It’s a tempest in a bra (size 34A, according to a post on WikiAnswers), but some believe that is one piece of lingerie that costs American lives. The furor began when General David Petraeus allegedly said last month (he actually didn’t) that the Israel-Palestine conflict fueled anti-American sentiment and impeded our wars in the Middle East. Then last week, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens wrote that rather than Israeli settlements, it’s Western cultural icons like Lady Gaga that are spurring Muslim anger. The predictable counterattack has seen a flurry of articles that claim that the plight of the Palestinians is indeed the cause.
So do we blame Jerusalem apartments or trashy Western music videos for young Saudis strapping bombs to their stomachs? The answer is neither. As Andrew Exum points out, the Arab world has its own trashy music videos. And if there were genuine sympathy for the Palestinians, we would see young Arabs demanding that their governments grant refugees citizenship instead of penning them in refugee camps. It’s always interesting to see how sympathy disappears when the victim might take your job away.
The truth is that we may never know exactly what mixture of causes foment anti-Americanism. I’m more inclined to blame Muslim fundamentalism on repressive Muslim societies that can’t offer young people freedom or a job.
But what troubles me isn’t the causes, but what we’re supposed to do about them. Sure, if America withdrew from Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel from the West Bank, then Al Qaeda would lose a couple of rallying cries. But then what? There are almost 50 nations that are avowedly Muslim or have Muslim majorities. Somewhere, sometime, there will always be a conflict involving Muslims, whether it’s Russia in Chechnya, India in Kashmir, or a Danish newspaper printing satirical cartoons of Mohammed. When those conflicts happen, the inevitable apologists will pop up to say that it’s our fault and we need to stop doing whatever evil things we’re doing
Wife-beaters will always tell the police that they were provoked. And perhaps their wives really were nagging them, but we still send them to jail because we know that a wife-beater has some deeper flaw or problem than a vocal spouse. I don’t accept that the thought of infidel combat boots on Muslim land, or a bare-midriffed singer on Youtube, will spur a Tunisian to travel 2,000 miles to suicide-bomb an American patrol. If the provocation isn’t Lady Gaga, it will be something else.