Sunday, January 6, 2008

Radical Ignorance on Radical Islam

The ABC News GOP debate in New Hampsire produced a serious exchange on foreign policy (transcript). The candidates were asked whether they would continue the Bush policy of nation-building and attempting to spread democracy throughout the world.
REP. PAUL: Well, I certainly agreed with his foreign policy that he ran on and that we as Republicans won in the year 2000 -- you know, the humble foreign policy, no nation-building, don't be the policeman of the world. And we were strongly critical of the policy of the Clinton administration, that did the opposite. And we fell short. Of course, the excuse is that 9/11 changed everything, but the Bush doctrine of preemptive war is not a minor change. This is huge. This is the first time we as a nation accept as our policy that we start the wars. I don't understand this. And that all options are on the table to go after Iran? This -- this is not -- this is not necessary. These are third-world nations. They're not capable.

But I think it's the misunderstanding or the disagreements that we've had in this debate along the campaign trail is the -- the nature of the threat. I'm as concerned about the nature of the threat of terrorism as anybody, if not more so. But they don't attack us because we're free and prosperous. And there are radicals in all elements on -- in -- in all religions that will result to violence. But if we don't understand that the reaction is -- is because we invade their countries, we -- and occupy their countries, we have bases in their country, and that we haven't done it just since 9/11, but we have done that a long time.

I mean, it was the Air Force base in Saudi Arabia before 9/11 that was given as the excuse. If we don't understand that, we can't win this war against terrorism.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, unfortunately, Ron, you need a thorough understanding of what radical jihad is -- what the movement is, what its intent is, where it flows from, and the fact is it is trying to bring down, not just us, but it is trying to bring down all moderate Islamic governments, Western governments around the world, as we just saw in Pakistan.
It's actually Mr. Romney that needs to enhance his understanding by cracking a few books on the subject. As former CIA analyst and station chief Michael Scheuer explains, "The threat facing America is the defensive jihad, an Islamic military reaction triggered by an attack by non-Muslims on the Islamic faith, on Muslims, on Muslim territory, or on all three." [1] He goes on to say that "one of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the Islamist threat lies in continuing to believe - at the urging of senior U.S. leaders - that Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think, rather than what we do." [2]

The reason that al-Qaeda and other militant Islamic groups are trying to bring down the Musharraf regime in Pakistan, the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, the Mubarak government in Egypt, et al, is because these regimes are viewed as corrupt dictatorships that are propped up by America, through American military intervention and/or arms sales and financial aid. They are seen as puppet governments the same way that the Shah of Iran was. Musharraf for example is favored by only 8% of the population in Pakistan, yet we have actively supported him since his coup and we continue to send him billions of dollars. The recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto warned that "[America's] policy of supporting dictatorship is breaking up my country. I now think al-Qaeda can be marching on Islamabad in two to four years." [3] In another interview she remarked, "The West's close association with a military dictatorship, in my humble view, is alienating Pakistan's people and is playing into the hands of those hardliners who blame the West for the ills of the region." [4] Islamic fundamentalists, and even moderate muslims, perceive our hegemonic presence and military intervention in the Arab world as an obstacle to their self-determination and a threat to their way of life. Bin Laden has said so explicitly on numerous occasions.

Romney then made a statement of unintended and monstrous irony in regard to curbing radical Islam:
But we're going to have to move our strategy from simply being a respond to military threat with military action to an effort that says we're going to use our military and non-military resources -- non-military resources, combined with other nations who are our friends, to help move the world of Islam towards modernity and moderation.
From Woodrow Wilson to George Bush to Mitt Romney. Trying to "move Islam towards modernity and moderation" is unquestionably a recipe for more radicalization and more terrorism. Devout muslims do not care what Mitt Romney wants for Islam. They want to live their lives and practice their religion as they see fit and to be unmolested by the ministrations of those who wish to "move Islam" one way or another. Romney's is the kind of rhetoric that leads muslims to see the West, and America in particular, as an imperial, existential threat to their way of life. Continuing down this road is a surefire way to breed extremism. It happened in Iran already. Does he not understand the progression of events that led to the Iranian Revolution and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini? It happened in Afghanistan, and it is currently in progress in Iraq, Pakistan, and places like Chechnya.

In Bin Laden's own words:
REPORTER: Mr. Bin Ladin, will the end of the United States' presence in Saudi Arabia, their withdrawal, will that end your call for jihad against the United States and against the US?

BIN LADIN: The cause of the reaction must be sought and the act that has triggered this reaction must be eliminated. The reaction came as a result of the US aggressive policy towards the entire Muslim world and not just towards the Arabian Peninsula. So if the cause that has called for this act comes to an end, this act, in turn, will come to an end.
The US today as a result of the arrogant atmosphere has set a double standard, calling whoever goes against its injustice a terrorist. It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose on us agents to rule us based not on what God has revealed and wants us to agree on all these. If we refuse to do so, it will say you are terrorists.
Giuliani then had to jump in with his two cents:
MR. GIULIANI: Just make one point. Ron's analysis is really seriously flawed. The idea that the attack took place because of American foreign policy is precisely the reason I handed back a $10 million check to a Saudi prince, who gave me that money at Ground Zero for the Twin Towers fund and then put out a press release saying America should change its foreign policy. It seems to me if you don't face this squarely, to have an Islamic terrorist threat against us, it's an existential threat, it has nothing to do with our foreign policy; it has to do with their ideas, their theories, the things that they have done and the way they've perverted their religion into a hatred of us. And what's at stake are the things that are best about us -- our freedom of religion, our freedom for women, our right to vote, our free economic system.

Our foreign policy is irrelevant, totally irrelevant.
Our foreign policy is irrelevant?! These are the words of a complete lunatic. This is the view of Norman Podhoretz. 'They hate us for our freedoms' is the old canard, which was debunked when Giuliani first floated it back in May. He continues to beat this drum because the horror of 9/11 is all he's able to run on.

[1] Scheuer, Michael. Imperial Hubris. Brassey's, 2004. pg 7.
[2] ibid, pg 8.
[3] Bhutto interview
[4] Bhutto speech to CFR

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