but simply an acknowledgement that occupation exacerbates the problem, regardless of whether or not the problem existed before the occupation began. Consider: you might be interested in treating a cancer, and you might be trying very hard, but if your idea of treatment is exposing the patient to loads of carcinogens you have substantially reduced your odds of success. If the jihadis are the cancer, reckless intervention and occupation are all those things that worsen the condition. This is not difficult to understand, and there is nothing shameful in acknowledging one of the most obvious political truths of the modern world.
It is the talking point of the U.S. and U.K. governments that 9/11 preceded Afghanistan and Iraq, which never ceases to amaze for its irrelevance, since everyone paying attention knows that it was the presence in Saudi Arabia that, more than any other single political cause, precipitated the attacks–something that is both tacitly and openly admitted by the departure from Saudi Arabia after the invasion of Iraq and, as Fiasco records, Wolfowitz’s arguments that the cost of containing Iraq, which necessitated a presence in Saudi Arabia, had included provoking the 9/11 attacks (as well as the attacks throughout the ’90s). When it served their turn members of this administration had no problem admitting that occupation bred terrorist responses–not that it would stop them from inaugurating another occupation of another Muslim country with prominent sacred sites in it.
Occupation, whether or not it is actually an occupation aimed at degrading or humiliating another nation (which is again irrelevant to how it is perceived), breeds terrorist resistance, as does resentment against allied nations with represssive governments–to the extent that those governments are seen as our puppets, we become the focus of that resenment.
I am often curious why warmongers in this country mention all the aid the U.S. has lent to Muslims over the years in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and so on (unless it is to highlight their own stupidity in having supported all of those interventions), because in the same breath they will tell us that our presence in X country couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with terrorism because Islamic fanatics failed to be grateful for our help in Y country. You see, it should work both ways, according to the warmongers: resentment and gratitude. This assumes that gratitude towards us is an option for such people, which is quite an assumption, far more far-fetched in its way than a common sense notion that every people resents foreign domination. A belief that occupation breeds resentment is rooted in a more general knowledge of the experience of virtually every occupation army in the last 200 years or more; all that this idea requires is the assumption that people will hate a foreign invader who seems to them to trample on their people’s dignity–whether or not there is any trampling going on–and will fight back by whatever means available. The evidence for this view is copious and well-known; one would think the WWII buffs who seem incapable of making any other historical references outside of the 1938-1945 timeframe would remember the role of partisan warfare and national resistance to occupiers in various theatres around the globe.
Now does anyone think that there would be as much Islamic terrorism in India were it not for the dispute over Kashmir? Is it not significant that most Muslim nations tend not to send forth nearly as many terrorists as others? For example, we do not come across a lot of mujahideen from Oman. If Muslims targeted any and all non-Muslims indiscriminately out of their hatred for us and our way of life, why are South Africa and Switzerland not routinely targeted as well? We should not have to be having this argument five years later, but a clunky mixture of irrational ”America has only ever wanted to help Muslims” sentiment (which, even if true, has no necessary bearing on how our “help” is perceived) and the abandonment of any attempt at discerning intelligible causes for the action of mindless “fascists” have conspired to keep us disputing something that should have become obvious on September 12, 2001. Any foreign policy view that cannot take seriously the significance of occupation in worsening the terrorist threat is itself party to the same unrealism Will criticises in the administration.