Work and Days


Why do they hate us?

Here it is from the horses’ mouths: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, East Timor, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, the Philippines, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Spain (Andalusia). Also listed as casus belli by the terrorists are our shady election campaign finances and practices, and, of course, failure to sign the Kyoto accords, along with environmental desecration. And lest you think W. caused the fury, they also cite as causes of their grief the Queen of England, George Bush, Sr., and Bill Clinton.

I’ve been reading the new The Al-Qaeda Reader forthcoming from Doubleday, a collection of writings and rantings from Osama bin Laden and Dr. Zawhri, and translated by Raymond Ibrahim.

These whines are what the historian Thucydides called prophases, or “pretexts”—or what we should consider simply as fill-in-the-blanks lists for the larger problems of lost honor. Lost honor? (In this regard, read a brilliant recent essay by Jonathan Rauch in the National Journal

Yes, how sad, in their view, that despite all those Muslims, all that oil, all that religious purity, still remains this enormous, this overriding sense of failure and impotence: No nuclear weapons, no Arab-designed internet, no Muslim cell phones or I-pods, no Hamas designed “Apaches and F-16s”. And for the all the brag about the “Hezbollah drone” it still looked pretty pathetic compared to a Predator.

For us in the all-too-rational West, the response is simplistic: get all those furious Hamas militants who chew their Israeli cud for hours on end in the coffee houses of Gaza out at 5AM in the fields to rebuild green houses and begin re-exporting flowers and vegetables to Europe. Mobilize all those Hezbollah Katyusha-carriers to start, India-style, learning English to do outsourcing, or, Chinese-style, to begin putting together Mattel Toys, or, Irish-style, recalling all the PhDs from the Muslim world now at Texas A&M or Florida State to return to Beirut to create an Arabic-speaking antithesis. After all, there is a reason that the Chinese talk of Adidas and Forbes these days rather than the old “running-dog capitalists”.

But, of course, that is quite impossible. It would require giving up, at least somewhat, the Jewish and American bogeymen, an end to memorizing the catchy Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky sound bites, and shedding of some of that “honor” by allowing your son to work where he wants, and your daughter to dress and marry as she likes, and your neighbor to put a cross around his neck if he pleases.

Yet there is one, one small thing we can do to in the West to help out those in the Middle East: quit blaming ourselves and fantasizing what we might do to be liked. Leaving Iraq won’t solve the problem—no more than did saving the Kuwaitis, the Bosnians, the Kosovars, the Afghans from the Russians, or the Somali Muslims from hunger. Giving the Egyptians $50 billion or the Jordanians and Palestinians billions as well didn’t do much either. Indeed, Hamas now considers widening their war by attacking Americans for withholding our largess. You see, we have no right not to give Islamists our millions just because they won’t promise not to destroy our ally Israel.

But what would help is simply this: every time a victimized talking head from the Middle East started in on Israel, Bush, Blair, etc. someone could interrupt and politely said, “Sorry, that’s old. No mas. We are tired of the whining. Go get a life.”

Tough love like that eventually would be worth more to the Arab World than this year’s $500 billion in Middle East’s excess petro-profits alone. As long as foreign money is thrown at the Middle East, and Palestinians are allowed to drone about “honor” and “pride” without objection, rather than how, on their own, to craft an economy, there will never be peace, or happiness—or “honor.”