Are we blaming the victim?
September 20, 2001 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Are we blaming the victim? William Saleten argues that talk about what the USA has done to provoke terrorist attack is like a battered wife wondering what she's done to deserve a beating. It risks legitimizing these indefensible acts, and gives us a false sense of control: i.e. that we could prevent such attacks if we'd only behave.
posted by straight (102 comments total)

 
If we kid ourselves that it was completely unprovoked, and do not address the underlying issues, there is a very good chance more attacks will follow.

But I don't think realising that the terrorists had a legitimate gripe with the US is any kind of excuse for what they did.
posted by MarkC at 8:44 AM on September 20, 2001


I agree wholeheartedly. The line that has been taken by many of the most stridently pacifistic columnists (and posters here, I might add) that we should have known what we were bringing on ourselves makes me angry and hurt. Moreover, it guarantees marginalizing the movement against war; the populace as a whole sees the liberal self-loathing with contempt (as I do) and then decides that any nutcase who is not for war must be against it for that reason.
posted by norm at 8:47 AM on September 20, 2001


The rape victim was wearing a mini-skirt. Therefore, she "deserved it."
posted by Faze at 8:49 AM on September 20, 2001


What a wonderfully unique way to avoid any sort of critical look at your foreign policy.

And, as MarkC mentions, it artifically comingles two subjects in an attempt to avoid having to ask tough questions about what it is that the US does that gets so damn many people mad at it.

Bloody typical really.
posted by pixelgeek at 8:51 AM on September 20, 2001


I don't think it's a case of the rape victim wearing a mini-skirt. I do think it's a case of the rape victim's brother and his friends raped someone else years ago.

It's the same thing (the girl did not deserve to get raped, and her brother's actions aren't truly related to her), but it is important that we talk about the brother's crimes, since the girl's family by and large is ignorant to them.

It's a very fine line we must walk in order to not marginalize the terrible crimes committed against our Country. But for the good of our country, we must also not shy away from our at times negative involvement in world history.
posted by cell divide at 8:53 AM on September 20, 2001


Although I completely support retaliation against those involved, I believe the realization that we are not perfect can help in other ways besides trying to blame ourselves for the attack. If anyone has not noticed there has already been a significant backlash towards the middle eastern and muslim community in this country starting the day the WTC and Pentagon were hit. I think the understanding that comes with news of our supposed help in other worldly matters (in support of those that we now condemn) prior to this and the fact that we are not totally without blame helps with a counter backlash. People are angry that their fellow Americans see the need to punish those that have been living in this country as hard working citizens for years for the crimes of people that only share a race or religion with them.
posted by MAkinola at 8:54 AM on September 20, 2001


America as the battered wife to the Middle East, its violent husband? what kind of a weird analogy is that?

How about: America is the Christian kid from a privileged background who sees two other kids fighting, and she asks them to stop, and she has a karate black belt so they stop! But as soon as she goes away, they not only start fighting again, one of those kids starts planning a stink bomb to leave in America's locker at school, as revenge.
posted by kv at 8:55 AM on September 20, 2001


... If anyone has not noticed there has already been a significant backlash towards the middle eastern and muslim community in this country starting the day the WTC and Pentagon were hit....

Really? Significant? How about minimal, exceptional--remarkably so. Sure, there are a-holes out there, but I think your characterization is plain inaccurate.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:59 AM on September 20, 2001


Perhaps it's just my day to piss people off.

Since the day of the WTC attacks I've felt that it would be pointless to try and solve the "terrorist problem" by changing our foreign policy. I truly don't think our foreign policy is the root cause. This article follows my thinking very closely.

In a nutshell - The terrorists aren't mad at *us* as much as they're mad at Israeli occupation, democracy, capitalism, human rights, other religions, fashion, Hollywood, the UN, etc. Changing our foreign policy won't change any of these things.

Let me say that again - Changing our foreign policy won't change the things that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are really mad about.

If we pull our base out of Saudi Arabia we give them more reason to bomb us, not less.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:00 AM on September 20, 2001


pixelgeek:

America is not alone by a damn sight in having a flawed middle-eastern foreign policy. In fact we are inheriting the mess the French and the British left for us earlier in the century. But why stop there? We can blame the Turks, or the Mongols, or even Alexander the Great. We can blame the Afghanis themselves for not insisting on a more representative government. We can blame the Paks for running Afghanistan by proxy for so many years.

As always, there's lots of blame to spread around.

Bloody typical, as you say. That's life. Deal.

kv:

Good analogy, really.
posted by mrmanley at 9:01 AM on September 20, 2001


This is a very well written article and brings up an issue that I've been grappling with during this crisis.

I am of the belief that US foreign policy is inconsistent and engenders a large amount of hatred around the world, specifically in the Middle East. I think that the general response in America to the attacks has been a sense of indignation that anyone would dare to attack us, rather than a rational approach to understanding why this happenned. Anyone who is willing to die for a cause has a very good chance of succeeding at their goals, regardless of the defenses we erect, so in order to stop terrorrists from succeeding we need to stop them from desiring to attack us.

However, if we use this event as a catalyst to change our foreign policies, then we have let the terrorrists win in bringing attention to their plight, as well as justifying their means of publicity. This will also become an accepted means of diplomacy. There is no fair, sensible, or easy solution to be found.

In short, if the terrorists do have a valid grievance with America (and this has definitely raised our consciousness of their argument) then their act of terrorrism might be justified by terrorrists as it brought the dispute to our attention. Our retaliation will not change the fact that they were seeking to force America to either enter into war or accept their unstated demands. There is no way for them to lose this confrontation as they took a similar approach to Patrick Henry did in saying 'give me freedom or give me death'. They are not willing to live under the conditions that are set by the US as a world superpower, so they will strike at us until we kill them.

As far as a humanist approach, I don't think that we can change the lives of those who have already chosen terrorrism (they will either die by their own hand or ours), however, the way America handles our retribution can determine how far into the future this threat will exist.

(Please understand that I am not seeking to minimize the horrible toll on Americans from this attack, nor am I advocating the use of force this is just the way I view the situation.)
posted by wsfinkel at 9:06 AM on September 20, 2001


Or how about, the US is a monkey, and the Middle East is a lunchbox, and then um, Bush is a banana, and um, like, the World Trade Center is a piece of chocolate..and er....

ENOUGH WITH THE METAPHORS.
posted by glenwood at 9:12 AM on September 20, 2001


Or analogies, rather.
posted by glenwood at 9:12 AM on September 20, 2001


I'm not asking what we did to provoke the attacks, I'm asking what we did to provoke hatred from 1/3 of the world, tense disapproval from another 1/3, and blind cheerleading from the remaining 1/3.
posted by scarabic at 9:12 AM on September 20, 2001


For ParisParamus:
Check out the articles on "McCarthyism can rise again" and on "Arabs fending off the Backlash". Those are two seperate articles dealing with the same basic issue. In Brooklyn right now, police are stationed outside of Mosques and in Arab communites to ensure their safety from "the few A-holes" you speak about.

3 people have already been killed and others wounded in what looks like bias crimes. These attackas are also not limited to adults. Children (from grade school all the way to college) are being targeted by other kids for being outwardly muslim or middle eastern in school. Parents are afraid to send their daughters to school because they (the daughters) are being antagonized by kids in the school.

If you think that I am inaccurate in my observations of what is happening in this country, you may want to check out the news sometime, I am sure within 10 minutes you will hear a story about something that resembles a hate crime, or hear a reporter interview a middle eastern person on how they are dealing with the current situation.
posted by MAkinola at 9:13 AM on September 20, 2001


Really? Significant? How about minimal, exceptional--remarkably so.

right on. as a white male i don't whine if i get a feel glares when in an african-american neighborhood. i understand ppl that look like me have commited horrible acts to ppl that look like them, and i deal with the backlash.
posted by danOstuporStar at 9:14 AM on September 20, 2001


This article equates a battered wife with a cultural, military, and economic imperialist (the US of A). For some reason, that logic doesn't work for me.
posted by panopticon at 9:14 AM on September 20, 2001


(proud look) man, mefi is getting very good, nice work."Bin Laden and Al Qaeda" bin Ladin set this organization up. bin Laden has done what communists did, go to other countries, build a bridge, spread some cheer around, ya know, Chicklet diplomacy. (Salot Sar (Pol Pot) went to yugoslavia to build roads) The boogey list will get big, and that will show how weak other nations are by caving in to BIG SAMS POSSE.
posted by newnameintown at 9:15 AM on September 20, 2001


Those articles I spoke of earlier come from the villagevoice.com, sorry for the no link
posted by MAkinola at 9:17 AM on September 20, 2001


Surely the US should be the lunchbox, the WTC can be the chocolate, and terrorists are the monkey.

As for Bush being a banana, I don't get it.
posted by Mocata at 9:18 AM on September 20, 2001


I have a different analogy.....If I supplied money, gasoline, wrags and coke bottles to my neighbor ( Mr Smith) and I know tht he is having some problems getting along with his nieghbor (Jones). If Smith uses "said" firebombs to blow up Jones's house. If this goes on continuously say for months and months. If Jones then blows up my automobile wouldnt I be construed as having caused Jones to believe I was in collaboration with Smith. Of course, Jones was wrong to blow up my car and Smith is guilty of firebombing Jones's house. Where is my responsiblity for living peacefully with both my nieghbors. I know this is VERY simplistic, but I do believe it has some valid points.
posted by carolinagrl at 9:18 AM on September 20, 2001


Surely the US should be the lunchbox, the WTC can be the chocolate, and terrorists are the monkey.

As for Bush being a banana, I don't get it.
posted by Mocata at 9:18 AM on September 20, 2001


police are stationed outside of Mosques and in Arab communites to ensure their safety

enuff said ... would americans get any protection in afganistan?
posted by danOstuporStar at 9:20 AM on September 20, 2001


Really? Significant? How about minimal, exceptional--remarkably so.

Three people have been killed. It's three too many. I don't want to live in a place where three deaths are regarded as exceptionally minimal.

I can handle mutterings, graffiti, angry words, etc. In fact it's probably necessary for people to get their ignorant feelings out of their system. But murder? I can't believe it came to that, and I can't believe people want to write it off as minimal.

enuff said ... would americans get any protection in afganistan?

Why do you want to compare us to the most repressive 3rd world country on earth? Aren't we above even comparing ourselves to places like that?
posted by cell divide at 9:24 AM on September 20, 2001


You might want to look at a new site called re:constructions - an on-line resource and study guide, designed to spark discussions and reflections about the media's role in covering the events of 11 September 2001 and their aftermath
posted by scotty at 9:30 AM on September 20, 2001


dano, not only wouldn't americans (or, more appropriately for the analogy, christians) get the same protection in Afghanistan, but they would probably be accused of spreading christianity, and face the death penalty.

I'm a peace loving guy, but I still fail to see why we're supposed to beat ourselves up -- for all our flaws, we are far more peaceful, tolerant, and open than any of the groups we supposedly treated wrongly.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:33 AM on September 20, 2001


panopticon, the US has been pretty nice, as far as Imperialists go. If the Gulf War had happened 100 or so years ago, some brit would be drinking tea in a palace in Bagdhad right now. Its not as if the "Tanks of Democracy" have rolled over the middle east.
posted by jbelshaw at 9:34 AM on September 20, 2001


[I don't want to live in a place where three deaths are regarded as exceptionally minimal. ]

Then don't live there. Nothing is perfect. We try to make it as good as we can but there will be failings from time to time. We can try to prevent them, we can condemn them in hopes that they will not happen again. What we can't do is live in an idealistic fantasy world.
posted by revbrian at 9:36 AM on September 20, 2001


Bush is the banana? I thought he was the chimp...

Seriously, saying that the US is to blame because of it's flawed foreign policy makes as much sense as Falwell saying it's because of the gays and liberals. I don't like our culture of victimization here, but, let's face it: we were the victims on September 11.

I think the raped woman is a very apt analogy. Sure, she might have been wearing a miniskirt and hanging around bars in Texas filled with college-aged F-dudes. She might have a reputation as an easy lay. She might have slept with the guy before, and flirted that same night. She might have condoms in her purse. But rape is rape, even in these circumstances.
There's never, ever, ever any cause for rape -- and you can't blame the woman. Similarly, there's no cause for the attack last week. It doesn't freaking matter if we're guilty as hell. It doesn't matter if we're bad people. It doesn't matter if we "deserved" it. We are victims.

What should we do? Well, stop hanging around in bars filled with drunk college-age f-dudes. And maybe wear baggy sweatshirts. And stay the hell away from Guys Like That.... you get my point.
posted by terceiro at 9:37 AM on September 20, 2001


you are right, cell divide, 3 murders should not be trivialized and is absolutely unacceptable. but given our nation's long history of scapegoating, ignorance, hatred, I stand by the characterzation of it as "minimal". there are hundreds of McVeighs among us and frankly i am surprised the backlash has not been greater.

mutterings, graffiti, angry words is what i am talking about being overstated.
posted by danOstuporStar at 9:37 AM on September 20, 2001


enuff said ... would americans get any protection in afganistan?

Since when have Americans been living in Afghanistan, to repeat cell divide, a repressive third world country, as contributing citizens to the well being of that country. The two situations cannot even come close to being comparable by anyone's standards.

As a side note, none of the people there are contributing memeber sof their society since they all live under the repressive regime of those that we are looking to seek out and destroy.
posted by MAkinola at 9:37 AM on September 20, 2001


I'm afraid I led some people astray by focusing on the battered woman analogy. The real point is that terrorists are subjects, responsible for their own actions, not objects who only "react" to us.

It's a kind of hubris to assume that if only we did the right things then we could control how others react to us. If only our policies were better, people wouldn't hate us.

I hope no one here would say that these attacks were a justified response to US policies. Therefore there must be something other factor, in addition to US policies, that explains the evil, unjustified nature of what they did. It is that other factor or set of factors that deserve our attention.
posted by straight at 9:44 AM on September 20, 2001


Straight up, straight. There's certainly a proper time and place for discussing our own sins. But it would be wrong to suggest that we act any differently in response to this incident as some sort of "self-punishment" for our past policies.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:50 AM on September 20, 2001


American culture is a threat to any radical Islamic fundamentalist regime. It's hard to keep young people in church if there's a rock concert going on in the parking lot. The regimes they want to install have no place for individual dissent. Hence, this isn't a conflict over ways of ACTING, it's a conflict over ways of BEING. It's the West's basic belief in the primacy of the individual that motivates their animus. Our competing vision of societal organization is the real threat to them. (Speaking broadly), the Left is somewhat sympathetic to their critique as the Left's own programs often require individual subservience to the social good. Hence, the Left's present blaming the WTC bombing on a series of flawed CIA operations. Just as many on the Left were always blind to the raw thirst for domination inherent in communism, they are blind to it in radical jihadism.
posted by quercus at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2001


soapbox
It is not a question of giving in to 'terrorism' (not a helpful word) and changing foreign policy. It is a question of accepting other philosophies and outlooks, of building raport.
The excuse that 'they' can't be reasoned with as 'they' are at war with the entire western way of life is a self defeating argument. To slightly change the angle on that sentence - we cannot understand them, therefore we will never understand them. They hate us, therefore they will always hate us.
People in desperate situations use desperate means. Can you imagine what not eating for 3 days would be like? Whilst you are also shown images of happy, corpulent people owning things that the vast majority of the world can't afford and don't need? Multiply that by a million.
Many people understand that there are no absolutes. They are what is often referred to as moderates or liberals. Appealing to these people could lead to a situation where extremist points of view cannot spread as they would have no fuel to do so. Then 'terrorism' could not be a valid method of communication.
Sending agression around the world will engender more extremists and re-inforces the idea that 'man wid a bigga gun talk'.
Ah, america as the victim, what a popular meme. Since the end of the Vietnam war american cinema (on the whole)has attempted to paint the young g.i. as the victim of this war (average age n-n-n-n-nineteen). Thrust into the theatre of war it is all they can do to learn a little about human nature or the military chain of command, avoid too many drugs and listen to rock and roll with the soul brothers (this seldom happened - black and white troops were kept seperated all the way down to what was available on the dukebox) before watching someone of personal importance die and returning home. Those poor g.i.s.
Once again try this idea for size - history is written by the victor.
i shall not be offering my analogy of the present situation, but it is a whole lot sterner than cell divides' one.
/soapbox

I heard a good analogy (sorry glenwood) for us foreign policy/overseas military involvement from a us resident the other day:
most of the worlds governments treat international affairs as a game of chess; chess is a long game, every move is considered, it is not always aparent who is winning and there are many different ways to achieve success.
america looks at it as a game of poker; try to get the best cards, try to guess what the others have, play your hand, hopefully win.
posted by asok at 10:01 AM on September 20, 2001


no, no analogy is appropriate -- particularly the one presented by Saleten here -- except for the fact that 95% of us are easily manipulated by a "rape" analogy, which all civilization is taught to abhor. to compare the bombing of the world trade centers to a woman being raped is an incredibly fallacious extension that itself, funnily enough, harkens back to colonialist methods of describing the land as empty and female in order to justify its invasion. Meanwhile, one can make plenty of comparisons to simplify the issue and preventing people from discussing what's actually at hand. Hell, I could say that it's America that's been raping the Middle East, etc, for years, and when we get punched by her, we call her a bitch and go run to get our gun -- but I don't ... because this has nothing to fucking do with anything. instead of speaking about facts or giving historical examples, the author here attempts to respond to "liberal arguments" asking america to examine our foreign policy by creating a series of irrelevant analogies guaranteed to provoke a response and/or make people feel self-righteous about our actions. ("well, shit, we were raped, we better go kill those bastards.").

oh.. and as far as the "response" being minimal (ie, hate crimes against people middle eastern descent), this is absolute bullshit: try 50 cases being investigated in CA alone -- try 70 cases being investigated federally. These are NEW cases that appeared in the past week. this is not a "minimal" response.

fishfucekr.
posted by fishfucker at 10:13 AM on September 20, 2001


There's another problem with many of the (to borrow the article's term) "consequentialist" arguments I've heard and seen posted here at MeFi and elsewhere. The process by which the world arrives at its consensus on international relations, human rights, etc. -- that process matters. Terrorism is not a form of reasonable argument. It is not an acceptable form of opening a dialogue. If we treat it as such, we damage the slow process of gaining reasonable conduct among nations. We also damage our own thought processes.

I'm sure some will argue that, as long as we arrive at a more judicious foreign policy, it doesn't matter how we get there. But it bloody well does matter how we get there. Using the terrorists' mirror to examine ourselves is not a way of gaining rational knowledge. Building a dialogue by using a massacre as the opening statement is lunacy.

Should we change our way of dealing with the world? Surely, if our actions are wrong. Because of these incidents? No. Because "1/3 of the world hates us"? No. Because (and I've heard this argument) someone was so fervently against us that they were willing to die? No. In life, among nations as well as individuals, hatred and violence do not always indicate righteousness. In fact -- and how, exactly, have we lefties forgotten this? -- they rarely do.

These waves of self-loathing and shame are classic symptoms of grief. I'm just leery of those who want to assign them truth value.
posted by argybarg at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2001


Well stated, argybarg. You can't please all of the people all of the time. If there weren't a faction out there that constantly derided every action that the US took, then it would be time to be really scared. The fact that the 1/3 who hate us are also, by and large, vehemently opposed to democracy, an individual's right to self-determination and tend to dissuade or actively quash their citizen's right to empower themselves with knowledge or speak their minds freely should speak volumes. Do we want to meet the approval of people with those kinds of ideals? Do we want to plan our policy in a fashion that doesn't disrupt or fly in the face of that kind of "leadership?" Why should we capitulate to those who will not capitulate? Why are we so interested in making sure that people don't disagree with us?
posted by Dreama at 10:35 AM on September 20, 2001


asok, your assertion that "terrorism" is "not a helpful word" makes me cringe. The most insidious ideological programs are the ones the set out to reform language in an ideological image (something the Pentagon has done for years). Should I assume we'll be hearing your edict on what word is more "helpful"? "Direct action," perhaps?

Some people seem so eager to cast the Middle East into readymade leftist images of Starving Innocents Oppressed by Bully Imperialists that they can't see straight -- or don't even want to try.
posted by argybarg at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2001


Using the terrorists' mirror to examine ourselves is not a way of gaining rational knowledge. Building a dialogue by using a massacre as the opening statement is lunacy.

The fallacy is to see this massacre as an "opening statement".
posted by holgate at 10:52 AM on September 20, 2001


Again, anything to avoid an honest look at our foreign policy. Yes, the US of A enjoys many freedoms at home, but we leave them at home when dealing with other countries. By receding into the comfortable folds of analogies we can confirm our beliefs without getting our hands dirty with reality.

This is not a rape. This is not Molotov cocktails and neighbors. This isn't even a clash of cultures. And no, it's definitely not a lunchbox or chocolate.

This has to do with the fact that foreign policy is *not* reported on by the mass media. So of course we're surprised that people are mad at us. We've got no clue as to the history of America's involvement overseas. So we wrap ourselves in morally simplistic explanations: they're madmen, they're zealots, their religion breeds hate, their entire race is evil, they're jealous of the US, ad infinitum.

And since they're naturally evil and heathens to begin with, we don't need to change anything except where the bombs land. I'm all for feeling good, but we ignore the actions of our country at our own peril. If we make enemies, they will hurt us, and we can't bomb people into friendship.

This is not to say we deserve this, at all. The political and cultural climate of the past week is black-and-white: you either support nuking all ragheads into atoms and then splitting the atoms or you're a dirty hippie pinko un-American collaborator. I totally reject this "either you're with us or against us" shit. Think of equitable foreign policy as a security measure. Maybe then it'd get funded.

In fact, I think it's worse to avoid reality and bomb, since that doesn't solve anything. Retaliation breeds retaliation, which means more people get killed.

But the pattern for this has been etched in stone long ago. We will join the cycle of retaliation. And people will die.
posted by Coda at 10:55 AM on September 20, 2001


"looks at it as a game of poker; try to get the best cards, try to guess what the others have, play your hand, hopefully win." Fine, remember, we own the fuckin casino.
posted by newnameintown at 10:56 AM on September 20, 2001


fishfucker re: minimal or not

Let me start by saying that even one hate crime is too many. It destroys lives and livelihoods. However, do the math:

New cases in CA this week: 50
Total CA population: 33,871,648

Percentage of CA population victimized in new cases this week: .00000147. That's not 1% or even 1/10 of a percent. That's 147/1,000,000 of 1%

That's minimal.

Also note, we do not have mobs of people dancing in the streets celebrating the work of the assholes. The assholes go to jail for breaking the law, just like everyone else.
posted by Irontom at 11:00 AM on September 20, 2001


And now for my favorite logical fallacy: false dichotomy, e.g., we are either guilty or innocent, the terrorists are either "freedom fighters" or "evil, subhuman monsters," and (the most common lately) we must either "get medieval on their terrorist asses" or "turn the other cheek."

Those who push the argument to either side - or who try to push the arguments of others - are misrepresenting the situation. There is no reason why the U.S. can't aggressively pursue those individuals and entities that may have been involved with the WTC attack and analyze whether or not our government's foreign policy is desirable, effective, and moral. Before 9/11 we had general complacency, and apathy by the U.S. citizenry in regard to U.S. foreign policy. Now we have people who are advocating for general validation of those same policies that prior to a week ago few knew anything about.

To say that the U.S. government may have acted in ways that has led to an increased danger of assault from outside groups does not equal "we deserved it." A call to understand the attacks - in order that we might prevent future attacks - does not equate with excusing those attacks.

Are we so simple-minded that we can't engage in more than one action/intellectual exercise at the same time?

----------

And as long as we're tossing out analogies:

Certain aspects of U.S. foreign policy could be equated with a rich, well-dressed man walking through a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood at night lecturing at the top of his voice about the saintly nature of poverty. If the rich man gets mugged and beat up, does he deserve it? No, of course not. Could his assault have been predicted given his actions? Probably. Would he be wise to alter his actions in the future if his desire is not to be assaulted in the future? Hmmmm....
posted by theMargin at 11:01 AM on September 20, 2001


Coda, who's promoting the black-and-white around here? This past week I've been told a dozen times that I favor

morally simplistic explanations: they're madmen, they're zealots, their religion breeds hate, their entire race is evil, they're jealous of the US, ad infinitum.

Lots of people around here seem to be carrying around their own ideological missile defenses. Anything approaching us that looks like a missile from The Enemy gets shot down, always the same way.

Think of equitable foreign policy as a security measure.

Of course it is. A security measure that begins to pay off only after decades. Which is why we should start now. But also why some kind of forceful reprisal against the bases of terrorism is necessary right now.

I hear two sides around here. The U.S. is the world's terrorist oppressor, forcing the proletariat Middle East to desperate measures. Or what those same people say everyone else believes: That the U.S. is the innocent beacon of freedom, raped by savages. Would anyone like to joing the vast majority of us in the difficult middle ground?
posted by argybarg at 11:07 AM on September 20, 2001


police are stationed outside of Mosques and in Arab communites to ensure their safety

enuff said ... would americans get any protection in afganistan?


Um....the thing you're forgetting is those policemen are ensuring the safetly of Americans, not Afgans in the United States.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:14 AM on September 20, 2001


I wonder how many people would agree that our first priority is to make America safe, and that a component of that, of the second tier, is to modify our foreign policy somewhat?

I think it would be a lot easier to modify our foreign policy after military strikes. The vast majority of people in Iraq and Afghanistan would surely be happier without their current leadership.
posted by cell divide at 11:25 AM on September 20, 2001


I hear two sides around here. The U.S. is the world's terrorist oppressor, forcing the proletariat Middle East to desperate measures. Or what those same people say everyone else believes: That the U.S. is the innocent beacon of freedom, raped by savages. Would anyone like to joing the vast majority of us in the difficult middle ground?

Great comment even though I disagree that a violent armed response will make Americans safer. America is neither the mean ogre nor the blessed saint. It's a country that sometimes has good foreign policy, and sometimes has bad foreign policy.

Doing the right thing in regards to foreign policy is not about what the terrorists did to us. It's about doing the right thing. The need to do the right thing hasn't changed since September 11, and it hasn't changed in the last 10 years.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:31 AM on September 20, 2001


cell divide,

You are making the assumption that military strikes is the way to make the U.S. safe. There is a case to be made that military action has the potential to increase terrorist activity rather than make it less.

While the "vast majority" of Afghanistan people might welcome U.S. intervention in their country (a highly questionable assumption). Terrorist activities don't require a "vast majority," but simply a highly motivated minority.
posted by theMargin at 11:35 AM on September 20, 2001


Don't blow this opportunity to take a look in the mirror and ask what you are doing to make this world a better place. There is plenty of documents, especially popping up lately, that examine how in a lot of ways we did allow this to happen and that our foreign policy (and a lot of other countries' foreign policy and their support of ours) brought this about. God forbid we admit we made a mistake. God forbid we are honest with ourselves.
posted by whatevrnvrmind at 11:35 AM on September 20, 2001


I think what we're seeing is something akin to the european's advancement against the amerindians in North America. There, the amerindians were locked into a culture which was less advanced and much less flexible. There was no real meeting of the minds between the two cultures because neither could change its mindset to comprehend what the other thought.

I see the same thing happening now. The West has developed a culture which is more advanced both technologically and socially. The Southwest Asian countries, having rebelled against the western influences forced upon them by colonization, have returned to an earlier cultural form. Like the North American amerindians, they and the west do not think alike. We may even be unable to change our ways of thinking to comprehend the ideas and goals they pursue, and vice versa.

As a result of this failure to understand each other, there is a war between two cultures. A war that is unable to be stopped or avoided, even if the Western world wishes to stop it (note that the amerindians were seen as "noble savages ravaged by immoral frontiersman" by the european people living far from the fighting). The only way this war will be ended is when one culture destroys the other. The difference here is that the destruction of their culture will not destroy the people of Southwest Asia as the earlier class destroyed the amerindians.

In my opinion, people much prefer the Western form where personal freedom and democracy is emphasised over religious autocratic control. This gives the West the victory. What we are seeing now is the death throes of the old cultures in Southwest asia. Islam is not the cause, nor is imperialism, though it was a factor. The cause is a cultural clash brought on by a shrinking world.

Of course, this is only my opinion. Feel free to disagree.
posted by CRS at 11:44 AM on September 20, 2001


Irontom,

I don't think you want to get into equating the gravity of violent acts against a population in terms of strict numbers.

Let's see: Less than 10,000 dead out of 281 million U.S. citizens...

See that is not a good road to go down.
posted by theMargin at 11:44 AM on September 20, 2001


[There is plenty of documents, especially popping up lately, that examine how in a lot of ways we did allow this to happen and that our foreign policy (and a lot of other countries' foreign policy and their support of ours) brought this about. ]

Southern Racists agree with you!
posted by revbrian at 11:46 AM on September 20, 2001


It's a kind of hubris to assume that if only we did the right things then we could control how others react to us. If only our policies were better, people wouldn't hate us.
Only the use of the loaded and unwarranted term "control" makes hubris of such an assumption. The restatement of the idea -- "If only our policies were better, people wouldn't hate us" -- makes perfect sense to me, although it's practically tautological.
The righteous patriots getting worked up over this supposed "blaming of the victim" seeming to be resentful that other people aren't as easily manipulated as they themselves by inflammatory TV coverage.
posted by Allen Varney at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2001


Coda and themargin, very well put. Especially the rich man/bad neighborhood analogy.

I hope no one here would say that these attacks were a justified response to US policies.

Justified response??! I don't think that I've heard one person say that those people deserved to die for our foreign policy decisions. Please tell me if I'm incorrect, and I will personally beat the hell out of the person who said it.

In a nutshell - The terrorists aren't mad at *us* as much as they're mad at Israeli occupation, democracy, capitalism, human rights, other religions, fashion, Hollywood, the UN, etc. Changing our foreign policy won't change any of these things.

You can't negotiate with terrorists. Especially terrorists who have no compromise other than "When your society no longer inhabits this Earth, we will be happy".

We don't give a shit about what the terrorists think. We're not capitulating to their demands, and most likely they will be unlinked from their heads soon, unless cooler heads prevail and they are extracted for trial.

Again, let me repeat: We don't give a shit about what the terrorists think

The whole reason people are talking about taking a serious look at our foreign policy is because we DO care about what the non-terrorists think. We DO care about what those who are on the fence are thinking. We DO care about what those who even give money to these organizations think.

It is by changing the minds of those who surround the terrorists via a change in foreign policy that will affect an end to terrorism. Extremists cannot flourish in an environment without hate. They feed on our actions, because our actions create anger in their world.

If we were to act differently, it wouldn't calm the most extreme. They would still want us dead. However, it would effectively cut off their air supply--no money from outside, no enlistments by the thousands, no TV time, and most importantly, no political power.

By changing our policy, we gives the moderates power to affect change within their own societies. By not changing our foreign policy, we continue to create the environment of hate that gives rise to these extremists.

We did not deserve the attack
But we did create a climate of hate and fear which made it possible.


However, if we use this event as a catalyst to change our foreign policies, then we have let the terrorrists win in bringing attention to their plight, as well as justifying their means of publicity.

I thought about this long and hard last night. As a nation, we must strive to do what is right. If we have done things wrong in the past, we have to acknowledge that. If the terrorists get some satisfaction in the fact that we are doing things right, so be it. Pride is a very dangerous thing, especially when it stops you from doing the right thing... IN the end, it is we who will get the credit for the change of heart, and not the terrorists.

This will also become an accepted means of diplomacy.

You insinuate that we would be negotiating with terrorists. We wouldn't. One way or another, I'm sure that they will soon be ex-terrorists.

When hate and fear is removed, so is the need for terrorism...
posted by fooljay at 12:02 PM on September 20, 2001


The ticklish point overlooked by Saletan's argument is that turning consequentalism on its head only really works when there is some sort of symmetry. Without it, the argument turns into "You think you've got your gun against my forehead? Do you? NO! I'VE got MY FOREHEAD against YOUR GUN! Your move, sucker!!!".

There is absolutely no defence your country can mount against an implacable terrorist threat against your country in the 21st Century. None. Even a tiny breach in your defence is capable now of resulting in intolerable damage to your system, in a manner unimaginable when your founding fathers codified your notions of international political justice. You need to understand what effect your policies have on the world and why they can cause people to hate you. Don't try to rationalise it with appalling metaphor. Deal with it, swallow your pride, and get on with being a team player in our world.

(But thank you wsfinkel, your eloquent analysis of the dilemma your country faces has made me think).
posted by RichLyon at 12:04 PM on September 20, 2001


"If only our policies were better, people wouldn't hate us" -- makes perfect sense to me.

Here's the heart of the disagreement. Not all hatred is correct, IMO. Not even the hatred of other "oppressed" cultures. (cf Bertrand Russell on the fallacy of the superior virtue of the oppressed.)

The righteous patriots getting worked up over this supposed "blaming of the victim" seeming to be resentful that other people aren't as easily manipulated as they themselves by inflammatory TV coverage.

Please don't miss any opportunities to claim pompous superiority over other people.
posted by argybarg at 12:08 PM on September 20, 2001


Southern Racists agree with you!

Revbrian, I'm guessing that you're just playing around, but if you're actually trying to insinuate something, you should probably look at your logic. It's flawed...
posted by fooljay at 12:11 PM on September 20, 2001


Analogy. Dammit, now you've got me all mixed up too :)
posted by RichLyon at 12:17 PM on September 20, 2001


as a white male i don't whine if i get a feel glares when in an african-american neighborhood. i understand ppl that look like me have commited horrible acts to ppl that look like them, and i deal with the backlash.

I would say they're racist asses. Past actions are no reason to condemn an entire race. Please stop giving blacks a pass with regards to this, otherwise - we get nowhere.
posted by owillis at 12:25 PM on September 20, 2001


Let's pretend it's September 20, 1939. The Nazis just invaded Poland on the 1st. Do we analyze how our retribution from Germany for WW I was flawed and "created" the nazis?
Do we attempt to "understand" the Nazis?
Oh and let's hurry up and correct that Jewish behavior that makes the Nazis "hate" them. After all, hatred always has a rational explanation.
Or do we conclude that there is no way the Third Reich can be allowed to exist in a community of civilized nations, no matter how mistaken our previous policy towards Germany?
posted by quercus at 12:30 PM on September 20, 2001


Quercus: Ummm - we could have fed the Germans and propped up their economy, undermining Hitler's domestic propaganda. Worked after the war, after all.
posted by RichLyon at 12:37 PM on September 20, 2001


Ah- the Nazis were our fault as well. That's interesting and illustrative.
posted by quercus at 12:41 PM on September 20, 2001


Ah- the Nazis were our fault as well. That's interesting and illustrative.
posted by quercus at 12:41 PM on September 20, 2001


Ah- the Nazis were our fault as well. That's interesting and illustrative.
posted by quercus at 12:41 PM on September 20, 2001


I guess it's really hard to separate "fault" from "could have had a different approach"

I believe most scholars attribute one of the reasons for Hitler's rise was the way Europe handled Germany after WWI. That doesn't mean for a second that they are to blame for Hitler. It just means that it's a complicated picture, just as this situation is.

No matter what, the US is not to blame for the attacks! I don't think anyone on here is arguing that they are. They are not to blame in any way, shape, or form. But that doesn't mean that our foreign policy was right or just, and that this might be an opportunity for reform.
posted by cell divide at 12:46 PM on September 20, 2001


US and UK did not give birth to the Nazi party. Nor did it perpetrate the Nazi's crimes. They did miss an opportunity to avert WWII by economic rather than military means. A similar opportunity presents itself today.
posted by RichLyon at 12:50 PM on September 20, 2001


RichLyon: If you'll check, the United States fell into an economic depression in 1929, which only grew worse over the next two or three years.
posted by raysmj at 1:00 PM on September 20, 2001


Let's pretend it's September 20, 1939. The Nazis just invaded Poland on the 1st. Do we analyze how our retribution from Germany for WW I was flawed and "created" the nazis?
Do we attempt to "understand" the Nazis?

Well, this thread did actually last a while before Godwin's Law was invoked.
Again, it's a false analogy. Hitler wanted to conquer the world, and he made a pretty strong shot at it. The terrorists don't want to conquer the world; they do want to exterminate Israel, but they have no remotely realistic chance of doing so.
posted by Allen Varney at 1:10 PM on September 20, 2001


That's the essence RichLyon- I do not believe WWII could have been averted by diplomatic relations-no matter how skillful-Hitler's will to power was implacable-as is the jihadists today. P.S. sorry for multiple posts-crashed
posted by quercus at 1:13 PM on September 20, 2001


"When hate and fear is removed, so is the need for terrorism..."

How blatantly naive. If we all just make sure we never do anything that will infringe on the sensibilities of others, the world will be safe from terrorism. Well la-de-freakin-da.

"They did miss an opportunity to avert WWII by economic rather than military means."

How blatantly naive. If we make sure people are never poor or hungry the world will be safe from terrorism. Well la-de-freakin-da.

I am so tired of the Hallmark school of world peace.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:15 PM on September 20, 2001


The Nazi comparison (like most all Nazi comparisons) is terribly flawed but if you don't already see that I'm not going to divert the argument by detailing it because you probably won't change your mind.

We are not trying to understand the terrorists. We understand them and there is no compromise. What we are trying to understand is our effect on those around the terrorists.

Perhaps in some ways it is similar, but unlike in 1939, the world is a very very different place. We have a chance now to undercut the extremists and sap the source from which they draw strength. We have an international coalition which has in effect cornered the terrorists publically.

Or do we conclude that there is no way the Third Reich can be allowed to exist in a community of civilized nations, no matter how mistaken our previous policy towards Germany?

Is that not the purpose of the "War on Terrorism"? No one is negotiating with the terrorists. No one is trying to appease them. We are attempting, through difficult introspection to undercut their support.

Perhaps we actually have learned from history. That makes me happy...
posted by fooljay at 1:19 PM on September 20, 2001


I do not see any false analogy Allan Varney, nor did I call any one a Nazi, hence no Godwin's law. The basic thrust of the argument that our foreign policy did not cause bin Laden to either arise or to act rests on the fact that certain humans are evil, irrational, and motivated fundamentally by an urge to dominate others no matter what their surface ideology. The radical jihadists are just that type of human, a type that has been seen throughout history, and that has never to my knowledge been talked, loved, or negotiated out of their violent ways. Perhaps you have an example with whom the radical jihadists can be analogized, or are they a brand new phenomena in human history?
posted by quercus at 1:20 PM on September 20, 2001


RichLyon: Checking on pre-WWII history here. Before the Great Depression, the U.S. did, according to George Kennan (former U.S. diplomat, brains behind the Marshall Plan, etc. and fierce critic of mid-to-late period Cold War policy) finance Wiemar Germany. The Western powers, he thinks, were wrongly snobbish towards Germany in the Wiemar year. But overall, he believes, "Americans cannot be justly charged with any political offensiveness toward the new Germany." He even goes so far as to say that our financing of the Wiemar government was not only lavish, but foolishly conducted. From American Diplomacy, expanded edition, 1984, pp. 80-81.
posted by raysmj at 1:24 PM on September 20, 2001


I wrote: "When hate and fear is removed, so is the need for terrorism..."

An y6cubed wrote: "How blatantly naive. If we all just make sure we never do anything that will infringe on the sensibilities of others, the world will be safe from terrorism. Well la-de-freakin-da..."

Umm, yeah, can you point out where I said that we would make sure to never do anything that will infringe on the sensabilities of others?

There is a middle-ground between rampant greed, political machinations and killing of innocent civilians and complete and total capitualtion to the world.

Although I'm sure that you must be feeling quite frustrated with the current situation, your debating technique (taking an argument to an extreme and ridiculing others points of view) does not lend itself to productive discussion or the fostering of community.

I am so tired of the Hallmark school of world peace.

That is evident...
posted by fooljay at 1:27 PM on September 20, 2001


Bravo, fooljay.

I'm not always right. You're not always right. Y6Y6Y6 is not always right.

The US is not always right. That doesn't mean that they're evil, or deserve to have their buildings demolished. There is room for improvement.

Telling someone that the US has its flaws is not subscribing to the Hallmark school of world peace. It's just the way it is.

If I were to be on the receiving end of a physical attack, I might review my actions prior to the attack and see if anything that I did might have aggravated the situation. That doesn't mean that the attack was justified. It doesn't mean that the attack wasn't wrong. But it just might keep me from getting attacked again.
posted by websavvy at 1:53 PM on September 20, 2001


btw I do not advocate carpet bombing anyone nor I am longing to start a conventional war with anyone. My basic point is the premise that the WTC bombing is just the chickens coming home to roost and that people around the world "hate" us for just cause is flawed. I'm sure our policy has been wrong in specific instances-I can not say the overall thrust has been wrong-nor do I see it changing.
Sure, SOME people in selected countries express support for bin Laden. Godwin's law be damned-but Hitler had a lot of followers too-and when he went down the vast herd that followed him started grazing elsewhere-It wasn't like we deposed the Third Reich and the Fourth Reich immediately sprang up to avenge it-this concern over creating more jihadists is similarly overblown. BTW can someone give me specifics of the exact policies we need to change besides the generic and not helpful "our support for Israel"?
posted by quercus at 2:03 PM on September 20, 2001


I actually feel like we're getting somewhere in this conversation. Am I crazy?
posted by cell divide at 2:03 PM on September 20, 2001


raysmj. that was written in 1951, not a great time for questioning US Foreign Policy (I'm not impugning Kennan, though, who's work I'm not familiar with). Apologies, I am at work and don't have texts to hand, but I think Vadney's World Since 1945 makes the case.

I also think we are off thread....
posted by RichLyon at 2:05 PM on September 20, 2001


baby, we were knee deep in Hitler. the reason? commies. the powers thought hindenberg and CO. could handle him if he went "south". This has been established. what is the point of contention. better yet, what warrants a nazi comparison? aiding the meaner dog? Historical evidence that we lived in a global economy? That the perception that the russians and turks and japanese where more of a perceived threat then a country we fought 20 years before....well deutschland, frikin, uber alles batman the friend is an enemy is a friend. We fianced this monster, stingers and all, and he goes south. Frikin Goldfinger is all this cat is at best. The best evidence i can see about how the american character turns on the friend who is now the enemy is Henry Ford. He built the largest war factory of the day, churning out resolve.
posted by newnameintown at 2:05 PM on September 20, 2001


cell divide, I feel like we're getting where we really are. I think if we all sat around a table in a relaxed setting and talked we'd find how similar we feel. I've been as guilty as any others of hubris in the things I've written on MeFi lately -- but hubris either calcifies or crumbles over time. I'm absolutely eager to abandon the snideness, straw-man arguments, superiority, simplism -- much of which, as I said, I've shared in -- in favor of openly listening, exploring, learning. Everyone try arguing the other side, just for kicks. Let's all escape our polemical shells.
posted by argybarg at 2:09 PM on September 20, 2001


Rich: Real quick. Yes, 1950, actually, but the verison I have is 1984, with new sections and an intro by Kennan. If he disliked what he'd written, he had a chance to amend it or edit, especially knowing that the book's used as a text. But on to other things . . .
posted by raysmj at 2:19 PM on September 20, 2001


Well, websavvy, I don't say the US is right period. I'll conduct an internal review-the question is-is bin Laden going to examine and revise his behavior? Is the Taliban going to adopt a new philosophy? Will Saddam do similar soul searching? Do you actually believe we act and they only react? Change is necessary for us all, yes, but don't forget we have the cleanest hands.
I read in leftist interviews-hey-people are justifiably mad at the US-look at our sanctions on Iraq which have "caused" the death of 500,000 children! Right-like the sanctions are to blame. Like Saddam Hussein-a ruthlessly repressive homicidal maniac-HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! I just can't follow that train of thought.
posted by quercus at 2:23 PM on September 20, 2001


*sigh*

Simply because I'm a critic of US foreign policy doesn't mean I don't think we should do something. I did not say we shouldn't do anything, I simply said we should take a long hard look at what got us here.

I think it's perfectly possible to think and act at the same time.

It is true that I don't think military action will solve anything. We'll get a bunch of people killed, and going on the way past wars went, a lot of them will be civilians who can't outrun bullets. I think we should act like the city on a hill we pretend to be and use the World Court to put these bastards on trial.

Us bombing their civilians is equivalent to them bombing ours - let's take the higher path, shall we?
posted by Coda at 2:35 PM on September 20, 2001


Wow, opinions everywhere. Hey, here's one more.

Folks that think our foreign policy in the middle east is to blame, well, I've got good news: As of around 10:00AM last Tuesday, our foreign policy in the middle east has changed. Sleep tight.

Honestly, I have trouble understanding all of this. The governments in the middle east that hate us the most are almost entirely totalitarian type governments. We're not fighting the rank and file citizens, we're fighting massive state run propaganda here.

Hell, I was taught growing up to HATE Soviets. Did I just pop out of the womb thinking this? No way, I was taught to hate Soviets. All of the sudden, I'm supporting my public officials that hate Soviets, making them even bolder in their determination to fight them. What do you think is happening in the middle east right now? We're not the cause here folks, we're the scapegoats.

I hear a lot of folks trumpeting the fact that the US media does not report on our true foreign policy over there, and if only we all knew what was really happening a lot of folks would agree we're not so nice and wonderful. BS I say. Maybe most US citizens are blissfully ignorant of the truth, but egads, the truth of our policy there is not as bad as some of you make it out to be. Yegods, we want peace in the region. We've wanted it for 30 years. We continue to strive for peace in the middle east.

Our policy basically has two primary goals:

1. We want middle eastern peace.

2. This peace can not come at the price of the destruction of Israel.

3. Lasting peace in the middle east is important to US interests as our oil supply is directly related to our national security and economy.

So, why are they mad at us? What is so all fire terrible about this? So we need cheap oil, BFD. OPEC was designed to protect middle eastern interests with regard to this area and thus strike a balance--it does that. We invaded Iraq because the takeover threatened our national interests. Let's not forget, we had the support of almost every major Arab nation in the Middle East in the Gulf War, because the invasion threatened _their_ national interests as well.

Is it because we have sanctions against Iraq? If so, who put those sanctions in place? Did the US impose those sanctions? Sorry, no--the UN did it. Why are the sanctions still there? Because Iraq won't comply with UN demands. I'm sorry, Iraq started a war, Iraq lost said war, now Iraq has to pay the piper. Anyone who wants the sanctions on Iraq lifted, go talk to Saddam--he's the one with the power to end them.

Our meddling in their affairs because of oil isn't what bothers them--in many cases, most of the wealth their nations have is _because_ of our interest in their oil. Don't believe me, the CIA world fact book will fix your notions on that subject pretty quickly.

So what's the deal then? Well, anyone read the Pakistani article that all but came out and said the Massod did this so they could blame it on the Arab's? Flat out stated that the Massod notified 4,000 jewish workers not to show up for work on the 11th? Do any of you actually believe this is the truth? Yet there it is, in a newspaper, reporting it the general populace as F A C T. This phenomenon is not exclusive to Pakistan. I'm sorry, but our media may be bad about spinning stories, but stories like that one are absolutely indefensible--and in a large way responsible for the "hatred of americans". They're _taught_ to feel that way, many of them do not arrive there on their own.

One of our central tenets of our foreign policy in the middle east is that peace is important, but not if it means the destruction of the Israeli's. Thus making us complicit in the crimes of Israel. Is Israel clean as a whistle? No way. But guess who's been trying to help fix this problem for years now? The United States has.

We won't waiver on that point--we can't waiver on that point. So, what do all of you suggest we do then to "modify our foreign policy" in the middle east? How do we change it? If we're gonna have this discussion, let's have it--even if it sounds like I'm not, I'm open to suggestion here. Just give me some specifics and some direction as to what you think we could do to make it better?

I mean, let's say we get out of the middle east foreign policy altogether. We stop meddling in the Palestinian question. Does anyone think peace will spontaneously erupt once we're gone? Doesn't anyone remember the Six Days War? Good lord, what would Israel be capable of WITHOUT us there to hold them back?

Sorry for the length. Take care everyone, and no offense meant to anyone here, just trying to add my thoughts to the debate. :)
posted by Swifty at 3:52 PM on September 20, 2001


Well, I think for one we could spend as much, if not more, on humanitarian aid to the region as we do on military might.

Number two, I agree with many others here who have said that we need to stop supporting people who's interests ultimately diverge from U.S. interests. Our foreign policy has been decidedly Machiavellian in that respect. Bin Laden was better in Afghanistan than the Soviets, so we supported him. We installed (or helped to install) many many oppressive regimes throughtout the world, and notably in the Middle East. It's not surprising that the people are pissed.

I think we need to stick to one agenda when it comes to governments in the middle east: Democracy and protection of the oppressed or neutrality. Of course it becomes sticky when you have a popular but military leader oppressing a minority in the country. (Hussien and Milosovich come to mind).

I honestly don't know enough to comment on the Israel-Palestinian question. I'm sure many people might state some cases, but they are bound to be tainted with biases one way or another. I'm not really sure that there is a right answer there. We also (for the most part), don't understand the makeup of those communities. How many people want Israel out of the region completely? How many would be okay with splitting it? How many would be okay with peaceful cohabitation? The same questions need to be answered on the other side of the line as well.

Until we really understand what were working with in its entirety (and not just the two leaders or the respective extremists groups), I can't really say what we should do.
posted by fooljay at 4:27 PM on September 20, 2001


nor did I call any one a Nazi, hence no Godwin's law.
Pedantic point: Godwin's Law is usually stated along the lines of, "In any sufficiently protracted discussion, someone will mention the Nazis." (I myself was active on Austin's Flight BBS in the late '80s, when Mike Godwin propounded this dictum. My brush with stardom.)

The basic thrust of the argument that our foreign policy did not cause bin Laden to either arise or to act rests on the fact that certain humans are evil, irrational, and motivated fundamentally by an urge to dominate others no matter what their surface ideology.
Can't argue with that. Richard Nixon is proof enough.

The radical jihadists are just that type of human, a type that has been seen throughout history, and that has never to my knowledge been talked, loved, or negotiated out of their violent ways.
Gandhi in British colonial India? (Not that I'm advocating non-violent resistance to a crashing jumbo jet...)
Saying "the other side is evil" has always been shorthand for "I'm going to stop thinking about this." If these guys were just pathological berserkers, they'd have blown up buildings somewhere closer to home. If they wanted to dominate others, they wouldn't have committed suicide. If we actually examined our foreign policy instead of making knee-jerk battered-wife analogies against the idea, we might learn some way to defuse enemy passions.
Oh wait, I forgot, they're just crazy madmen, period. Good thing I can stop thinking about that now.
posted by Allen Varney at 4:30 PM on September 20, 2001


fooljay: If I remember correctly, the biggest humanitarian venture of the U.S. ended in disaster, the Somali operation. A certain charismatic man believed to be Afghanistan is thought to be linked to the thing that made that end a disaster, and called the U.S. a "paper tiger" for pulling out. So . . . how is humanitarian aid supposed to make a big difference to bin Laden, exactly? Just asking. No, we shouldn't give up on humanitarian aid, so don't answer that way. I'm talking about the effect on bin Laden and Co., specifically.
posted by raysmj at 4:49 PM on September 20, 2001


Oh wait, I forgot, they're just crazy madmen, period. Good thing I can stop thinking about that now.

With all due respect, this repeated straw-man argument just strikes me as lazy thinking. No one is saying this, or even implying it. Please address what people are actually saying.
posted by argybarg at 5:17 PM on September 20, 2001


Humanitarian aid will do nothing for Bin Laden and his factions. They are fanatics. The point is that humanitarian aid is the right thing to do despite Bin Laden, not because of him.
posted by cell divide at 5:39 PM on September 20, 2001


This is a very interesting transcript of a documentary on the Somalia campaign.

I have to admit that I am rather uneducated when it comes to the history of the region and our involvement in it. However, the article higlights some areas which were problematic in that "humanitarian excersize".
  1. From 1977 to 1989, the U.S. supplied then-dictator Siad Barre and supported with $887 million including $200 million in arms. Yet another example of the U.S. supporting a brutal dictatorial regime. That didn't set up a very conducive atmosphere for what was to come.
  2. Operation Restore Hope (gag) began in 1991 in the middle of the civil war which ensued after Barre was deposed. We went in between two warring factions and opened the pathways for food distribution and humanitarian aid. That's all well and good, except for the fact that we started to take sides. Once most U.S. troops left, the chaos took hold again.
  3. The article implies that there were some other problems as well, including hidden agendas...
So how realistic is it? If it is correct at all, I would say that again, it was in part due to a failure of previous foreign policy.

As far as Bin Laden, if humanitarian aid were to greatly improve the lives of Afghanastinians, that would go a long way to reducing support for extremes, which always flourish in times of great despair. Furthermore, if the U.S. were to be one of the leaders in the aid movement, the antipathy for our government from moderate elements would drastically decrease which would essentially dry up support for extremist actions...

Remember, I don't give a crap about changing Bin Laden's mind or the minds of other terrorists. I want to change the minds of the rest of the people.
posted by fooljay at 6:05 PM on September 20, 2001


Point taken on Godwin, AV, but Gandhi was never up against this type of human. Nor do I know anyone who has called these people crazy. And "if they wanted to dominate others they would not have committed suicide" you say? AV their "suicide" involved the murder of over(latest count) 6000 people, and murder is as ultimate as domination gets.
Humanitarian aid is a noble goal I'm sure-but trying to win the will of the people is EXACTLY what the terrorists are trying to prevent us from doing.
Think about the type of government these people want to install. Look at Taliban rule. Example: Look at how they treat their women. Burkhas head to toe day and night and stoning to death for adultery based only on hearsay.
Now look at the status of women in the west.
See a disconnect?
See a rival model for women in society with which a strict Islamic theo-dictatorship does not wish to compete?
They want us and our Western ideals far away and out of sight-the last thing the radical jihadists want to see is a further opening to the west on the part of the people they wish to repress.
They are homicidal tyrants who arose independently and are motivated strictly by their own desires, twisted yes, but entirely their own.
We did not create them, we must, however, terminate them.
posted by quercus at 6:16 PM on September 20, 2001


Therefore, Foolinjay, strictly "neutral" humanitarian aid, may have unforeseen consequences, and exacerbate, not lessen, the extremism. For these jihadists our humanitarian aid will be just a continuation of war by other means. I agree humanitarian aid is preferable to carpet bombing, but there truly is no free lunch.
posted by quercus at 6:24 PM on September 20, 2001


Yes, we must. And the best way to do that is to squeeze them from both sides: infinite justice (sorry, just had to do that...) and an solid changes in foreign policy.

Justice for the extremists and changes for the moderates.

Extremists (of ALL sorts) are the enemy of a free society. Extremists are also the minority, unless we continue to push the moderates toward extremism.
posted by fooljay at 6:27 PM on September 20, 2001


"Extremists (of ALL sorts) are the enemy of a free society. Extremists are also the minority, unless we continue to push the moderates toward extremism." I hear words and little historical examples. Look at the Jacobins, 1794. even Danton couldnt stop the madness. Vlad Dracul-30,000 of the sultans troops in one day.(he made a strike into the heart of the sultans camp, an unprecedented attack) Extremists? i know what you mean. If you have an answer to extremists that does not involve extreme circumstances, by all means, let us here it(other then moderates resisting extremists). I think you mean Extremists killers. under your criteria, Green Peace is the enemy. anyone with a view that is deemed "extreme" is suspect. No sir, wont fly.(the jacobin example is of two extremists-one trying to be moderate for which he lost his head. remember napoleon?)
posted by newnameintown at 9:37 PM on September 20, 2001


Taliban-taliban-tally the banana. Oh Osama ya gotta go home....Sayno....sayahyah-yah-yah-no. Oh Osama then we will send you home...ah hem. sorry. Bettelgeuse is home.
posted by newnameintown at 9:42 PM on September 20, 2001


in response to argybarg.
'terrorism' defined by the american heritage dictionary:
'The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.'
You will find that many people are of the opinion that american foreign policy supports/has supported actions of a 'terrorist' nature throughout the world, for profit.
As well as against american citizens.
Defining one particular action as 'terrorism', whilst responding in kind and calling it 'justice' smacks of denial.

The inclusion of Russia, Pakistan and Israel (in particular Ariel Sharon) re-inforces the view that 'if they do it, it's terrorism, but if we do it then it's righteous'.
Double-speak is rife.
posted by asok at 9:17 AM on September 21, 2001


I hear words and little historical examples.

I thought it was fairly self-evident. Of course, depending on your perspective, I suppose that a fascist would consider democracy to be extreme. So I'll take that back and offer that religious extremism (fundamentalism, if you prefer) is always an enemy of a free (and secular) society. Better?

If you have an answer to extremists that does not involve extreme circumstances, by all means, let us here it(other then moderates resisting extremists).

In this thread alone, I've posted this, this and this (which is the post you responded to).

I think you mean Extremists killers. under your criteria, Green Peace is the enemy. anyone with a view that is deemed "extreme" is suspect. No sir, wont fly.

Well, again, it's too dependent on perspective (One man's extreme is another's moderate), so I'll stand by what I wrote above in this post.
posted by fooljay at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2001


asok:

None of what you say precludes calling the instigators of 9.11 terrorists.
posted by argybarg at 3:10 PM on September 21, 2001


the problem is in your supposition fooljay. Apple pie can be extreme. the examples are good...just, giving aid to a "monster" is nothing new and we boo-hoo like its a revelation. Somaila was a trap. The aid money was to help keep it from going wildwest. Somaila was Clintons fault. i think clinton was clintons fault....so i stand by my post also. i just wanted some fine tuning to be sure on what you meant. It was a good topic, thanks for responding fooljay.
posted by newnameintown at 9:03 AM on September 22, 2001


asok. different creature today. most militarists would agree that these were terror targets. The only thing that saves Afganistan and others from the BIG SAM berserk show was the fact that they did not plow into a hospital or poison the Erie.(ummm, yeah) Fine, in the terrorists eyes, they were righteous, even...brave. Americans will shrug their shoulders and ...well. just watch. double speak?. son, look at the three fingers pointing back for the one pointing towards.
posted by newnameintown at 9:09 AM on September 22, 2001


i am in total agreement that the attack on the wtc should be called a terrorist attack.
i hope that the coalition to defeat terrorism does just that.
however, given the membership, this is very unlikely.
that is where the double speak is rife.
posted by asok at 1:01 PM on September 22, 2001


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