In the dozen-plus years I have been active in matters relating to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, I have watched them go from a small Islamist organization to a worldwide insurgent movement, while bin Laden has established himself as the primary source of inspiration and leadership for tens of millions of Muslim Islamists. This process has been made possible by two things: (a) the skill, courage, patience, and ruthlessness of bin Laden and his ilk, and (b) the refusal of the U.S. government to understand the motivation of bin Laden and his allies.
Last week, Representative Paul did all Americans an immense service by simply pointing out the obvious: Our Islamist enemies do not give a damn about the way we vote, think, or live. Though any country they ruled would surely not look like ours, they are motivated by the belief that U.S. foreign policy is an attack on Islam, its lands, and its believers. This, of course, is not to say that America is to blame for the war it is now engaged in, but it is to say that it is foolish and perhaps fatal for Americans to believe that are we are being attacked for such ephemera as primary elections, R-rated movies, and gender equality. If our Islamist enemies were motivated by such things their numbers would be minuscule and they would be a sporadic lethal nuisance, not, as they are, the most serious national security threat we face today.
Of the eighteen presidential candidates now in the field from both parties, only Mr. Paul has had the courage to square with the average American voter. We are indeed hated and being warred against because we are "over there," and not for what we are and how we live. Our failure to recognize the truth spoken by Mr. Paul and spelled out for us in hundreds of pages of statements by Osama bin Laden since 1996 is leading America toward military and economic disaster.
At day’s end, Mr. Paul has at least temporarily shaken the pillars of the bipartisan consensus on U.S. foreign policy. Neither party, and none of the candidates, want to discuss the Islamists’ motivation because they would have to deal with energy policy, support for Israel, and the 50-year record of U.S. support and protection for Arab tyrannies. These holy cows of U.S. politics have long been off limits to debate, but Mr. Paul has now accurately identified them as the source of motivation for our Islamist enemies, and implicitly has said that the obsessive interventionism of both parties has inspired al-Qaeda and its allies to kill 7,000-plus U.S. civilians and military personnel since 11 September 2001. The war we are engaged in with the Islamists is a long way from over, but it need end in America’s defeat only if Mr. Paul’s frank statements are ignored.
And no matter how you view Mr. Paul’s words, you can safely take one thing to the bank. The person most shaken by Mr. Paul’s frankness was Osama bin Laden, who knows that the current status quo in U.S. foreign policy toward the Islamic world is al-Qaeda’s one indispensable ally, and the only glue that provides cohesion between and among the diverse and often fractious Islamist groups that follow its banner.
When you mention the "ancient" theory of just war, this is actually not ancient, but a solid teaching that still stands in Christianity, particularly Catholicism. It is the argument that the late John Paul II and now Benedict XVI have referred to, since they have always been opposed to the Iraq war. Also, as a Catholic, I have noticed that one of the stronger forces in Christians being pro-war is not based on their religion, as you have pointed out. The power of persuasion from leaders and political figures is effective in telling them, "you must agree with me, otherwise you are basically agreeing with the [liberals]." It is unfortunate, but uneducated commentators, and especially the media, often fail to look deeper into the problem and dismiss religion as the root of all evil. In Catholicism, what we call Catholic Social Teaching often embraces many liberal positions, but because of people fearing to be labeled as such and consequently, being shunned by their peers, often shrug it off and fail to recognize its richness. Additionally, I think journalists should be wary of reporting religion based on the Average Joe all the time. This does indeed offer insight into how many people see their faith and act as a result of it, but I think it is very important to consult learned theologians when trying to draw information about religion as well. These people have spent years either in seminary or earning their Ph.D., and their opinion should be taken seriously, as opposed to just interviewing the hit televangelist of the day and declare religion rubbish because of what he has to say.
If you ever need some more information on CST or just war theory that pretty much shuns the Iraq war on all fronts you can go here: "Themes of Catholic Social Teaching,"
"Just War Doctrine," and "Saddam’s Capture May Bring Peace, Doesn’t Excuse War, Cardinal Says." It would offer interesting contrasts between this and rampant pro-war Christians.
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this and looking at all the creative and artful pieces. My daughter-in-law tells me what a useless waste of time, lives, and money it is trying to tell these people how they should live, think and breathe to be a happy country. … She tells me that the majority of the people in Iraq do not want to learn, at least not from us, the United States military. She is a Major and is full-time military. She is missing out on the most enjoyable experiences to do "her duty" as an American soldier. Her 17-month-old daughter hardly knows, but hopefully will remember, her mother. Morale is low and extensions are implemented more than is reasonable for the mind and heart to bear and deal with rationally. I, as a mother of two in the military, think it is a shame that not only lives are lost but the minds of our soldiers are being destroyed, their spirit on the verge of being broken. We can protect and build our country from here much better than from afar. We are now neglecting our own country’s needs, right here in the land of the free. Our country pulled together when this all started and now has become complacent once again. It seems that only tragedy can bring us together. I can only hope and pray that our next administration elected has one agenda and that will be to put the focus on our country’s needs. Let’s put the US back in the USA! A little corny but that is my motto.
Michael Austin replies:
Thank you so much for sharing your compliments on my article. It means a lot to hear that something I wrote years ago is still interesting and (perhaps sadly!) relevant to one of our readers.
Thank you so much for sharing your personal thoughts and feelings about the occupation of Iraq and your daughter-in-law’s experience there as well. I have certainly heard of many other brave members of our military serving in Iraq who feel the same way, though unfortunately they are generally bullied out of sharing this opinion publicly, or feel that to share it would be a dishonor to their fellow soldiers. I tend to feel that the real dishonor to America’s daughters and sons in the military is that our government sent them to Iraq in the first place, and has kept them there so long.
I join you in hopes that the next administration can bring a change for the better, though I believe real change can only come from a growing majority of citizens like us being willing to speak out about the necessity of ending this huge mistake.
Take care, Pam. I wish the best to you and your family.
I really laughed at Alan Bock’s article! He could have entitled it “the last desperate throw of a defeated hegemonist”! All the hegemonist terrors and things that go bump in the night come out. European leaders will be “less anti-American," France is going to be good because Sarko will copy the U.S., Britain is better because it already has, Russia is not going to get together with the other European democracies, the EU is a “figment” etc., etc.
Mr. Bock simply does not accept that “Superpower USA” is lying dead in the Mesopotamian dust and will never bully anyone ever again. Least of all Europe, which is indeed undergoing profound changes as the post-cold war reality settles in, but the changes are not those of which Mr. Bock dreams!
Alan Bock replies:
It’s fascinating how people read things in to what one writes. I don’t know if Superpower USA is lying dead in Mesopotamia. But it wouldn’t bother me if the desire to run other countries had perished. Since I don’t see any evidence of the U.S. closing military bases overseas, I rather doubt it, but I cling to the hope that the American people will let their leaders know they’re sick and tired of these foreign adventures. We’ll see. In fact, I think Gordon Brown, or even a Tory, will be less knee-jerk pro-American than Tony Blair. Sarko has said he’s pro-American, but with reservations, and whether he’ll be able to make institutional changes is in doubt. I’m not sure what Putin’s up to besides centralizing power. Europe is changing, and I think in a healthy direction (which is not the same as a pro-U.S. direction), but I don’t have a crystal ball any more than Mr. Kenny does.
I‘m afraid you have your facts wrong in this article.
The men are Albanians from a town called Debar in Macedonia, close to the border with Albania. They are not from Kosovo. So there is no need to go through the complete theories on why the "Empire" makes all efforts to avoid the name "Kosovar" for them.
Nebojsa Malic replies:
Information about the Duka brothers’ origin arrived too late for me to change the article; I’ve noted the fact in a blog post. But has anyone called the Duka brothers “Macedonian” yet? No; they remain “from the former Yugoslavia” still. Anything to avoid the Kosovo connection. But then there is the matter of Agron Abdullahu, who was from Kosovo, had fought in the KLA, and seemed to harbor special affection for his “uncle Benny.”