I guess this post is a variation on the tiresome “why do they hate us?” question. It’s not uncommon to run into statements along the following lines: Islamist radicalization and the hatred for the United States (or, at least, hatred of the U. S. government) among Muslims are solely or primarily due to our policies there and, in particular, to the presence of the U. S. military in the Middle East (which predates the invasion of Iraq). Here’s an example of such a statement that, I think, is typical of the genre from Jeb Koogler of Foreign Policy Watch (he’s also an associate blogger at the great blog, The Moderate Voice, which directed me to Jeb’s post):
Indeed, it’s important to remember that this phenomenon of radicalization has occurred overwhelmingly since 9/11, despite the fact that “multiculturalist” social policies had been in place long before that. Since this radicalization has occurred almost exclusively in the past few years, and since most British Muslims claim to be adopting a harder line because of western policies in the Middle East, I think it’s safe to say that it is aggressive US and British foreign policies that have caused this crisis.
I think that the narrowest possible construction of Jeb’s statement, that the increase in radicalism among Muslims in Britain since 2001 is largely due to the the U. S. invasion of Iraq and British participation in it, is probably a fair one. However, in the form in which it’s presented Jeb’s post is quite problematic. It is riddled with fallacies and other logical problems notably, appeal to authority (those cited as authorities aren’t), appeal to unnamed authorities (“most analysts agree”), over-generalization, and unsupported assertions and assumptions.
I’d like to consider a couple of broader questions. First, is violent radical Islamism rising? If so, is it increasing due to (mostly) American foreign policy with respect to the Middle East?
Answers can be distilled into several distinct currents
- violent radical Islamism isn’t rising
- violent radical Islamism is rising and it’s a consequence of U. S. foreign policy (an extension of Jeb’s position cited above)
- violent radical Islamism is rising, mostly due to factors other than U. S. foreign policy and, particularly, due to factors within Islam itself (an extension of Michael van der Galien’s position alluded to above)
- It’s more complicated than that.
My own view is #4. I think that violent radical Islamism has probably been around for more than a thousand years and I don’t honestly know whether it’s increasing or not. It’s possible that it may merely appear to be increasing to Western eyes. Modern communications, transportation, and the migration of peoples may simply be bringing out into the light something that was already there.
If, indeed, it’s increasing, I do think that U. S. policies with respect to the Middle East contribute to the increase. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, those policies have evolved over time and the people of the Middle East haven’t allowed much else in the way of acceptable alternatives. Either everybody is going to have to accept those policies and deal with them and their consequences or the U. S. must disengage from the Middle East in a major way. That will have profound economic consequences for the entire world, I can’t imagine that happening, and, frankly, I doubt it would slow whatever rise there is in violent radical Islamism.
Here’s what I’d like to open up for discussion. Let’s narrow the conversation to the period between 1968 and 2000 inclusive i.e. from the Six-Day War to the day before the attacks on September 11, 2001. How, specifically, should the U. S. have acted or reacted differently? Please be specific e.g. not “stop supporting Israel unconditionally” but rather how should we have changed our reaction to a specific incident during the period. Please limit the recommendations to things that were actually possible including politically possible in the United States. Also, please include what you believe would have been the consequences of the change.
Don’t critique Jeb’s post here—go over to Jeb’s place via the link and do that.
I’m searching sincerely here. Please be civil.