Terror, Poverty, and the Willfully Naive

Certain enlightened people keep trying to convince me that we can only solve the problem of terrorism by humanitarian, rather than military, efforts. After all, the jihadists wouldn’t be able to recruit terrorists if those people weren’t so poor and desperate. So, perhaps, if we really want to end this war, we should cut our entire military budget and give all that money to the Arab nations, in the hopes that it will raise their collective standard of living and make them all love us.

Unfortunately, no matter how much money we might shower upon them, it’s hard to see how it would raise the average standard of living of their populations. The countries we’re talking about are not particularly poor, though the vast majority of their citizens are. (How does one come up with a way to blame the U.S. for that?)  No matter how much foreign aid we might bestow on these oil-rich countries, why would  their governments redistribute our wealth any more beneficently than they redistribute their own?

Even if it were possible for us to raise their standard of living, what evidence is there that they would no longer hate us? My personal experience with people collecting entitlements is that they don’t feel any great love for the middle and upper classes whose taxes subsidize them. (If you imagine they do, try taking field trip to your nearest ghetto and take a survey on how grateful they feel.) People who receive benefits without providing anything in return grow to feel entitled to those benefits, and soon start feeling resentful that they aren’t getting enough — because the ones giving it to them still live much better than they do. Obviously, the money is owed to them. Otherwise, why would they be getting it? Once the war was “over,” we’d have to keep on paying forever, to sustain whatever standard we set, or risk their hatred and reprisal for withdrawing it.

As warm and fuzzy a fantasy as it may be, it isn’t realistic to assume that we can buy the hearts and minds of all the people in the world by altruistically showering our money on them. Especially when some of those people have a history of using the money we’ve given them to launch deadly attacks against us. Blindly trusting people who have proven they cannot be trusted doesn’t make them trustworthy. And using our defense budget to arm our enemies somehow just doesn’t seem wise.

The ideal world imagined by the willfully naive is not grounded in reality. The poverty argument is a red herring. This war is not about poverty. It’s about terrorism. Islamic terrorism is not about poverty. It’s about extremist ideologies. No amount of redistribution of wealth is going to address that issue.


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Published in: on February 23, 2008 at 11:18 pm  Comments (25)  
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America Sucks

It baffles me why so many Americans readily accept that, in any conflict with foreign interests, America must be at fault. To these people, all of our enemies are actually our victims, and are justified in hating us because America’s a big bully. They seem to believe the rest of the world is full of peaceful, good-natured people and, if the terrorists want to destroy us, it must be because we’ve done them wrong. If those who have declared us their enemies commit inconceivably vicious acts of barbaric violence, it’s only out of desperation because we have somehow driven them to it.

Those who want to believe in our culpability insist that the attacks on (and prior to) 9/11 were only retribution for our “meddling” in the Middle East. The flaw in that reasoning is that, if you look at the history of the Islamic extremists, they do not only attack those who “interfere” with them. They have an impressive track record, throughout the world, of ruthlessly attacking and oppressing those who don’t buy into their ideology. But it’s convenient to ignore that historical perspective if it runs counter to one’s agenda. On the other hand, perhaps all the nations and peoples against whom they’ve committed brutal acts of violence and terrorism are somehow also responsible, and only the terrorists are victims.

The people whose agenda it suits to blame America refuse to consider the possibility that the terrorists might actually hate us for the reasons they claim to hate us. — Because we are the great Satan, and they see our culture as an abomination to Allah. Their law requires victims of rape to be stoned and beaten. They torture and execute homosexuals. They arrest and imprison women for showing their faces, arms, or ankles in public, or for talking to any man to whom they are not related. They execute people for speaking out against their government. In a culture where these affronts to human liberty are strictly enforced by law, why is it so hard to conceive that they find our culture, with all the freedoms we cherish, to be an abomination? Until and unless we’re willing to give up the inalienable rights that we hold to be self-evident, and submit to Shari’a, we will continue to offend.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who hold on so tightly to these romantic notions of our enemies have ever been outside of this country. They seem to assume the rest of the world enjoys the same fundamental rights and freedoms we take for granted here. They seem to assume that everything bad they hear about our enemies is just political rhetoric, and that those governments are really no worse than ours. (In fact, they seem to assume ours is the worst.) This is not just naivete, but willfull naivete.

I’d like to ask those people who really think we’re the bad guys the following questions. 

  • Do you believe they don’t really treat women as property, and punish them for crimes committed against them, or do you believe that’s ok?
     
  • Do you believe they don’t really torture and kill homosexuals for offending Allah, or do you believe that’s ok?
      
  • Do you believe they don’t really execute people for being critical of their government, or do you believe that’s ok?
     
  • Do you believe they don’t really fund and train terrorists to blow up international civilian targets, or do you believe that’s ok?

I’m just curious, do you not believe these things really happen, or do you not believe they’re evil? Or do you believe that they happen, and that they’re evil, but that we are somehow worse than they are?

There really are bad guys out there in the world. And the Jihadists really are bad guys. They are not innocent victims of America’s rapacious hegemony. Nevertheless, people will believe what they want to believe. But why they want to believe that America is always the villain is truly an enigma to me.


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Published in: on February 16, 2008 at 2:23 pm  Comments (59)  
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