Skip to comments.The Real Roots of Arab Anti-Americanism
Posted on 11/13/2002 2:59:15 PM PST by Clive
Since last year's attacks on New York and Washington, the conventional wisdom about the motivation behind such deadly terrorism has gelled. The violence, we are often told, was a reaction to misguided U.S. policies. For years, certain American actions -- such as the country's support for Israel and for unpopular, oppressive Arab regimes -- had supposedly produced profound grievances throughout the Middle East. Those grievances came to a boil over time, and finally spilled over on September 11. The result was more than 3,000 American deaths.
Although anti-Americanism is genuinely widespread among Arab governments and peoples, however, there is something seriously misleading in this account. Arab and Muslim hatred of the United States is not just, or even mainly, a response to actual U.S. policies -- policies that, if anything, have been remarkably pro-Arab and pro-Muslim over the years. Rather, such animus is largely the product of self-interested manipulation by various groups within Arab society, groups that use anti- Americanism as a foil to distract public attention from other, far more serious problems within those societies.
This distinction should have a profound impact on American policymakers. If Arab anti-Americanism turns out to be grounded in domestic maneuvering rather than American misdeeds, neither launching a public relations campaign nor changing Washington's policies will affect it. In fact, if the United States tries to prove to the Arab world that its intentions are nonthreatening, it could end up making matters even worse. New American attempts at appeasement would only show radicals in the Middle East that their anti-American strategy has succeeded and is the best way to win concessions from the world's sole superpower.
THE BLAME GAME
For years now, anti-Americanism has served as a means of last resort by which failed political systems and movements in the Middle East try to improve their standing. The United States is blamed for much that is bad in the Arab world, and it is used as an excuse for political and social oppression and economic stagnation. By assigning responsibility for their own shortcomings to Washington, Arab leaders distract their subjects' attention from the internal weaknesses that are their real problems. And thus rather than pushing for greater privatization, equality for women, democracy, civil society, freedom of speech, due process of law, or other similar developments sorely needed in the Arab world, the public focuses instead on hating the United States.
What makes this strategy remarkable, however, is the reality of past U.S. policy toward the region. Obviously, the United States, like all countries, has tried to pursue a foreign policy that accords with its own interests. But the fact remains that these interests have generally coincided with those of Arab leaders and peoples. For example, the United States may have had its own reasons for saving Kuwait from annexation by Iraq's secular dictatorship in 1991 -- mainly to preserve cheap oil. But U.S. policy was still, in effect, pro-Kuwaiti, pro-Muslim, and pro-Arab. After all, Washington could have used the war as a pretext to seize Kuwait's oil fields for itself or demand lower prices or political concessions in exchange for fighting off Iraq. Instead, U.S. leaders did none of these things and sought the widest possible support for their actions among Arabs and Muslims.
When the United States has involved itself in conflicts in the region, furthermore, it has usually been during fights pitting moderates against either secular Arab forces or radical Islamist groups that even most Muslims consider deviant, if not heretical. And in such conflicts, the United States has generally backed parties with a strong claim to Arab or Islamic legitimacy. This trend can be traced back to the 1950s, when Egypt, Syria, and later Iraq became dictatorships friendly to Moscow and menaced Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Even then, the United States, hoping to demonstrate its sympathy for Arab nationalism, sought good relations with Egypt's president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and prevented his overthrow by the United Kingdom, France, and Israel in the 1956 Suez war.
Washington maintained its pro-Arab policy throughout the Cold War, worried that if it antagonized Arab regimes they would side with the Soviet Union. For this reason, the United States wooed Egypt, accepted Syria's hegemony over Lebanon, and did little to punish states that sponsored terrorism. The United States also became Islam's political patron in the region, since traditionalist Islam, then threatened by radical Arab nationalism, was seen as a bulwark against avowedly secular communism.
Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and Editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. His latest books are The Tragedy of the Middle East and Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East.
Well, they learned their strategy from the Democrats, who have always blamed the rich and successful for the failures of the poor and "less fortunate."
The problem could be solved immediately if the Arabs abandoned their goal of destroying Israel and killing all the Jews. As this article points out, many of the leaders in the area hide their own failings by blaming and directing attention and hate toward the Jews and America. That is a lie and nothing will change until the lie is revealed and stopped. All the negotiations and agreements in the world won't end this conflict until then, as Clinton, Carter, and all others have learned to their chagrin.
I read an analogy two days ago. Not all Germans were NAZIS, yet we freely killed them in WWII, and we do not apologize for it. Islam is like that toward us, and when we start the war against Iraq, we will see it for real.