"They Hate Our Policies Not Us"
This one is enjoying another bout of popularity. It's funny how these notions spread, like pink eye in a grammer school. So it's flared up, the idea that our enemies hate our national policies, especially those in the Middle East, and don't particularly hate us, or only hate us for promoting those policies; the idea being that if we change these policies they will cease hating us.
This is oh-so-very convenient for the critic who scores two points off of this. First, he rolls his eyes in disdain at "Bush's simple minded approach, that they hate us for our freedom; that's rather childish, don't you agree?"
Then, after a bit of brie and a sip of shiraz, he gets to harp on the policies he thinks are responsible for our enemies violent hatred, and his criticism usually boils down to a little leftish elitist, anti-corporatism mixed with some populist isolationism with a dash of old-fashioned anti-Semitism. It might go something like this. "I mean, really, we can't just go around imtimidating these people so that ExxonMobile can increase profits 5 cents a share, so that Joe Sixpack can afford to drive a Hummer. That's a obscenity, don't you agree? Those Arabian people obviously don't want us so we should just pack up and go home. Why are we over there at all? To protect the Jews? They don't need our protection. If they can't fight for themselves, that's just the way history goes, right?"
The criticism probably isn't voiced just like my strawman but it's popular nonetheless. The criticism has three parts. The jihadists hate us for 1) basing troops in Saudi Arabia; 2) supporting Arab dictators; 3) supporting Israel. Sure they hate these policies. The interesting and important question is why. What is the reasoning behind the criticism of these particular policies.
1. They hate us for basing troops in Saudi Arabia. This was one of bin Laden's original complaints back in 1998. Now of course the troops are out of Saudi Arabia and the killings continue. Now, if you listen to Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, they want all "infidels out of the home of the two holy places". Read that carefully. They don't want all foreigners out, just infidels. There are and have been foreign Muslims all over the kingdom for decades (brother of Egyptian Islamist ideology Sayid Qutb taught in the kingdom for many years, as did Palestinian jihadist Abdullah Azzam). That's not the complaint. Al Qaeda and it's ideological cousins want the infidels out of Saudi Arabia. That's not a criticism of a policy. It's a criticism of an identity. Unless you think that it's our policy to refuse to be muslims.
2. They hate us for supporting corrupt Arab dictators. This one sounds bulletproof. It's true, we support corrupt dictators either directly, as in Egypt and Jordon, or indirectly, as in Saudi Arabia. So it seems like a legitimate criticism of US policy to oppose that support. But notice, the Islamist don't bitch about dictators in general. These are not human rights activists. They don't whine about Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, or Iran (though not Arab certainly a dictatorship). Just the opposite in fact. The Islamists are supported by many of these dictatorships.
So they are not democrats or even anti-dictators in a larger sense. Go back to the original criticism. It's not the dictatorship they hate. It's our support they hate. Syria occupies Lebanon with thousands of troops. No complaint. Iran supports the nearly bankrupt Syrian dictatorship. No complaint. We support the Jordanian monarchy. Bitchfest! Al Qaeda wants to topple Jordon but our support prevents that. Is this a criticism of a foreign power supporting the King or is it a criticism of the source of the support, the US? Do they hate us because of Jordon or do they hate Jordon because of us? I think they hate the idea that an infidel power supports the King and that the King accepts the support of an infidel power. It is the infidel nature of power that drives the Islamists bats.
3. They hate us for our support if Israel. Yep, they do. The Islamists hate Israel and they hate us for supporting Israel. Why? Because Israel, in their eyes, brutally kills their Arab brethren? Ok, but it's not really the murder of Arabs that sends the jihadist into spasms of hatred. Otherwise they would be waging war against Syria, who in one attack on the Islamist stronghold of Hama killed 20,000 Arabs, more than have died in 20 years of Israel-Arab fighting. Or Saddam's Iraq where hundreds of thousands of Arabs and muslims were murdered for three decades. Or Egypt, where Mubarak's regime viciously suppressed the Islamist insurgency in the 1990s. Or Algeria, where a civil war has claimed untold tens of thousands of Arab lives. Or Jordon, which waged a war against the PLO in the 1970s. Or what about the Egyptian invasion of Yemen under Naser. The Egyptian military used poison gas against the Saudi and Yemeni troops. This war lasted throughout the 1960s.
No, the Islamist don't care about occupation of Arab land by other Arabs. The Islamist don't really give a damn when Arabs kill Arabs, even by the thousands and tens of thousands, even when the mass graves overflow with Arab corpses. But when an Israeli kills a single Arab, under any circumstances, it's a freaking crime against humanity (not that the Islamists believe in human rights). It's not the murder that gets them. It's the identity of the murderer. It's not the policy of occupying and killing Arabs that the Islamists hate. It's Jews. If Israel returned to the 1967 borders and "Palestine" got a seat at the UN, the Islamists would still hate Israel and our policy of support for Israel. They hate us, not for supporting Israeli policy, but for supporting Israeli existence. In this case the strawman is correct.
Bin Laden hates our policy but the only policy he would not hate is a policy supporting the destruction of Israel. This is not a policy change but a radical redefinition of our national character, a change that results in Americans identifying, not with a democratic ally but with a theocratic dictator; not a change in our policy but a change in our identity.
This entire line of reasoning is interesting. I don't remember hearing similar arguement about the Nazis, who hated us for our policy of being a mongrel nation of decadent, promiscuous, Jew-loving dupes. Or the USSR, which simply hated us for our policy of not being Communists who submitted to Russian hegemony. Of course even serial killers hate their victims for the policy of not wanting to die. All of these policies I support.