by Eric Martin
Daniel Larison neatly disposes of the latest version of the neo-conservative argument that terrorists hate us for our freedoms/morality - the Sayyid Qutb edition.
...[T]he decadence-as-cause-of-terrorism argument grossly exaggerates the importance of such cultural factors in explaining jihadist violence as a way of distracting us from remediable political grievances. In fact, attacks on Americans and American installations began after we inserted ourselves into the region’s conflicts and began establishing a military presence there. Hegemonists can obsess over the writings of Qutb all they want, but it will not change the reality that anti-American jihadist violence did not occur until the misguided 1982-83 intervention in Lebanon. U.S. and Israeli military operations and policies of occupation provoke much broader, more intense resentment among Muslims than any general dissatisfaction with the decadence of Western culture and its deleterious effects on their own societies. The suicide bomber in Khost was radicalized by the treatment of Gaza, not the performances of Lady Gaga. It might suit a certain type of Westerner to associate fanaticism, political violence and strict moralism, but on the whole this is a misunderstanding and a distraction from the real causes of the problem.
The recent Moscow subway bombings are instructive on this point. The bombings are outrageous atrocities for which there is no excuse or justification, but one would have to be a blind fool to say that Chechen grievances, which outside jihadists have been exploiting for the last decade, are based in morally offensive Russian pop culture. It is acceptable for hegemonists to acknowledge this when Russia is the target of terrorist attacks, but when it comes to acknowledging U.S. and allied policies as important contributing factors we are treated instead to these sweeping cultural arguments and close readings of Sayyid Qutb.
Regarding Israel, there are certainly absolute rejectionists who will never accept Israel’s existence. What is inexplicable is why Israeli and U.S. governments would want to empower those rejectionists by making accommodation and some practical modus vivendi increasingly difficult if not impossible. Settlement-building in itself is not the greatest cause of resentment, but it is the occupation and all its attendant inequalities and humiliations that the construction represents and reinforces that makes it so provocative.
Exactly. In the same sense that there is a tiny fringe of ideologues that might find Qutb's disgust for the decadence of the West intriguing, even inspiring, actual terrorists are motivated to act over far more temporal grievances. Mohammed Atta - for example - was radicalized by images of carnage produced by Israeli attacks on Lebanon. It was when Israel attacked Lebanon in 1996 as part of Operation Grapes of Wrath that Atta drafted his martyr's will, essentially signing his life over to the cause.
Western decadence was much less a factor than Western ordnance.