Do America's Policies Create Terrorists?

For all their philosophical differences, Republican/Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul and President Obama have found an area of agreement: terrorism is a reaction to flawed American foreign policy. To them, it is a political reaction that then lends itself to extremism, rather than an ideology that makes followers view current events with as much perversion as they view everything else.

On December 28, during a debate on Larry King Live, Paul said that “they are terrorists because we are occupiers.” On January 5, President Obama said that Guantanamo Bay was “an explicit rationale for the formation of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the affiliate responsible for the Christmas airliner plot. This actually isn’t accurate, but this statement still substantiates the arguments of terrorists that they are simply responding to the actions of the U.S. and the key to stopping them is to stop provoking their anger. The truth is that al-Qaeda was already in Yemen before the controversy over the prison even began, and the terrorist group was targeting us long before Guantanamo Bay was even cited as an example of injustice.

Americans, surrounded for the most part by debate based on rational-thinking philosophy, struggle to understand totalitarian ideologies like that of radical Islam. In America, people generally react with violence only under the most extreme stress and provocation, so there is an inclination to assume that we did something to spark this reaction. This leads to the mistaken but common belief that somehow anger at American policy naturally results in terrorism as an act of final resort to change it, but political opposition does not translate into supporting theocracy, the killing of civilians, and the other extremist tenets of radical Islam.

Most of the world opposes American policy, yet this disagreement does not turn into suicide bombings and beheadings outside of the Islamic world. Without this inherently dangerous ideology in place, this dispute does not result in extremism of this kind. Without the ideology glorifying such attacks, this progression does not occur, and even if our foreign policy was changed to not be so “aggressive” in the eyes of the world, the nature of the ideology means the end result would be the same. For all his claims that he’s simply trying to stop American imperialism, Osama bin Laden himself admits this. Let’s look at how he handled the question of whether he was solely motivated by politics, as quoted in Raymond Ibrahim’s The Al Qaeda Reader.

Bin Laden says:

Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue -- one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice -- and it is: does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually?

He then answers his own question:

Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: [1] either willing submission [conversion]; [2] or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; [3] or the sword -- for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.