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January 24, 2005

Comments

Sebastian, you're slightly wrong. Hafez Assad wiped out the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, a muslim fundamentalist organization, that was in no way connected with Arafat and/or the palestinians.
A concise report on the Muslim Brotherhood is here.

And very important in that respect: The Assad family are Alawites, which is the most secular/moderate of muslim sects, which has a centuries old tradition of interaction with the non-muslim world, living on the coast of the Levant.

You are quite right, most of Arafat's dealings with Syria have taken place through the Lebanese intermediaries. Sorry about conflating the two.

Another wrinkle. Why is it Islamic sojourners to the West end up being a fertile ground for terrorist recruiting as opposed to Hindu, Asian or numerous other races or creeds that have similiar interactions with the West?

There is something about Islamic tradition that makes it more likley to spawn a terrorist against the West.

One of the things that frightens me most is this "they hate us for our freedom" trope. It's silly, reductionist pop-psychology that masks a fairly simple claim: (a) when our interests and theirs conflict, and (b) they seem to keep losing the conflict, then (c) they take steps to win the conflict. That doesn't excuse their "steps," or indicate that our interests are wrong or given too much weight. But it does describe the conflict in a fairly standard way we which we recognize from prior experience. (For example, you can see red state interest in federalism b/c of desegregation, gun laws, and abortion in that light, and you can see present blue state interest in federalism in the same light). The "they hate…" formulation seems like cover to make a standard problem seem novel, thus justifying weird and novel policies. And that is simply inaccurate.

I could write a long, long comment on this, but no time just now. So, briefly: I think Matt Yglesias is just wrong about this: "the noteworthy and appalling lack of liberalism and democracy among Arab governments appears empirically to have only a tangential relationship to the actual psychology of jihad." A person living in a Western country whose roots and family are in a repressive Middle Eastern country could still be furious at the repression in that ME country, even if s/he doesn't live there; and could moreover be furious at (what s/he takes to be) our involvement in maintaining that repression.

SomeCallMeTim, I don't understand your objection. The interests that seem to clash revolve around the temptation--often explicitly sexual temptation--that our freedoms provide. That is why it is much more of a societal clash than a governmental clash.

"The "they hate…" formulation seems like cover to make a standard problem seem novel, thus justifying weird and novel policies. And that is simply inaccurate."

With a suitably loose definition of 'interests' this is of course true. The problem is that these interests are much more fundamental than those often fought over. Even in the abortion debate, the point being argued is a small subset of human behaviour. One of the reasons that "they hate us for our freedom" seems useful to some people is because the points of contention are so numerous and fundamental to our society.

Hilzoy, I think you are right about the this:

A person living in a Western country whose roots and family are in a repressive Middle Eastern country could still be furious at the repression in that ME country, even if s/he doesn't live there; and could moreover be furious at (what s/he takes to be) our involvement in maintaining that repression."

If you are going to talk about the actual "psychology of jihad" you should realize that psychology doesn't have to derive from the place you are now. It can often derive from the place you have been, or the something you identify strongly with. Many of the Muslims from immigrant cultures in Europe are strongly discouraged (both internally and externally) from becoming assimilated citizens of the countries which they inhabit. This strengthens ties (both real and imagined) between such people and their 'home' countries.

Excellent post, Seb, but I would note that when you write this

This is fueled by apparent disgust at certain Western expressions of freedom (especially sexual freedom among women) coupled with rage at the apparent impotence of Islam when faced with keeping large numbers of its children from falling into the temptation those freedoms offer

that if I subbed liberal for Western and conservatives for Islam, I think the statement would still be true.

This is not to play gotcha, it is just to note that I think there have always been the disaffected among us, but we now have a situation where the technology that has given us so much more individual freedom has now allowed those disaffected not only to wreak more havoc (think Tim McVeigh) but allows them to link up. One could argue that the relaxation of ethical notions within modern society has allowed this, but given the fact that in Japan, Asahara Shoko was able to organize Aum Shinrikyou. I am sympathetic with the notion that there has been a breakdown in many ethical barriers, but the answer is not in demanding that such barriers be reinstituted by fiat (you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube) but to encourage a wider range of people and groups to think about the issues and express their opinions, and to use social pressure and public disapproval to isolate groups that color outside the lines.

Previous attempts to deal with 'terrorists' (loosely defined) has been to create a propaganda atmosphere that put them (or the most extreme fringes of the various groups) outside the boundaries of the defined civilized society. (think anarchists, or communism in western Europe immediately after WWI) This approach is no longer going to work because the government cannot control the levers of propaganda the way it was able to. The problem is to increase and elevate human responsibility to the heights that we have developed our freedom to do things.

This CT post about a movie might be of interest in regard to this, though a good movie can skew things toward the point of view that the director wants.

Sebastian: The interests that seem to clash revolve around the temptation--often explicitly sexual temptation--that our freedoms provide.

If you really think that, you need to do a lot more reading on Middle Eastern politics.

Sexual freedom/sexual temptations make good material for hate-speech, whether it's President Bush whipping up bigotry against gay people or Pat Robertson being hateful about feminists or some Saudi cleric proclaiming how women musn't be allowed out unless they're wearing a burqa.

But Osama bin Laden's issues with the US have nothing to do with the sexual freedom permitted in the US - indeed, many right-wing politicians use hatred of gay people or of sexually-independent women (which latter is usually coded as being "pro-life", but means "against legal abortion, access to contraception, and sex education") much as radical Muslims do: to gain unthinking support from people who assume that because their leaders pay lip-service to their cultural values, they must be doing the right thing as regards wider political issues.


The discussion of radicalized Arabs living in Europe could just as easily apply to other diaspora groups -- Muslim or otherwise -- and the role they have played in supporting/financing terrorist or insurgent organizations in their countries of origin. Think of the Albanian diaspora in the US/Europe funding the KLA, the Irish Catholics in the US funding the IRA, the Tamil disapora funding the LTTE, etc, etc. It would be interesting to ask why, in so many cases, members of the diaspora are more radical than those still living in these countries.

The fact that in this case the target is "us" has prompted a lot of navel-gazing and trite conclusions about why they "hate our freedoms". But I don't think any of it is helpful at getting to the real source of support for radical groups.

"that if I subbed liberal for Western and conservatives for Islam, I think the statement would still be true."

It might be true, but it certainly isn't true to the same intensity. The sentence "It radiates heat" is still true whether or not 'It' is the sun or a 100 watt bulb, but the magnitude is rather different.

Same response to the last part of Jesurgislac's post, with one additional point.

I don't agree that bin Laden uses hatred of our freedoms as a mere rhetorical device to gain power. Or rather I don't see evidence that is true. If he were using it as merely a rhetorical device he could have consolidated power without doing things like attacking New York city.

The discussion of radicalized Arabs living in Europe could just as easily apply to other diaspora groups -- Muslim or otherwise -- and the role they have played in supporting/financing terrorist or insurgent organizations in their countries of origin. Think of the Albanian diaspora in the US/Europe funding the KLA, the Irish Catholics in the US funding the IRA, the Tamil disapora funding the LTTE, etc, etc. It would be interesting to ask why, in so many cases, members of the diaspora are more radical than those still living in these countries.

I think you note something important, but remember they fund groups fighting in their orign countries--not in the countries they currently inhabit. That is very different from a French immigrant from Algeria supporting attacks against the United States--a country which he has no ties to and has never visited.

"Syria is curiously not famous in the West for the fact that it stopped Arafat and his Palestinian terrorists from becoming a menace by being willing to level a whole city to get at a nest of terrorism. "

Doubtless, that is because it was the Saudi-sponsored Muslim Brotherhood that Assad had his brother wipeout, rather than Palestinian terrorists under the thumb of Yasser Arafat, who for all of his ties to terrorism was not an Islamic fundamentalist but rather a leftist nationalist who later tacked toward the Islamist side when it became politically useful for him to do so. I think you're getting Hama confused with Black September.

I think you note something important, but remember they fund groups fighting in their orign countries--not in the countries they currently inhabit. That is very different from a French immigrant from Algeria supporting attacks against the United States--a country which he has no ties to and has never visited.

Good point, but I think that only answers part of the question. It all comes down to identity -- how do you identify yourself? -- and it seems clear that many members of diaspora groups identify themselves strongly with some of the more radical factions living in their countries of origin. I would have to review the literature but I'm pretty sure I recall seeing studies claiming that the level of radicalization (for lack of a better word) among diaspora groups is higher than among the general population in the country of origin. (In cases of long-term civil conflict, it's easy to speculate that diaspora groups get all of the thrill of identifying with the struggle being waged without having to pay the price of living through decades of conflict.)

How does that sense of identity translate into support for anti-Western jihadists? I don't know. But I do think it's important to examine how that strong sense of identity is formed in people who have never set foot in the countries they seem to think they are defending. Sure, in this case we are talking about a radicalized political philosophy directed against an external target, i.e. not in the home territory. But that is a construct of the radical philosophy itself, not the people who support it, be they in the Middle East or Detroit.

Sebastian: I don't agree that bin Laden uses hatred of our freedoms as a mere rhetorical device to gain power. Or rather I don't see evidence that is true. If he were using it as merely a rhetorical device he could have consolidated power without doing things like attacking New York city.

I do not see that attacking New York City, or Madrid, is evidence that Osama bin Laden "hates us because of our freedoms". Nor do I see how you manage to get from one to the other. The attack on the WTC, or on the Madrid commuter trains, was not an attack on queer liberation or feminism: it's apples and oranges.

It might be true, but it certainly isn't true to the same intensity. The sentence "It radiates heat" is still true whether or not 'It' is the sun or a 100 watt bulb, but the magnitude is rather different.

Granted, the magnitude is somewhat different, but you too see the resemblance, yes? So, Jim DeMint "hates us because of our freedoms" and this is his motivation for becoming a US Senator? I'd disagree, even though I think DeMint's anti-freedom rhetoric is probably sincere.

Praktike, yes see comments #1 and #2. :)

And BTW, despite my misidentification, I think the point being made holds true--suggesting that regimes which are willing to kill 20,000 people almost at random by shelling a city to stop a terrorist organization are evidence that lack of freedom doesn't lead to terrorism seems a little silly. Syria could just as easily stand for the proposition that a sufficiently repressive regime can kill of terrorists faster than it generates them.

"I do not see that attacking New York City, or Madrid, is evidence that Osama bin Laden "hates us because of our freedoms". Nor do I see how you manage to get from one to the other. The attack on the WTC, or on the Madrid commuter trains, was not an attack on queer liberation or feminism: it's apples and oranges."

You switched thoughts on yourself. You seemed to be arguing that he merely uses hating America as a rhetorical device to gather power for himself in the Middle East. Such a rhetorical device does not require attacks on the US. Actually hating America, on the other hand might lead to attacks on the US.

"The attack on the WTC, or on the Madrid commuter trains, was not an attack on queer liberation or feminism: it's apples and oranges."

No, it is an attack on the civilization which produces things that bin Laden hates--especially queer liberation and feminism. It isn't comparing apples and oranges--it is comparing under the classification of fruits (ahem).

You seemed to be arguing that he merely uses hating America as a rhetorical device to gather power for himself in the Middle East.

Nope. Read what I actually wrote. Your argument was, at January 24, 2005 12:26 PM, "The interests that seem to clash revolve around the temptation--often explicitly sexual temptation--that our freedoms provide." I quoted this and responded to it at January 24, 2005 12:53 PM, pointing out that Osama bin Laden's issues with the US really don't have anything to do with its sexual freedoms, though they make good material for hate speech (as President Bush, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and numberless other American right-wing politicians/pundits know well).

Trying to conflate Osama bin Laden's reasons for hating the US with a hatred for Western civilisation represented by sexual freedom will merely confuse you. (And, as others have pointed out, lead to the belief that right-wing Americans "hate us because of our freedoms"...) Read Middle Eastern history. Hell, read the recent history of Afghanistan.

"It might be true, but it certainly isn't true to the same intensity."

What do I care how much they hate us? My interest is described by some (unknown) formula like (intensity) * (ability to affect me). Radical Islam has close to zero ability to effect me directly. If they hammer us, we hammer them (See, e.g., Afghanistan). Red-staters have (with all of gov't in their control) an enormous ability to effect me. So even though my differences with Red-staters are significantly smaller, I am significantly more worried about them than radical Islam.

This is just an attempt at some form of risk assessment. That Pubs use of the "They hate us..." formulation is evidence to me that they are bad at just that sort of assessment. Given that they are making major claims on various std. rights, their inability to properly understand the world and the risks involved worries me.

Jesurgislac, you seem to have just argued "I didn't say X, what I said was X". I can't understand the distinction. It looks to me like X=X.

I am affirmatively arguing that Islamic societies are threatened by (they would say find repugnant) many aspects of what we call freedom. Most viscerally they react to sexual freedoms including homosexuality, feminism, the idea that you can choose who you marry, etc. They view exposure to Western society as a corrupting influence. Either you limit exposure to the corrupting influence, or you must attempt to remove the corrupting influence. Bin Laden attempts to force us to remove all Western influence from the Middle East, but that is impossible.

You seem to be arguing that is just a pose, a rhetorical device: "Osama bin Laden's issues with the US really don't have anything to do with its sexual freedoms, though they make good material for hate speech ."

Fine. What are his real issues then?

Time for yet another drive-by comment that won't get at the main issue, just peripheral points.

First, about this: "This is fueled by apparent disgust at certain Western expressions of freedom (especially sexual freedom among women)". When I think about attitudes towards Western sexual mores in many Middle Eastern countries, I find the following thought helps. In many Middle Eastern countries, sleeping with someone you're not married to can get you killed. This means that a lot of Muslims have not had to figure out what other reasons there might be for sexual restraint, which in turn means that they imagine that in Western societies where sexual mores are not so strict, people just have sex all the time (or: as often as one might feel like in the absence of all inhibition.) Certainly, as a Western woman travelling in the Middle East, I noticed that a lot of men behaved towards Western women as though they had no clue that there might be times when you can have sex but decide not to; it was )I used to think) as though they were liquids which would flow out until they encountered an obstacle they couldn't get around, rather than solids which have their own form. And I put this down to an undeveloped sense of what, other than sin and the prospect of having a woman's family kill you, might make sex a bad idea. (Note: the general phenomenon has nothing to do with Islam in particular, imho; it's the same thing that makes many college freshman get into trouble during the period between their arrival at college and their realization that there are reasons for doing your work, not drinking whenever you feel like it, etc., other than their parents' telling them to.)

This means that what they imagine we're like is a lot worse than the reality; and it's also a partial answer to the question: why, since both Christianity and Islam condemn sex outside of marriage, do Muslims in general regard it as more completely horrifying to think of a society in which different people have different sexual mores?

About people living in Europe: I think it's hard to overestimate the psychological difficulty of being from a culture that you regard as being under siege, and living in the midst of the besiegers. Some people manage, but others end up, I think, needing to cling to some identity or other, and when their Muslim/national identity is attenuated, as it often is for immigrants, that identity ends up a being caricatured one.

Somewhat different but possibly relevant story: during my freshman year in college I lived on a hallway that the powers that be had set up so that every room had one black and one white student. (Gotta love subtlety.) Partly as a result, for the first six months or so, most of my friends were African-American. Then one day (literally, one day) all but one of my black friends dropped all their white friends. This was, as you might expect, incredibly hard, especially since there wasn't much in the way of explanation. I would have thought they were just dropping me, which I would have found comprehensible, had it not been for the others who were dropped simultaneously, at least one of whom was such a nice person that I truly couldn't imagine how anyone could take exception to her. And I did know that my friends had started spending a lot of time at what was called the Third World Center, where, apparently, they frowned on people having white friends. It was all sort of awful.

Anyways, I was talking about this with someone very wise, who said: think about what it must be like to be black at any Ivy league school, and especially Princeton (which was for ages the Ivy Southerners attended, since there were no blacks). Most of your black friends are middle or upper class, which is to say, they are already unusually privileged. Now they have found themselves at this very, very white place, and it would be completely understandable if they started wondering: what on earth does it mean for me to be black anyways? Am I being completely co-opted, or turning into someone who might as well be white? It must be really, really confusing.

And I thought about this, and it seemed to me that this person was probably right. I had never really asked myself, just how white is Princeton?, but once I did, the obvious answer was, very, very, very white. And of course it would be confusing to be there, if you were black: confusing about what it meant, what your race meant, what having a 'black identity' meant, or even what one was. I also noticed one interesting thing that hadn't struck me before: that the one black friend of ours who had not dropped all her white friends all at once was also the only one who was from a seriously poor black inner city neighborhood, and not from the middle or upper class. Now: I completely deplore the idea that one's black identity should have anything at all to do with things like poverty and being from a ghetto, but I also think that she was the one person among my black friends who had absolutely nothing to prove about whether she was 'really' black at all.

None of these reflections made me think that what my (ex-) friends did was right -- it wasn't -- but it made it an awful lot easier to understand, and also made me think a lot about race, in ways I hadn't before.

The relevance here is not just that it seems likely to me that kids from Muslim countries growing up in Europe feel similarly lost, but also that if you find yourself feeling as though you have to prove something about your identity or your loyalties, you are likely to do so in a more extreme and caricatured way than someone who does not have any such thing to prove.

you're the vanessa I think you are right?

(that's my big sister everyone).

"It would be interesting to ask why, in so many cases, members of the diaspora are more radical than those still living in these countries."

Theory 1: They left, and they left for a reason. I'm thinking of the Cuban exiles--not that they're terrorist supporters (though there is that Orlando Bosch case, but they tend to be a lot more hardline than the domestic opposition. The Vietnamese refugee community in America is also for the most part really really pro Vietnam War, which surprised me at first but makes perfect sense.

But you'd expect this to maybe moderate over the generations...it doesn't explain things like Irish-Americans who've been here for close to 100 years funding the I.R.A. And radicalism in France is supposedly increasing, not decreasing with the generations.

Theory 2: "(In cases of long-term civil conflict, it's easy to speculate that diaspora groups get all of the thrill of identifying with the struggle being waged without having to pay the price of living through decades of conflict.)"

It makes sense. But,

counter-example 1: most American Jews are more dovish than most Israelis, I would guess. But not a very strong counter-example, because a) a lot of the most radical settlers are from the U.S., and b) the diaspora's been living in the same place longer than the citizens of the "mother country"--this is unusual and maybe unique.

counter-example 2: on average I would imagine Muslim-Americans are actually a heck of a lot more moderate than Muslims living in the Middle East...maybe it's just that the more radical diaspora is counterintuitive, so we notice that and don't notice assimilation?

Which brings me to theory 3:
The difference is less about politics than resources--diasporas tend to be wealthier and better educated than the people who stayed behind. Even if the community as a whole is as moderate or more moderate than those who stayed, there will usually be some radicals and they will have the ability to have a disproportionate impact. They will be richer & better educated, and if you're talking about anti-Western terrorism, they will already be near the targets. Is Mohammed Atta more radical than a given Palestinian suicide bomber? Both are willing to murder civilians and kill themselves--but Atta has the visa to get on a U.S. airplane, and the money to buy the ticket, and the education and ability and knowledge to recruit associates, and evade airport security, and hijack the airplane and fly it into a skyscraper before people in coach even know what's happened. That Atta murders thousands instead of three or four may be less about radicalism than capacity.

Obviously it could be--almost certainly is--a combination of these factors and others that I haven't thought of.

question 1: How do the views of Muslims in, say, Canada, America, England, France and Germany differ? You get the vague impression from the press that French and German Muslims are the least assimilated, followed by English, followed by North American. Is this true?

question 2: If it is true--how well do these factors correlate with the differences?
a) immigration, naturalization & housing policies.
b) total population of Muslim immigrants.
c) whether immigrants come mainly from the same country or area of the Arab world, or from all over?
d) the timing & reason for the emigration?

As for the "hate us for our freedom" thing:

1) If you're talking about sexual freedom, it is a plausible argument. Do you think that's what Bush was trying to imply with "they hate us for our freedom"? Better not tell James Dobson....Bush is pretty clearly trying to argue that it's our political freedom they hate us for, which is a whole lot less plausible. Obviously political freedom and sexual freedom are linked--free speech, the separation of church and state, legal equality for women and gay people, access to contraception all overlap. But in case you hadn't noticed, the President and some of his most devoted supporters are not exactly 100% on board for all that stuff. When they talk about it, they usually talk not so much about "our freedom" as about "feminazis", "secular humanism," "the war on Christmas", "the radical homosexual agenda", "erototoxins"...you get the idea. Which is not to suggest that they're anywhere comparable to Bin Laden in this regard, either in their ends (I am pretty confident that Bush is cool with women's suffrage, my right to hold a job and not wear a burqua, the existence of Jews, etc.) or their means, but it is enough to make liberals roll our eyes.

2) "You seemed to be arguing that he merely uses hating America as a rhetorical device to gather power for himself in the Middle East. Such a rhetorical device does not require attacks on the US. Actually hating America, on the other hand might lead to attacks on the US."

Isn't there an intermediate possibility here? Specifically, that his goal is to gain power in the Middle East, but he sees the U.S. as an actual obstacle to be eliminated, and not just a convenient rhetorical punching bag? You know, all the stuff about cutting the head off the snake and fighting the far enemy before the near enemy.

Not that I don't think he hates us, or that he will stop if we leave the Middle East tomorrow. If you're only motivated by geopolitical strategy, you don't let your spokesmen make statements about your "right to kill 4 million Americans—2 million of them children—and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands more." But that he hates us does not tell us why he hates us.

I also think that Bin Laden's motivations matter a lot less than his followers'. I've seen it argued that Iraq helped us because it enabled to withdraw troops from Mecca and that was a greater provocation. For Bin Laden it probably was. For most Muslims, and even most Al Qaeda recruits--I don't buy it.

I'm not sure that they hate us for our freedom as much as our freedoms keep puttin idears into the heads of younger brothers and wimmin-folk.

My understanding is that in Islamic society the Patriarch is the ruler and the only family member other than he with any real rights is the eldest son (and even he with reservations, like who he marries). Imagine you're invested in this concept but the West keeps showing younger sons/brothers and women that they should have control over themselves. This has gotta frighten or tick off the patriarchs and the eldest sons because that control is a large part of their place in society right?. Now imagine you're a younger brother (like Osama) and first your father and then your eldest brother has pretty much complete control over your life. That'd be frustrating alone, but if you're a tiny bit invested in that, I'd guess that a society espousing freedoms of any sort for the one group (women) who are below you on the food chain would frighten and tick you off too.

That's a lot of testosterone frightened about their position in society, all of it based on control over others who the West thinks oughta have control over themselves.

So, its not about sexual freedom or any of that, its about freedom to do anything, even that which is not against Islam, without the permission of not just any man, but a specific man in the family.

Sebastian: Jesurgislac, you seem to have just argued "I didn't say X, what I said was X". I can't understand the distinction. It looks to me like X=X.

Eh, well, clearly I'm not explaining what I meant clearly enough. I meant, simply, that I think you are wrong to argue that the reason radical Muslims, in particular Osama bin Laden, hate the US is because of the US's sexual freedoms. If you didn't intend to make that argument, well, we're just shouting in agreement, but it certainly looked to me like you were trying to make it.

I am affirmatively arguing that Islamic societies are threatened by (they would say find repugnant) many aspects of what we call freedom. Most viscerally they react to sexual freedoms including homosexuality, feminism, the idea that you can choose who you marry, etc.

Ah, but that's a different argument, and one that in my opinion, Katherine has presented the case against much better than I could: so I'll sit back and let you answer her points, if you can.


"If you're talking about sexual freedom, it is a plausible argument."

Didn't one of the intellectual founders of one the recent strains of radical Islam behind Al Qaeda (maybe Qutb?) travel to America and find the sexual freedom here an affront? I thought something along those lines, well, stimulated some of the animus towards us.

Do you think that's what Bush was trying to imply with "they hate us for our freedom"? Better not tell James Dobson....Bush is pretty clearly trying to argue that it's our political freedom they hate us for, which is a whole lot less plausible. Obviously political freedom and sexual freedom are linked--free speech, the separation of church and state, legal equality for women and gay people, access to contraception all overlap. But in case you hadn't noticed, the President and some of his most devoted supporters are not exactly 100% on board for all that stuff.

Trying to parse out exactly how separate our political freedoms are separate from our religious freedoms as different from our sexual freedoms is an exercise in futility in this context. I strongly suspect that Muslim extremists don't bother making these distinctions. Our sexual freedoms make them think we are corrupt, our religious freedoms seem sick, our political freedoms are incomprehensible. The hate them all.

I agree that bin Laden's own motivations are less important than those of his followers, but I think those of his followers are fairly expressed above--especially those who are able to live in the West for long periods of time and then attack us. Which is to say the really dangerous ones.

note also that I'm not arguing that it's either/or, as far as hating us for sexual freedom, women's rights, etc. v. hating us for our political actions. First, he could hate us for both. Part of the reason our interference in the Middle East is so unacceptable is:
1)we are infidels and
2)we are propping up the corrupt, Westernized governments against the radical Islamists' effort to create a theocracy. I don't know if the Taliban was bin Laden's ideal government, but it was apparently quite satisfactory, and Saudi Arabia's not hard core enough, so....OTOH deny that our role in the Middle East might also have a lot to do with it is just silly.

I think Bin Laden's grievances are more about political and economic and military actions than the first and fourteenth amendments and all the dirty dirty things they lead to. But I also think his "hey, I LOVE freedom, you don't see me attacking Sweden" shtick is a dishonest political gimmick, and a pretty transparent one at that.

Sure, I don't have any trouble admitting that if we weren't strong and powerful AND had a seductive economy we probably wouldn't be attacked. The problem is that bin Laden wants a Middle East free of Western influence--and by influence he means military and social influence. And we can't remove the social influence. We just can't. Hence, we fight.

I'll also toss in the (baby) elephant in the room - our support of Israel will remain provocative to fundamentalist Muslims regardless of any other factors. We serve as the far enemy acting in concert with the near enemy. It can be convenient to demonize the US in order to draw attention away from local issues or to rally support amongst diverse economic, ethnic or geographic groups.

(In view of what's going on in that other thread, let me add that I'm not in any way making any value judgment here about our relationship with Israel. I'm just talking about the impact of that relationship with respect to radicalized Muslims.)

I've been convinced that you can't separate SEX out from all of this stuff. It would be unduly reductionist to say this whole conflict was all about SEX, but no more so than it is to say that it is all about freedom.

I'm just rubbing the sleep from my eyes and after wandering through that train wreck of the comments on the other thread, I'd just point out that when Seb notes
It might be true, but it certainly isn't true to the same intensity.

I certainly accept that point, but would note that if these problems stem from the same root (conservatives in society feeling stymied by changes in the way people live), a solution towards one is a solution towards the other. Otherwise, it is the situation where the trope of 'they hate our freedoms' is simply a way of whipping up hatred.

As JerryN perceptively notes, hatred of the US is a 'twofer', in that conservative Islam can use the US as a external enemy (it's worked quite well in Cuba). We help that dynamic by lending our support to secular governments that repress Islamic movements and using Islamic movements to attack or overthrow governments we don't like but then not finding a way of granting them any legitimacy (I think the Muslim Brotherhood is, in this regard, a pretty amazing case study). To relate this to the thread where we were discussing the correctness (or not) of the attack on Afghanistan, one reason I supported that was the hope that we would try to work towards a solution to this problem.

Also, in regards to the other thread, I would point out to Jes that the very last bit of this

so I'll sit back and let you answer her points, if you can.

is needlessly inflammatory.

Finally, Praktike's comment brings to mind a Cringely column which had this observation.

Back in 1986 I talked Penthouse magazine into giving me an assignment to write the story: "How to Get a Date in Revolutionary Iran." The premise was that hormones are hormones, and those wacky kids in Tehran, most of whom could still remember the Shah, had to be finding some way to meet members of the opposite sex. So I headed off to Iran to find out the truth. If you are interested in such stuff, the only time a single man and woman not from the same family could be together in private back then was in a taxi (he being the driver), so all the teenage boys who had or could borrow cars turned them into taxis. This, of course, put all the power in the hands of the woman since she could see him but he had to take pot luck.

I suggest, slightly facetiously, that the reason OBl isn't attacking Sweden is that they handle sex so much better than us...

liberaljaponicus: is needlessly inflammatory.

Perhaps so. Apologies.

liberaljaponicus, are you saying that Iran has mobiru ravu hoteru?

liberaljaponicus, are you saying that Iran has mobiru ravu hoteru?

well, I don't think they will make the mistake of calling them turkish baths...

"well, I don't think they will make the mistake of calling them turkish baths..."

Heh. I actually went to one of those in Turkey -- a real one, not a special one -- and man, was it painful. I'd much rather just take a hot shower.

Heh. I actually went to one of those in Turkey -- a real one, not a special one -- and man, was it painful. I'd much rather just take a hot shower.

I was told by friends in Istanbul that hammams there were kind of a competitive thing for guys: going to the ones where they really treated you rough proved your manhood. For women it was much nicer. Having my hear washed by a middle-aged lady reminded me strongly of being a child and have the same thing done by my mother ;-)

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