Liberals and Terrorism
Among liberals, there is a widely held belief that says that while 9/11 was a horrible act, and that there is no excuse for those who perpetrated it, the United States is not free of all blame. Those who follow this line of thought think that the 9/11 attacks were a response to America’s foreign policy, and we would be well advised to take a look at those causes. As NIC chairman Chas Freeman said “[A]nd what of America’s lack of introspection about September 11? Instead of asking what might have caused the attack, or questioning the propriety of the national response to it, there is an ugly mood of chauvinism. Before Americans call on others to examine themselves, we should examine ourselves.”
First, it’s worth noting that the idea that 9/11 was motivated by U.S. foreign policy is one of the most blindingly obvious suggestions imaginable. Of course 9/11 was due to anger over American foreign policy—that’s hardly a major revelation. Nobody needs to ask themselves what caused 9/11—it was caused by anger over America’s power and (it must be said) arrogance in foreign policy. (Were there other reasons? Of course, but I think that that one works for a simple analysis).
So most people can agree that America’s foreign policy was responsible, at least in large part, for 9/11. The question is: what should we do with that information?
Most liberals appear to think that America should take this information and alter our foreign policy in response. If we know why terrorists strike, and change in response, terrorism will cease (or at least slow) because the pool of potential terrorists will dry up due to lack of incentive.
Further, this line of thought gives terrorists some degree of moral equivalence with America. After all, America has been guilty of crimes as well—Palestine, Serbia, Iraq. (Are those instances actually examples of American wrongdoing? They are for many liberals, and definitely for radical Muslims). So the difference between 9/11 and U.S. foreign policy is one of degree, but not type. (In fairness, the difference in degree here is incalculably large).
This theory is unsound. Assume, for the moment, that American foreign policy is flawed. Should we really change it as a response to mass murder? That would seem to provide an incentive for terrorists. After all, if a proper response to terrorism is to “examine ourselves” (in the words of Chas Freeman), terrorism would be a pretty effective policy persuasion tool.
Has America always been blameless? No, and Americans should constantly examine their country’s actions. But that examination should be done as a part of the democratic process, and not in response to the murderous actions of terrorists.
But even apart from the incentive factor, changing U.S. policy in response to terrorism serves to legitimatize terrorism. “Chauvinism,” at least to some degree, is the proper response to terrorism. When faced with a terrorist attack, the question should never be “what do they want?” Rather, it should be “how might this sort of thing be prevented?”
Liberals, at least most liberals, seem incapable of understanding that point. They try to assign as little blame as possible on the mindset that caused 9/11. This is probably an example of the intense Amerocentrism common on the Left—the idea that the U.S. is responsible for everything, good or bad, that goes on in the world. Since 9/11 was a major world event, leftists can’t imagine that it could possibly be the result of forces beyond U.S. control.
This attitude towards terrorism is destructive, not to mention stupid. It gives terrorists the two things they want most: power and legitimacy. And that isn’t the foundation for an effective anti-terror policy.