I would say that it must have been amateur hour at Antiwar.com after reading the response from the site’s assistant editor, John Glaser, to my column deconstructing Ron Paul’s foreign policy views, but I suspect that every hour is amateur hour there.
Like Don Quixote before him, Glaser seems to be expert only at chasing windmills and slaying straw men. For instance, Glaser writes “Weinstein would have us believe that America hadn’t been intervening in the Middle East prior to 9/11.”
Oh, would he? Sorry, Charlie, I wrote nothing of the sort. What I did ask in the piece, in response to Ron Paul’s suggestion that occupation creates terrorists at last Monday’s GOP primary debate, was which Muslim country was America forcibly occupying before 9/11? I still await an answer (and no, don’t say Saudi Arabia).
Glaser then spends time discussing al Qaeda’s grievance that America supports dictatorial regimes in the Middle East that al Qaeda considers apostate. This, too, I mention in my article, but only to note that coming from al Qaeda, this grievance is hardly compelling. What disturbs the group’s members is not that American support of dictatorial regimes in the Middle East has prevented liberal democracy from flourishing, but rather that it has prevented al Qaeda and aligned Islamists from replacing one form of tyranny with another, crueler kind.
Laughably, Glaser mentions America’s “violent no-fly zones” in Iraq as an agitation of bin Laden pre-9/11. I suppose Glaser would have preferred that America allowed Saddam Hussein to have slaughtered the Sunni Kurds in Northern Iraq and the Shia Arabs in Southern Iraq — the very thing those “violent” no-fly zones prevented. If so, say so. But let’s not pretend that it is a worthy complaint Americans should pay attention to and search our souls about.
What is interesting is that Glaser seems to think al Qaeda cares about Muslim suffering. To the contrary, post-9/11, al Qaeda’s indifference to Muslim suffering has been put on full display through a brutal campaign against its “brethren” in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, which has in fact turned much of the Muslim world staunchly against the organization and its gruesome, Muslim-killing tactics.
In a follow-up blog post on Antiwar.com, Glaser takes aim at my suggestion that there is not sufficient evidence to say, as Ron Paul did last Monday, that al Qaeda intentionally sought to draw America into a larger war in Afghanistan with the 9/11 attacks.
Again, Glaser sets up a straw man, saying that I argued “there is no evidence for the belief that al Qaeda’s aim was to drag the U.S. into a costly war in Afghanistan to bleed us dry à la Soviet Union.”
In fact, I argued that there is some evidence — I even linked to a letter in which Osama bin Laden made that claim — but all the evidence I have seen comes after the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, I presented significant evidence from pre-9/11 to suggest that al Qaeda didn’t believe America would launch a major military response to the attacks.
The onus is on Glaser and his ideological friends to prove otherwise. As it stands, the post-9/11 evidence strikes me as ex post facto justifications, especially in light of the pre-9/11 evidence I presented. But I am open to changing my mind on this matter — I am just waiting for the pre-9/11 evidence!
Glaser says my “greatest mistake” is “equating reiteration of al Qaeda’s motivations with justifying the attacks.” I’m sorry, my friend, but if you incessantly harp on the motivations of al Qaeda while critiquing American foreign policy, the message you are sending is that America ought to search its soul to understand why al Qaeda did this. The implication is that we did something indefensible to al Qaeda which understandably compelled them to respond in some way.
In the end, Ron Paul, John Glaser and those of their ideological ilk miss the larger point. Every American enemy can cite grievances, as al Qaeda certainly has. That doesn’t make them legitimate grievances, ones that we should work to placate. What’s more, beyond the grievances, al Qaeda has clearly articulated an overall mission that would remain constant even if the United States were to leave the Middle East entirely after joining hands with Islamists to liquidate Israel and return Spain to a newly formed caliphate. And that overarching goal is to create a worldwide caliphate under strict Sharia law through a doctrine of offensive jihad.
In a long letter in Arabic (likely written by Osama bin Laden himself) to the Saudi religious establishment that al Qaeda thought was too accommodating toward the West, al Qaeda made clear that it believed “Offensive Jihad is an established and basic tenant of this religion. It is a religious duty rejected only by the most deluded.”
It went on:
“There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.”
In the end, al Qaeda’s members aren’t motivated by grievances. They are motivated by what they believe is a higher calling, one that can’t be appeased. You cannot negotiate with those who harbor such ambitions, you can only defeat them, destroy their capacity to wreak havoc in pursuit of their evil aspirations and combat their appeal. This is not only an imperative vested in absolute American national security interests, but it has the added benefit of being a moral one too.
How we go about doing this is open for serious debate. But first it would be helpful if Ron Paul, John Glaser and their followers would understand the real, long-term motivation of our enemy.