In my prior article I made the argument that the real reason the terrorists target the US and other Western countries is not because they “hate us for our freedom” but rather that they hate us for interfering in their lives. The US and other Western nations (such as France) have a long and sordid history of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, be it either operative-fomented coup d’états or outright military actions. There is a willfully selective blindness in the west that allows us to only see where we are but not how we arrived. But, my point is not to rehash my prior thesis but to respond to one of the stronger objections to it. It has been pointed out that this sort of argument ignores the fact that radical Islam truly wants all non-believers to die, that it is akin to Nazism and must be wiped out – those making that argument are correct, but not in the way they presume. Yes, indeed there are some adherents of Islam that believe these sorts of things. They are called radicals. Within any group of humans that subscribes to some ideological concept there are those who lie on the fringe and have their own unique interpretation of the group’s ideas. These ideas, by virtue of being “fringe,” are in the minority; the rest of the group quietly ignores such types lest mere acknowledgement of their ideas imply tacit acceptance.
For example, there are fringe groups who use the Bible as justification for their belief that the earth is flat, that “kinds” should be separated and thus racism is a “Godly” viewpoint, or that firebombing abortion clinics and murdering the abortionists is legitimate. Now of course all of us in the majority disagree with these viewpoints and claim their interpretation is obviously faulty, but nevertheless they still make the claim. So maybe, just maybe, radical Islamists fall into the same category of distorted interpretation. I imagine for every cherry picked outrageous phrase from the Koran one can find an equally outrageous cherry picked line from the Bible. Are we to honestly believe that ALL of Islam 100% agrees on the violent and hateful interpretations of such cherry picked lines? Christianity alone is proof of man’s inability to agree on anything. For something that is supposed to be the absolute word of God (the Bible) there sure are an awful lot of denominations with differing viewpoints on various aspects of scripture. Yet somehow we are supposed to believe that there is absolute solidarity among Muslims with regards to their scriptural interpretation.
The truth of the matter is that yes there are indeed radical Islamists that do believe we should all die, but it is the ignorant and ham-fisted actions of the west in the Middle East (primarily since the end of World War II) that have given their crazy viewpoint more credence and expanded their sphere of influence among fellow Muslims. When the radicals preach that the non-believers are devils who will come to kill them and destroy their way of life and then an endless onslaught of non-believers comes in and does exactly as they predicted year after year that tends to strengthen, not weaken, the position of those making the prediction. So the more any country occupies, bombs, and overthrows ruling regimes in Muslim countries the more they play right into the narrative the radicals are selling. This bolsters their authority and makes it that much easier for them to win more recruits and adherents. More bombs feed the flame of radicalism, they do not extinguish it.
Think of it like this: the majority of people view white supremacists as radicals, but now imagine what would happen if there were a massive and organized movement wherein all non-whites started killing white people en masse. Do you not believe this would have more and more people listening to what these white supremacists had to say? The longer such attacks continued the more and more people would turn to their ideas and do whatever they said in order to protect themselves. Then, one day they would no longer be a “radical” group but instead would represent the mainstream. This is what nearly 70 years of open and clandestine interference in the Middle east has wrought: turning the followers of a small and obscure sect of Islam into a growing force that will someday soon become the dominant authority. Apropos the Hitler reference: the only reason we had to fight Hitler is because the American government (by virtue of Wilson’s desire to plunge us into WWI) had a hand in creating the onerous Treaty of Versailles that primed Germans to welcome his radical rhetoric and ensured his rise to mainstream power.
If a drug company invented both a disease and the drug to cure it there would be outrage, yet when the state creates our enemies that only it can now slay we welcome it with open arms and applause.
The point is well made, my only concern is that you do not go back far enough in time. Who drew the national boundaries with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire? As in Africa, national boundaries were drawn with respect to geographical features without concern for the composition of the population. As long as a strong dictator exists the cobbled together “nation” can survive but falls apart with the absence of that totalitarian rule.
So now that we are here how do we extract ourselves?
Yes, that’s a good point, the interventions of third parties has been going on for quite some time. It doesn’t merely have to be one state interfering in the affairs of another – those labels are arbitrary really. Witness the terrorism of Northern Ireland against fellow “countrymen” for years because they did not want the yoke of intervention in their lives from some outside party even if formally we say that outside party are their own leaders.
The real core problem is one of any actor presuming to control the lives of others – the others will always not take too kindly to it.
To extract ourselves all we can do is simply pack up up leave and thus remove the thing the radicals can point at and say “see, they are here, we must fight them to get them out of our home”. Once we are out of their home and let them rule themselves however they wish the radicals have nothing to point to as a source of irritation. The radicals themselves will still want to try to fight us here and attack us, but they will grow progressively weaker as fewer and fewer support them as the masses who were supporting them when the cause made sense will just want to live their lives.
It’s either that or total genocide and that is neither practical nor moral – the scary part though is that many preach basically that with rhetoric like “wipe them all out”