Why Do They Hate Us?
By David Wallechinsky
Ten years after I wrote this essay, many Americans continue to insist incorrectly that the 9/11 terrorists attacked us because “they hate our freedoms.”
Back on October 11, 2001, pro-American sentiment around the world was as strong as it had been since World War II. But George W. Bush’s bullying “you’re with us or you’re against us” attitude put a quick end to that window of opportunity. When he invaded Iraq, a nation with no connection to the 9/11 attacks, he made the American reputation in other countries much, much worse.
When I first posted this piece ten years ago, some Jewish friends criticized me for saying that Israel could not survive without US financial aid. It is true that this aid represents just 1% of Israel’s gross domestic product. However, there continues to be a disconnect between the way Americans perceive their government’s Middle East policy and the way it is perceived by Muslims.
Americans like to think that we support ending dictatorships and replacing them with freedom and democracy. The US deposed Saddam Hussein in Iraq, spoke out against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and fought against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. But this righteousness has been selective. George W. Bush literally held hands in public with King Abdullah, the head of the Saudi dictatorship, and Barack Obama was filmed and photographed bowing down to him. When the Saudis sent troops to Bahrain to crush the pro-democracy movement, the US gave silent support. The Obama administration recently proposed dropping aid restrictions to the brutal regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. In the Muslim world, this behavior is viewed as the same old pre-9/11 strategy of ignoring the human rights abuses of despotic regimes if the dictators have something we want (usually oil or access to military bases).
The best homicide detectives, while investigating serial killers, try to understand the thinking of their adversaries. The best generals try to understand the mindset of their enemies before going into battle. The same process applies to fighting terrorism. As I said ten years ago, there is little that can be done to change the minds of fanatics. However, by looking at the actions of the United States from the point of view of potential enemies, it is possible to significantly reduce the number the people who actually try to commit terrorist acts against us.
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