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Do America's Policies Create Terrorists?

That quote above is why bin Laden and those sharing similar beliefs wage jihad. It’s not because of who we vote for or because of how we choose to promote our security and values overseas. It’s because the ideology that gives them their sense of purpose commands them to. Extreme anti-Americanism of this kind is the product, not the source, of the radical Islamic ideology. The intent to harm America does not change with policy.

The U.S. intervened to protect Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein. The U.S. intervened to protect the Muslims of Kosovo. The U.S. condemned Russia’s invasion of Chechnya and enabled the Afghan mujahideen to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. The U.S. may send arms to Israel, but U.S. pressure was a critical factor in forcing Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. U.S. aid and taxpayer money flow to the Islamic world. Unlike the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, these actions are not opposed by any Muslim I have heard.

The ideology flourishes because of a few reasons. The first is that tyrannical governments have spent billions to promote it and, without freedom, debate that could limit its expansion is prohibited. This is done by governments to create soldiers against their perceived enemies, to give a pretext with which to carry out internal repression to solidify their rule, and a way to blame their citizens’ grievances against their governance on the influence of the non-Muslims.

Like in the other monotheistic religions, there is a significant guilt factor that must be dealt with as everyone inevitably fails to meet the standards their faith calls for. Blaming the corrupting influence of the non-Muslims or the heretics is a great way of explaining one’s own moral failures, allowing all that anguish to be converted into anger against those holding them back from being pure, and causing a renewed determination to go to extreme lengths to achieve that level of righteousness and, ultimately, salvation. State-controlled media facilitate this process by blaming virtually all domestic problems on the evil Zionist Jews, the Americans, Muslims falling away from their faith, etc.

It also needs to be asked how the hanging of gays, beating of women, and other acts of oppression that occur under radical Islam are a reaction to American policy. When terrorists bomb places like Casablanca and Bali, and al-Qaeda kills eight times as many Muslims as non-Muslims, what does that have to do with Israel, the U.S., and the other so-called imperialistic countries? The common denominator here is that al-Qaeda views anyone challenging its view, Muslims it views as apostates as well as non-Muslims, as enemies needing to be subjugated.

The fact that this ideology relies upon force, state support, and a monopoly on thought shows it lacks merit and will not survive the intellectual combat that comes with a free media, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the other rights that come as part of democracy. The West fears promoting democracy for fear of creating further instability, and indeed we need to take domestic political dynamics into consideration with how we push liberal reform. But in the end, competing ideas must be allowed to flourish in order for this conflict to end.

The statements made by Paul and Obama distort the ideology we are facing. They are not militants fighting for national liberation or people who have been driven to embrace a brutal last resort out of their Western-caused misery. They are jihadists motivated by an ideology with goals that are ultimately not influenced by the policy decisions of non-Muslims -- unless, of course, that policy is submission to Sharia law.