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Via U.S. News and World Report, a little postscript to yesterday's FOIA column. So, we're all familiar with the two caricaturish polar views in the "why the terrorists hate us" debate. There's the "no marginal terrorist" theory, on which we're hated pretty much exclusively for being so darn free, and there's not much point contemplating whether any U.S. policies might be unnecessarily swelling the ranks of the other side. And then there's the "terrorism as really-angry picketing" view, on which Al Qaeda just happens to share Noam Chomsky's foreign policy worldview. That in mind, guess the source of this quotation:

Insurgents may publicly cite…alleged "provocations" to justify their actions, but that reflects propaganda, not cause and effect….The attacks will continue regardless….

And then there's the suggestion that detailed information about abuses by U.S. soldiers in Iraq would:

aid the recruitment efforts and other activities of insurgent elements…and increase the likelihood of violence against United States interests, personnel, and citizens worldwide.

The former is from an ACLU filing seeking the release of further images from Abu Ghraib; the latter is Gen. Richard Meyers, opposing their petition. Both arguments have a certain amount of power, but what's interesting here is that in terms of broad ideological affinities, you might well expect the quotations and the quoted to be transposed here. Cases like this suggest, I think, that folks on both sides ultimately recognize full well that the dynamic is a good deal more complicated than the polarized Sharks-Jets face-off that often passes for foreign policy debate might suggest.

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  1. There’s the “no marginal terrorist” theory, on which we’re hated pretty much exclusively for being so darn free, and there’s not much point contemplating whether any U.S. policies might be unnecessarily swelling the ranks of the other side.

    I suppose some might think this, but there is another variation of the “no marginal terrorist” theory, which is that Islamist terrorism is predominantly driven by the internal dynamics of the Islamic world (Wahhabism, madrassas, dictatorship, lack of opportunity, the destabilizing/chaotic effects of globalization and accelerated change, etc.).

    In this view, US policies and activities aren’t that much of a radicalizing factor, and don’t really result in that many more hardcore Islamist terrorists being poroduced, although they may contribute to us being a target.

  2. I’ve been meaning to post a long ramble on this on my own blog for a while; with luck I’ll be able to get to that in the next couple days.

  3. “Cases like this suggest, I think, that folks on both sides ultimately recognize full well that the dynamic is a good deal more complicated than the polarized Sharks-Jets face-off that often passes for foreign policy debate might suggest.”

    Even if we don’t release the rest of the Abu Gharib photographs, “the insurgency” will go on regardless. I have little doubt that the “the insurgency” will make effective use of further Abu Gharib photographs as recruitment propaganda for more jihadis, but I have other concerns as well.

    The benefit of living in a society that doesn’t tolerate torture is that you get to live in a society that doesn’t tolerate torture. This is the sort of thing I’m talking about when I say that our rights and our freedoms are worth fighting for.

    …and it isn’t clear to me that the incidents and policies surrounding Abu Gharib would have been adequately addressed without the public release of the original batch of photographs.

    “Concerning the abuses at Abu Gharib, the impact was magnified by the fact that shocking photographs were aired throughout the world in April 2004. Although CENTCOM had publicly addressed the abuses in a press release in January 2004, the photographs remained within the official criminal investigative process. Consequently, the highest levels of command and leadership in the Department of Defense were not adequately informed nor prepared to respond to the Congress and the American public when copies were released by the press.”

    —-The Schlesinger Report, .pdf p. 15 of 126

    I suppose you could say that I’m more concerned about our national character than I am about how effectively “the insurgency” recruits jihadis. Stated another way, it isn’t clear to me that the highest levels of command and leadership in the Department of Defense would ever have been adequately informed or prepared to respond to Congress or the American public without the original batch of photographs. …And if making the highest levels of leadership respond to Congress and the American public requires the release of another batch of photographs, so be it.

  4. Whichever straw-man theory one subscribes to, a society that is open to the flow of information and is honest about its errors will find it easier to win “hearts and minds” in the long run.

  5. This is hardly the first time those with a “broad ideological affinity” for the right abandoned their core belief. Remember, Newsweek lied, people died.

  6. Also, there’s a big difference between “the insurgency” and “international terrorists.”

    There’s nothing contradictory in saying that Iraqis would try to drive out the US military from Iraq regardless of whether the pictures are shown, while also saying that our actions and policies inspire terrorism.

  7. The solutionis simple: If you don’t want people to see you torturing, raping and murdering people, then don’t torture, rape and murder people. Especially not in the name of liberating them from being tortured, raped and murdered.

  8. There’s nothing contradictory in saying that Iraqis would try to drive out the US military from Iraq regardless of whether the pictures are shown, while also saying that our actions and policies inspire terrorism.

    Not contradictory, but not necessarily factual either.

    Perhaps if you qualified “Iraqis” so that it more accurately identified the relatively small group trying to get rid of us, and why, that would be a good start. The Baathists, sure, they are motivated mainly by us.

    I tend to give the Islamist terrorists more credit than to believe that they draw their motivation primarily from us. They are driven, I think, by their culture, which is deeply dysfuncctional in many ways. One of the things driving its dysfunction is its lack of modern and mechanisms for dealing with modernity. We are sort of the poster-boys for modernity, yeah, but really, these folks are Islamist loonies who are anti-Americans, not anti-Americans who happen to go to a mosque.

  9. Julian – we can expand your final sentence:

    “West Side Story II: Occidental Behavior By Orientalists”

    or something like that.

    (snap snap snap)

  10. There seems to be metahyprocrisy on both sides.

  11. There’s a lot of label confusion. I tend to think of local Baathists, etc. as true insurgents, people fighting the occupation in Iraq as “insurgents” and people coming from other countries as jihadis.

    A true insurgency, to my mind, doesn’t want to expel an occupation from some third country, it wants to expel an occupation from its homeland. Jihadis, on the other hand, historically, have fought to expel non-Muslim forces from Muslim lands.

    I suspect some things are true about the root causes of jihadis (and those who support them) that are not true of the true insurgency.

  12. Julian, the Winnipeg Jets no longer exist. They are now the Phoenix Coyotes.

    Go Coyotes!

  13. There’s a lot of label confusion. I tend to think of local Baathists, etc. as true insurgents, people fighting the occupation in Iraq as “insurgents” and people coming from other countries as jihadis. . . A true insurgency, to my mind, doesn’t want to expel an occupation from some third country, it wants to expel an occupation from its homeland. Jihadis, on the other hand, historically, have fought to expel non-Muslim forces from Muslim lands.

    How would you have classified the Americans, Canadians, and other foreigners who went to Spain to help fight Franco?

  14. “How would you have classified the Americans, Canadians, and other foreigners who went to Spain to help fight Franco?”

    Republican sympathizers? That moniker doesn’t seem to fit communists and anarchists well. Indeed, from what little I know, freedom fighters is probably inaccurate.

    Brigadists doesn’t seem descriptive. …It’s a tough call. I might stick with “insurgents”, with the all-important quotes.

    …How ’bout just callig them The Resistance?

  15. Maybe there should be a rule that the photographers can be inspected by citizens, but only in the privacy of voting booths during elections. Then US voters would have the info they need and far-away Muslims wouldn’t suffer marginal inflammation.

  16. err, photos, not photographers

  17. Back in December I wrote about a Pentagon report that clearly said it’s the U.S. foreign policy driving people to sign up as brand new terrorists. In one sentence: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedoms,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” Figures, the time the Pentagon gets something right, nobody listens.

  18. That’s an interesting conclusion, but my first guess would have been rather that both sides are hypocrites who will use any argument to get what they want.

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