Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thoughts on 9/11 – and Patriotism. By Rush Limbaugh.

Thoughts on 9/11 – and Patriotism. By Rush Limbaugh., September 11, 2013.

Shock Study: U.S. Flag Only Boost GOP. By Paul Bedard. U.S. News and World Report, July 20, 2011.

A Single Exposure to the American Flag Shifts Support Toward Republicanism up to 8 Months Later. By Travis J. Carter, Melissa J. Ferguson, and Ran R. Hassin. Psychological Science, Vol. 22, No. 8 (August 2011).

The War Over Patriotism. By Peter Beinart. NJBR, January 28, 2013. Originally in Time, July 7, 2008 issue.


They were calling Bush names. They were claiming Bush was unqualified and incompetent. He hadn’t done anything to avenge what had happened to us, or to answer it, and they were humiliated because the next day the attack in Tora Bora happened, and they just looked silly. There was a memo from James Carville and Stan Greenberg that Bush favorability was too high and had to be brought down, in the midst of the 9/11 aftermath. The memo described how they needed to make Bush out to be a liar.
This was an internal memo intended for Democrat leaders and party members and so forth all over the country, primarily in Washington. They were very worried that Bush's numbers were too high. So they began distancing themselves from anything Bush. Bush was the epitome of the patriotism, and he was talking tough about the terrorists, saying things like, “You’re either with us or against us,” and the Democrats said, “You can’t talk that way. That’s embarrassing.” They started calling him a cowboy, and as I said before the break, patriotism is something that makes them nervous.
I know some of you, like if you’re a 24-year-old woman – I mean, I don’t even have to shout that – say, “What do you mean? This is what makes me mad, Rush. Patriotism . . .” Look, I wish it weren’t true, but it is. US News & World Report, July 20th, 2011: “Shock Study: US Flag Only Boosts GOP – Just a brief exposure to an image of the American flag shifts voters, even Democrats, to Republican beliefs, attitudes and voting behavior even though most don’t believe it will impact their politics, according to a new two-year study just published in the scholarly Psychological Science.”
They found that “exposure” to the American flag changed behavior to pro-Republican or pro-conservative.
“What's more, according to three authors from the University Chicago, Cornell University and Hebrew University, the impact had staying power. ‘A single exposure to an American flag resulted in a significant increase in participants’ Republican voting intentions, voting behavior, political beliefs . . .’” The study “found that a single exposure to a small American flag during deliberation about voting intentions prior to a general election led to significant and robust changes in participants’ voting intentions . . .’”
How many times have you heard famous, retired evening news anchors refuse to wear the American flag? Brokaw refused, Peter Jennings refused, Dan Rather, because they couldn't show their patriotism. That would be compromising their sacred principles as journalists. So you may not want to believe me, but the Democrat Party and the American left has a problem with patriotism because they know it steers people away from them. Democrats have a problem with people who love America.
The liberal ideology is based on America is at fault, America is to blame, America is unjust, America is immoral from its founding. This is what animates Obama. You know it as well as I do, folks – and you 24-year-old women who think this is above and beyond the pale, you know it, too, if you just sit down and admit it to yourself. Who is the blame-America-first crowd? Who is it is that mocks the flag?
. . . .
The unbridled displays of love of country and patriotism makes liberals nervous. These unscripted, uncensored displays of love and pride in our country make ’em nervous, because it’s the one thing they can’t fake. They try, and you know they just don’t feel it. So they have to do something about it. So they set about, as their strategy, based on the Greenberg-Carville memo, to essentially destroy Bush. They succeeded, as we all know, and we’re feeling the repercussions of it today.
They’re not big fans of the military. They’re not comfortable with millions of people turning to God. They’re not comfortable with public displays of religion. They have tried to erase the real meaning of Thanksgiving from the history books. So a campaign was silently begun beside the Drive-Bys and liberals to remove the images from TV that created all of this. That's where I’m going with this.
I’m sorry it's taken me so long to get there, but that’s why we’re not watching, that’s why we don’t see the video, what happened on 9/11. That’s why. That’s why we don’t see the video. We don’t want to run the risk of having that aftermath replicated – and they run the media, so they’re in charge of whether or not that video is shown. And to this day, they make fun of people who are patriots. They make fun of religious people. It’s never stopped.
RUSH: To Detroit and Katherine. It’s great to have you on the EIB Network. Hi.
CALLER: Hi there. Thank you.
RUSH: You bet.
CALLER: Well, I’ve been thinking much like you today about patriotism, and I guess my question is based on your insight into the liberal condition. More than the outward signs of what they do, I want to know what do they think and feel when they say they are patriotic? I know what I feel. You know, it’s a profound love of our country. But what do you think they feel? What is it to them if they say, “I feel patriotic?” How is it different from what we feel?
RUSH: Well, Hillary has defined it. Patriotism is having the guts to admit your country’s wrong. Patriotism is the guts to realize when your country has made mistakes. Patriotism is the right to dissent against your own country. Patriotism is understanding where your country needs to improve. Their patriotism is rooted in guilt. They give themselves gold stars for being honest about what’s wrong with this country, and yet that is the patriotism, admitting what’s wrong and admitting it’s flawed and then claiming to want to fix it.
CALLER: Well, that’s clearly a different feeling of patriotism than I have, and I think it’s clearly not based on love of country. It makes me wonder, is that a dead issue for a future conservative presidential candidate? Is patriotism off the table because Obama has transformed our country and patriotism no longer matters?
RUSH: No, it’s not. The majority of this country are just the exact opposite. The problem is, as I was just saying, outward displays patriotism are made fun of. They're mocked. Late-night comedians or whoever in the pop culture, if anybody acts really patriotic or says something patriotic, they make fun of it as though it’s –
CALLER: Corny?
RUSH: It’s corny, and they say, “Look, we all feel that. There’s nothing special. You don’t have anything on us. We love our country. We love America.” But they make fun of it. It is corny, it’s not cool, it’s not hip.
CALLER: But the basis of patriotism would be the decision that any leader would make on behalf of our country.
RUSH: Precisely.
CALLER: Yeah. That's what I don’t get.
RUSH: That’s exactly right. You know, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think America is perfect. But I also don’t believe that imperfection is an ideological flaw that needs to be . . . Let me put it this way: Liberals think they can perfect everything.  They can perfect what’s wrong with, say, racists, what’s wrong with bigots, or they can fix what’s wrong with America. If it isn’t perfect, there’s something wrong with it, and then they are needed. That’s their call to action is when there isn’t perfection. It’s all part of their utopian fantasy, that there is perfection out there, and that only they are capable of finding it, discovering it, and maintaining it.
CALLER: Right.
RUSH:  It’s rooted in the flaws and the things that are wrong, and in having the guts to admit it. Whereas they look at us, our patriotism, and they see us as blindly accepting whatever is wrong in this country and saying it’s good, saying it’s great. They don’t look at us as having the ability to discriminate or discern good or bad. They think it is a mistake to think just because it’s America, it’s good, and just because it’s American, it’s great.
That, to them, is flawed thinking because the country is flawed. It was ill-founded, if you will. It was unjustly, unfairly constructed in their view. So that’s why one of these Obama runs around apologizing for America for. Bill Clinton did the same thing. Why do you think they do that?  They really think the United States is the problem in the world, not the solution.
RUSH: Back to the phones in Dayton, Ohio, this is Julie. I’m really glad you waited. Thank you for your patience. Hi.
CALLER: Hi. Thank you, Rush. I’m proud to be an American patriot.
RUSH: Thank you.
CALLER: Yes.  Unlike Michelle Obama, my whole life I have been proud of this country.
RUSH: There you go. There you go. There's another example right there. Exactly. Well said.
CALLER: Thank you. Thank you. You know, this morning I woke up and there were a couple things I thought of as I was getting ready for work. I thought about George Bush, another true American patriot who did not care about polling numbers. I wondered what he was thinking of on this day. I had the news on, and I kept wanting to see some of the past footage, and I think it is so important to show that footage to the American people of what we endured on that day, and there is a song called – I can’t remember the country artist – “Have You Forgotten?” If you could play that on your show today, it’s such a great song, because in the song, it says they should show that footage every day because people need to remember.
RUSH: I know. We’ve talked about how they should show it; we’ve been through the reasons that they don’t. One of the reasons is ’cause it would revitalize, possibly, patriotism, which is something they just . . . They’re made uncomfortable by it, folks. They just are. The left is made uncomfortable by outward displays of patriotism and the flying of the flag and all that.
You know, there’s something that I don’t think very many people have seen ever. They’ve shown video footage.  But do you ever recall seeing footage of people jumping out of the World Trade Center towers to avoid dying by fire? They don't show that, and there is footage of that. Now, that brings you back to life real fast when you see people plunging from 50, 70, 80 stories to escape flames. I mean, it was horrible.
RUSH: But I want to close the loop on this patriotism, ’cause I know that a lot of people . . . It’s very important thing, and when you start talking about it, it’s tough. You know, I’m not challenging the left’s patriotism. What I’m trying to do is tell you that it’s not yours and mine. We had a caller ask, “What is their patriotism?” Their patriotism . . . These are their words, folks; I’m not making it up. Their patriotism is having the guts to criticize the country. 

Their patriotism is recognizing what's wrong with this country and saying so. Their patriotism is dissenting when Republican presidents are in power. That, to them, is honorable. Patriotism is not about the greatness of America. It’s about the flaws that they think exist and the willingness to speak up about them and apologize for ’em. That’s really big. That makes you a big person, when you could admit your mistakes.
Except they’re not theirs. They’re the Founders’. I know that this makes people nervous. Let me give you some examples of this. You know, I’ve said that displays of force by the US military, make ’em nervous, they don’t like it. They get very nervous about outward displays of patriotism because they know . . . We had the story earlier about how when you show people the flag, it moves them away from Democrats, it moves them away from liberalism, and they know it.
. . . .
So I’m very comfortable in saying that these patriotic differences are real and that real patriotism, as you and I know it, is mocked and made fun of. Folks, I’m sorry it’s taking me so long in a scattershot way today to convey this. But all of this is to explain why we don’t see anymore full-fledged video of what happened on 9/11/2001, because the left does not want that kind of patriotism brought back to life. It threatens them.
They’re far more comfortable with a patriotism that finds fault and blame with America, not a patriotism that celebrates the greatness of America. They don't think it’s great, and it won’t be great till they get full control of it and fix the flaws – and that's all the racism and bigotry and homophobia and environmental wackoism and all that. ’Til they get in power and fix all of that, there won’t be any reason for real love of country.
Nothing. There’s too much wrong with this country right now to love it, and people that do are dangerous. That’s their patriotism.

Was State Senator Obama Right That Poverty Causes Terrorism? By Joshua Keating.

Was State Senator Obama Right That Poverty Causes Terrorism? By Joshua Keating. Slate, September 11, 2013.

Barack Obama on the 9/11 Attack. Hyde Park Herald, September 19, 2001, p. 4.


With the 12th anniversary of 9/11 today, several people are sharing this scanned page from the Sept. 19, 2001 issue of the Hyde Park Herald, featuring reactions to the attacks from several local politicians, including one State Sen. Barack Obama. Obama wrote:
The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair. . . . [W]e will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe – children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.
The theme of terrorism as a symptom of poverty was a popular one from that era. George W. Bush also said that “We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror.” But the argument that poor and uneducated people are more likely to become terrorists is more controversial than you might think.
The 9/11 hijackers and plotters, after all, were predominantly educated men from comfortable backgrounds, an extremely wealthy one in Osama bin Laden’s case. But the causal relationship has also been difficult to demonstrate on a more general level.
A widely-cited 2002 paper by economists Alan Krueger and Jitka Maleckova (also summarized in a New Republic article) found that support for attacks against Israeli targets among Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza did not decrease among those who were more educated and wealthier. They also found that “a living standard above the poverty line or a secondary school or higher education is positively associated with Participation in Hezbollah,” the Lebanese military group. Israeli settlers who attacked Palestinians also tended to be wealthier than average. A 2004 study by the Harvard economist Alberto Abadie found that this was also true at the country level: terrorist risk is not significantly higher for poorer countries.
But there may also be another side to the story. The political scientist Ethan Bueno de Mesquita argues that economic conditions affect terrorist recruitment in a more subtle way. Terrorist groups are more likely to want to recruit people with useful skills, in other words those with more education and success in the labor market. But it become easier for them to do so during economic downturns, when there are fewer non-terrorist opportunities available.
And indeed, a 2011 study using microlevel data on the Palestinian economy found “evidence of the correlation between economic conditions, the characteristics of suicide terrorists, and the targets they attack. High levels of unemployment enable terror organizations to recruit better educated, more mature, and more experienced suicide terrorists, who in turn attack more important Israeli targets.” A recent country-level analysis by three German economists found evidence that “education may fuel terrorist activity in the presence of poor political and socio-economic conditions, whereas better education in combination with favorable conditions decreases terrorism.”
So the image that statements like Obama’s and Bush’s conjure up of terrorists as uneducated and desperately poor people born into hopeless circumstances may be misleading. But there also may be some link between economic opportunity–among many other factors–and political violence.
In his book, The Finish, journalist Mark Bowden refers to the Hyde Park Herald column as an example of Obama’s earlier liberal worldview, which was challenged by the events of 9/11, and would eventually evolve into the hard-hearted realism of the man who ordered the Abottabad raid. Obama was “working his way toward a personal definition of evil,” Bowden writes.
That may be true, and it’s certainly hard to imagine Obama phrasing his remarks quite the same way today, but the same argument still appears in his rhetoric. In his address on counterterrorism last May, for instance, Obama argued that “foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity.  It is fundamental to our national security and it’s fundamental to any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism.” Such aid, he argued, would create “reservoirs of goodwill that marginalize extremists.”
The reason why the more simplistic argument is popular among politicians of both parties is obvious. It links an unpopular idea—spending taxpayer money to help poor people abroad—to a popular one: protecting the United States from terrorists. The link to do may be tough to prove and more nuanced than generally understood, but helping poor people just for the sake of helping them is not a political winner.

Placing the Colonial Boot on the Arab Foot. By Lyn Julius.

Placing the Colonial Boot on the Arab Foot. By Lyn Julius. Jerusalem Post, September 11, 2013.

Dilemmas of Dhimmitude. By Lyn Julius. Jewish Quarterly, No. 197 (Spring 2005). Also at Point of No Return.

Georges Bensoussan explodes idyll myth. By Bataween. Point of No Return: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries, July 24, 2012.

Who is an Arab Jew? By Albert Memmi. Originally published February 1975.


It’s been 46 years since the late French Marxist scholar Maxime Rodinson published his influential essay, and later book: Israel: A Colonial- Settler State?
Reinforced by Israel’s 1967 “occupation of Palestinian territories,” and its auxiliary Apartheid myth, Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? cemented the trope that Zionism was a European movement to displace the native Arab inhabitants of Palestine.

Now another French historian, Georges Bensoussan, threatens to stand the notion of “Jewish colonialism” on its head: it is the Jews who lived under Muslim rule who were the true victims of colonialism.

His book, Juifs en pays arabes: Le grand d√©racinement 1850 - 1975, published in 2012 in French, examines the reason why the Arab world was emptied of its Jews in barely a generation. Since most fled as refugees to the Jewish state from the Arab and Muslim world and now constitute at least half Israel’s Jews, the question has huge implications for the Israel-Arab conflict.
Moroccan-born Bensoussan, who made his name as a Holocaust historian, argues that the Jews have been colonised thrice over.
The first wave of colonisation was Arab-Muslim. By the time the Arab conquerors had swept over the Middle East and North Africa, the Jews had been living in the region for 1,000 years.
Under Islam, according to the eighth-century Pact of Omar, indigenous Jews and Christians were permitted to practise as long as they acquiesced to the “dhimmi” condition of inferiority and institutionalised humiliation. Dhimmis were exploited for specific talents and skills.
Bensoussan observes that the Islamic order was built on a “colonial” notion – submission. The Muslim submits to Allah, the Muslim woman submits to her husband, the non-Muslim dhimmi submits to the Muslim. At the very bottom of the pile is the slave. Women, minorities and slaves are curiously absent from Edward Said’s postcolonial “bible,” Orientalism, Bensoussan notes.
There were times when Jews could, and did, thrive, but Bensoussan puts paid to the assumption that Arab antisemitism is an understandable backlash to the creation of Israel in 1948. He produces incontrovertible evidence that, 100 years before Israel was established, most Jews in Arab and Muslim lands lived in misery and fear.
Dhimmi status was most strictly applied in Morocco, Yemen and Persia – parts of the Muslim world barely touched by European colonisation. Jews were regularly mobbed, robbed, their possessions looted, beaten up on the slightest pretext, or false charge brought by a jealous neighbour. Jews were feminised in the Muslim imagination – cowardly, submissive, unable to stand up for themselves.
The second wave of colonisation – by the European powers – “liberated” the Jews from the strictures of dhimmitude. In Algeria, the Jews even gained French citizenship. But in order not to antagonise the Muslim population, examples abound of anti-Jewish pogroms which the colonial forces of law and order were in no hurry to quell.
For Bensoussan, the post-1948 exodus of almost a million Jews in one generation was not a break with the Muslim world, it was an “aggravated divorce.” The process began a century earlier when Jews began educating their children in western-oriented Alliance Israelite schools. What started as a crack became a gap, then a chasm.
Arguably, 19th century life was nasty and brutish for all, not just the Jews, but upward Jewish social mobility inverted the traditional pecking order. Jews were seen not just as collaborators with European colonialism, but had become “too big for their boots.” The Muslim Arabs lagged behind in literacy by at least a generation.
Blood-and-soil Arab nationalism refused to admit Jews (and Christians, for that matter, unless they converted to Islam) as full participants. As the great Tunisian-Jewish writer Albert Memmi put it: “We would have liked to be Arab Jews, but the Arabs prevented it with their contempt and cruelty.” With the rise of Arab nationalism came marginalisation, exclusion and strangulation of Jews (and other minorities). The last 60 years saw a mass exodus. The Jews were dispossessed on the way out.
The third of type of colonisation belongs to the history books. The history of the Jewish people has been written by western historians; according to Bensoussan, oriental Jewish history has been crushed under the weight of the Holocaust. Even the Jewish museum in Paris, which might be expected to reflect a community originating primarily in North Africa, has reduced their history to folklore – with its displays of jewelry and traditional bridal costumes.
Bensoussan’s great achievement is not just to blow out of the water the myth of Arab-Jewish coexistence predating the creation of Israel, but unfashionably to place the colonial boot on the Arab foot.
Since publishing his book, Bensoussan has had to contend with bien pensant denial (the prevalent post-colonial assumption is that the third world victims of western colonialists can never be seen as oppressors in their own right). He has met resistance from both Arabs and Jews.
Arab historians blame the Jews for causing their own suffering. Jews who deny Arab antisemitism usually lived a charmed life in the European quarters of Arab cities. Bensoussan cautions that reminiscence makes for unreliable history.
All in all, Bensoussan has dropped a bombshell of a book. A sovereign Jewish state in the land of Israel begins to look like the liberation of a colonised, indigenous people from 14 centuries of subjugation. Will Bensoussan have the impact on western intellectual thinking that Maxime Rodinson had, 46 years ago?


It’s a well-worn paradox: on Sunday, a Jew from an Arab country swears that he lived happily alongside Arabs. On Thursday, he says life was awful. So which is the truth?
The Moroccan-born historian Georges Bensoussan imagines he has found the answer in his ground-breaking new book Juifs en pays arabes: Le grand déracinement 1850 - 1975 (not yet available in English). The two experiences are not contradictory, they are complementary.
What passes for the story of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in the West is actually folklore, says Bensoussan in this must-see Akadem video, which I will try to summarise for non-French readers.
The Jews themselves spread the myth of the Jewish idyll in Arab countries because they were children at the time, and childhood is associated with happy memories. And the further you went up the social scale, the happier the memories. But Bensoussan cross-references available historical sources  the Zionist archives in Jerusalem, the Alliance Israelite Universelle archives in Paris and the French national archives in Nantes, travellers’ diaries, such as that of Charles de Foucault (1883) in Morocco, and diplomatic reports. Although the Arab archives remain closed, the overwhelming weight of evidence points to the fact Jews in Arab and Muslim lands lived in misery and fear.
Yet the myth of the enchanted history of the Jews refuses to die. In May Bensoussan issued a rebuttal via the CRIF, the organisation representing Jews in France, to an article in Telerama suggesting that antisemitism arrived in Morocco with the French and that Zionist agents made the Jews leave against their will. Bensoussan also find it irritating that Jewish sources lay great store by historians such as Moroccan Mohammed Kenbib without having read his work. According to Bensoussan, who read every line of Kenbib's doctoral thesis, Kenbib blames the Jews for their own misfortunes.
Historians usually say that the definitive break between Jews and Arabs took place with the establishment of Israel in 1948. But for Bensoussan, the post-1948 exodus was not a break, it was an “aggravated divorce.” The process began a century earlier when Jews began educating their children in western schools; half a million Jewish children passed through the Alliance Israelite Universelle school system. What started as a crack became a gap, then a chasm. The Muslim Arabs lagged behind in literacy by at least a generation. This of course explains why the Nazis found it easy to brainwash the illiterate masses in Arab countries through intensive radio broadcast propaganda during WW2.
Jews were actually expelled only in 1956 in Egypt. Everywhere else, says Bensoussan, “the Arab states did everything in their power to make the Jews leave.”
In the 20th century Arab nationalism took on a Nazi-style blood-and-soil character which excluded Jews, in spite of their huge contribution to culture and society (one third of all writers in Iraq were Jewish). Then Jews were viewed as an ethnicity - today they are seen as a religion.
Bensoussan is one of the few historians to write about Jews in Arab lands as a whole, without treating each community country-by-country. Coexistence with the Muslims was only possible on the understanding that Jews accepted their inferiority as “dhimmis.” “The Jews were the colonised of the colonised,” he says.

Paging BDS. By Walter Russell Mead.

Paging BDS. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, September 11, 2013.


Don’t look now, but Egypt is causing widespread suffering among Gaza’s Palestinians:
As part of a crackdown against Sinai militants, Egypt’s military-led government destroyed at least 40 smuggling tunnels over the last two weeks, according to officials in the Gaza Strip.
The move has exacerbated shortages in Gaza of construction materials and cheap Egyptian-produced gasoline, which are the primary products delivered through the tunnels.
Arab oppression of Palestinians is now affecting 60 percent of Gaza trade. Clearly it’s time for the BDS movement to call for sanctions and boycott against the evil, Palestinian-oppressing Arabs of Egypt and their allies in Saudi Arabia.
Waiting, waiting, waiting . . .

On 9/11 — A Look Back, a Look Forward. By Victor Davis Hanson.

On 9/11 — A Look Back, a Look Forward. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, September 11, 2013.

Then as now, the Arab world’s self-induced pathologies cannot be cured by American self-doubt.


September 11, 2001, was not just a tragedy, but rather a willful act of war by radical Islamists who hate Western civilization and the American version of it in particular. They achieved, by their cunning and our laxity, a horrendous loss of American life. Indeed, they did something that no enemy had succeeded at since the War of 1812: bringing the war home to the U.S. and inflicting human, material, and economic damage on a colossal scale.
They were emboldened by our prior inability to respond to provocations. A 20-year cycle of Islamist-inspired violence from Tehran to Lebanon to the 1993 World Trade Center attack to the USS Cole in aggregate had convinced Bin Laden not that the United States was confident in its past fair treatment toward Muslims (cf. the saving of Muslims from Kuwait to Bosnia and Kosovo to Somalia), but instead that somehow it was unable to define its values, much less retaliate against its enemies. The 9/11 attack was apparently the terrible wages of our uncertainty, self-doubt, and paralysis.
Yet in the twelve years since that attack, the American people rebounded in an astounding way. Islamists have not been successful in matching that devastation, although, on more than 50 occasions, plots have been uncovered that reminded us that the terrorists were certainly trying to trump 9/11. For all the current internal acrimony over Guantanamo, renditions, drones, fighting in the Afghan badlands, or going head-to-head with al-Qaeda in Anbar Province and Fallujah, we should remember that those costly post-9/11 anti-terrorism protocols and forward operations abroad thwarted Bin Laden and his successors. Indeed, he died as his own proverbial weak horse, with sinking popularity, in personal decadence at his computer console, and largely irrelevant in the Middle East.
A new generation of his successors now wishes to reboot the war. They see an opening in American weariness and pre-9/11-like misplaced guilt. They are resuming the tired Bin Laden boilerplate that the misery of the Islamic world, and the Arab cosmos in particular, is due to American imperialism and neocolonialism rather than their own internal pathologies — tribalism, statism, gender apartheid, religious fundamentalism and intolerance, authoritarianism, and anti-Semitism.
That perfect storm of Middle Eastern failure, not the U.S., has prevented the Arab community from achieving the sort of successful paradigms for growth and freedom now common from Chile to South Korea. The Arab Winter reminds us again how hard it is in that part of the world to avoid the extremes of theocracy and military authoritarianism, when the proverbial Islamic street has not yet embraced the necessary shifts in ideology and spirit that alone can lead to a constitutional moderate alternative — and with it a confident place among the family of nations. We can hope and pray for a true Arab Spring renaissance, but we must prepare for something darker and colder.
I end on another troubling note. For over seven years after 9/11, most Americans accepted the explanation that what and who we are, rather than what we might have done, prompted the Islamists to try to murder Americans. Yet the newly elected Barack Obama apparently disagreed. From the very beginning of his tenure — as voiced in his inaugural Al Arabiya interview, his prior Foreign Affairs essay, his Cairo speech, his so-called apology tour, and his administration’s surreal euphemisms for Islamist terrorism, and as underscored now by his unserious deadlines, redlines, and withdrawal dates — he sought to win over radical Muslims on the false narrative that the Bush administration, and indeed earlier administrations as well, had somehow been insensitive to Islamic concerns. Thereby, we were in part supposedly culpable for many of the tensions in the Middle East, and for the Arab world’s anger at America so often expressed in mindless violence.
Insensitive videos, workplace insensitivity, undue FBI surveillance, harsh nomenclature, an inability to understand the positive side to jihad – all that and more had supposedly prompted anti-American violence, not self-induced pathologies that explained both the terrorists’ own self-hatred and their hatred of us.
As remedy, in the words of Obama himself, his own unique background, indeed his very name, together with his courageous acceptance of the charge of past American arrogance, would work a sort of magic. America could bask in his reflected glory, as the Arab world’s admiration of Obama would rub off on the rest of us as well. The result would be that the seas of tensions and the rising temperatures of distrust would at last subside, given the arrival of a Nobel laureate now reining in the erstwhile military-industrial complex.
Of course, that hand-wringing neither curbed the terrorists’ attempts to strike again nor won us friends in the Middle East. We are as unpopular there as ever. And we have now won the additional recompense of being seen not as unpredictable and dangerous, but as predictably weak and timid.
Nothing good can come of that recipe, and nothing has. This twelfth anniversary of 9/11 should remind the president that the first obligation of his office is to keep the American people safe, and to consider their own national interests, both realist and humanitarian, foremost.
Unfortunately, the present therapeutic trajectory will lead nowhere but to a repeat of 9/11 as we insidiously squander the deterrence acquired the hard way in the tough years following 9/11. On this twelfth anniversary we are in a lull — perhaps analogous to John F. Kennedy’s after his disastrous Vienna summit, with a rendezvous with Cuban missiles on the horizon, or perhaps to that of a confused Jimmy Carter about to be confronted in Tehran with the dividends of his past arrogance and self-righteousness.
Let us hope that we return to the measures that kept us safe, and drop the rhetoric and attitude that will once again tempt our enemies to try something as stupid as it will be dangerous.