Instead, the wrath of the Muslim Street is elemental and existential (read The Al Qaeda Reader to fathom all the twenty or so excuses given by bin Laden for his hatred of the U.S.). It can be explained in terms something like this: Islamists have convinced the Arab masses that their present mess (so easily fathomed in a globalized world in second-by-second, instantaneous comparisons with other cultures — via cell phones, the Internet, DVDs, and cable television) is not their own fault.
Discussions of the pernicious effects of endemic tribalism, misogyny, statism, anti-Semitism, fundamentalism, religious intolerance, xenophobia, and anti-modernism are taboo. So there is never serious reflection about self-induced pathologies that keep fostering a Saddam Hussein, Muslim Brotherhood, and Ba’ath Party, or the preconditions that throughout much of the 20th century made the Arab world so susceptible to Hitlerism, then Soviet communism, then Baathism, then Western authoritarianism, then authoritarianism, and, then, or rather always back to, Islamic radicalism. The Middle East is not fascist, communist, Baathist, pan-Arabist, or Islamist, so much as it is screwed-up-ist and blame-them-ist.
If all these -isms did not exist, we would have to invent them and others as well to find scapegoats for self-induced misery. The Islamist explains to the illiterate masses that they are poor and angry because, despite their renewed zealotry and supposed ancient majesty, the evil Westerners have, quite unfairly, all the power, wealth, and influence — and yet don’t deserve it, given their godlessness, decadence, and corruption. Westerners obtained their preeminence through “crimes” like Zionism, colonialism, imperialism, etc., at a stage of Islamic vulnerability, when Muslim sellouts betrayed the Prophet and joined the enemy. And thus true believers, by sheer force of religious fervor, can slap down these Westerners, as was true in the ancient past. Presto — go torch an embassy and empower me as you leader!
That exegesis for millions in Cairo is far more comforting advice than something a bit more mundane like “treat women equally” or “look at the world empirically” or “take apart your cell phone and see how it works.”
3. Blaming Us, Not Them
The worst response to radical Islam has unfortunately become the present administration’s postmodern, so-cool policy. The Cairo fable, the al Arabiya “Bush did it” interview, the euphemisms (e.g., “man-caused disasters”), the insanity that Maj. Hasan’s murdering threatens our diversity programs, trying KSM in New York, reading Mutallab his Miranda rights, serial trashing of Guantanamo, James Clapper’s laughable assurance that the Muslim Brotherhood is “secular,” NASA’s all-important Muslim outreach, etc., at best remind the Islamists that Westerners would hardly be so self-abasing if there were not something to be ashamed about.
Our hesitancy confirms their accusations and, at worst, suggests that we are also weak and without a sense of self — and so will do very little if a true believer were to kill a diplomat, storm an embassy, or shoot Marines. And when you add in fiscal insolvency, looming defense cuts, and presidential boasting about killing bin Laden and Predator assassinating, this administration had done just enough high-fiving and spiking the ball to incite the anger of an Islamist, but not nearly enough concrete action to remind him of the dangerous consequences of such primitive anger.
Worse, in some ways, are Obama’s feeble attempts to separate himself from the history and values of the United States — almost as if to say, “They did it, don’t blame me!” Remember, Obama objected that he was but a near-infant and so blameless when Daniel Ortega to his face enumerated all his fabricated hurts against America. (If the president of the United States will not defend America in front of a communist dictator, who will?)