Jewish World Review Sept. 27, 2002/ 21 Tishrei, 5763
If by that they mean the State Department's "Visa Express" program for dodgy young Saudi males or the over-subsidy of Mubarak's squalid regime in Egypt, then I'm with that 75 percent. But I suspect most respondents mean that, in some vague way, the United States was insufficiently ''nice'' (as Canada's idiot prime minister put it the other day) to the Middle East. And that somehow the ''arrogance'' of American foreign policy provoked an inevitable response.
Listen up, folks: Don't beat yourselves up, there's plenty of crazy Saudis willing to do it for you. I don't have a problem with attempts to identify the ''root causes'' of 9/11, only with the particular root cause everyone settles on--to wit, poverty. The late Osama bin Laden was a wealthy man. Loaded. Mohammed Atta and most of the other killers belonged to the privileged middle class. Omar Sheikh, who kidnapped and beheaded the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, is a British ''public'' (i.e., private) schoolboy and graduate of the London School of Economics. Saddam Hussein's personal fortune is estimated at $7 billion, a career in public service in Baghdad being rather more lucrative than one in, say, Copenhagen. And let's not forget the representative two or three hundred Saudi princes currently accompanying King Fahd on his convalescence in Spain. A lucky London escort agency has landed the contract for servicing the Saudi swingers: The gals all have to be blond and they're replaced every two weeks, having been thoroughly, er, exhausted by then.
So we could increase foreign aid. It would enable Saddam to expand his anthrax factory and the House of Saud to rotate its hookers every 48 hours. But would it do anything else? Under the terms of the Camp David accords, Egypt has been the beneficiary of the largest amount of U.S. aid apart from Israel. What's happened to it? In the 1950s, Egypt and South Korea had more or less identical per capita incomes. Today, Egypt's is less than a fifth of South Korea's.
The campus left haven't had an original idea since Vietnam, so ask 'em what's to blame for Sept. 11, and they fall back on that old standby ''global poverty,'' the growing ''inequality'' between rich and poor. Let's spell it out: There's no such thing. The story of the last 30 years is the emergence of ''a new world middle class,'' as Professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin calls them in his study "The World Distribution of Income." This class is made up of some 2.5 billion people in the developing world, whose standards of living now approach those of the West. That's to say, roughly half the people in the developing world are doing pretty well economically. As Virginia Postrel wrote in the New York Times recently, taking the world's population as a whole, in 1998 ''the largest number of people earned about $8,000, a standard of living equivalent to Portugal's.''
Why hasn't the Middle East shared in this economic growth? Because they're failed states run by kleptocrats who govern by clan and corruption. The West could quadruple aid to the Arab world and it would have zero effect on either poverty or terrorism.
OK, forget poverty. Let's take the broader point of those 75 percent of poll respondents, the underlying assumption that there's some kind of accommodation you can reach with these guys so that they'll cease flying planes into Manhattan landmarks. What is it the Islamists want?
In the words of Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah: ''We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.''
But maybe that's just his opening position, and we could reach some sort of compromise--if not with Massawi, then with more ''mainstream'' figures in the Islamist movement such as Sheik Muhammad al-Gamei'a, an Egyptian big shot who was the imam at the Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque in New York at the time of last September's unfortunate example of the price of American arrogance. Back in October, the big-time Westernized imam thought it was all to do with America's Jewish influence: ''You see these people all the time, everywhere, disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism, and drugs. Because of the Jews, there are strip clubs, homosexuals, and lesbians everywhere. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world.''
Hmm. Sheik al-Gamei'a and those 75 percent of respondents are in agreement: America brought the attacks on itself. They differ only on the details: Western self-loathers think it's because of "arrogance,'' lack of niceness; the sheik puts it down to decadence, Jews, lesbianism, Budweiser, etc. Already, one can see the parameters of a potential settlement emerging:
The Islamists want to kill all the Jews. What about if we split the difference and just kill half of 'em? They want to behead all the sodomites. What about if we offered, say, 40 percent?
The Islamists have no negotiable demands, and no conceivable changes to U.S. policy will deflect them. And the more inventively you try to ''explain'' the Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated, the more you risk sounding just as nutty as them. Take former President Bill Clinton (please), who thinks Sept. 11 was blowback for 1095 .:
''Those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless. In the First Crusade, when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem, they first burned a synagogue with 300 Jews in it, and proceeded to kill every woman and child who was Muslim on the Temple Mount. I can tell you that that story is still being told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it.''
You know something? Call me an ''arrogant cowboy,'' but I honestly think I am blameless for the First Crusade. It was 1095. That's 907 years. Even Paula Jones would have settled. If ever there was an occasion for the great Clintonian invocation that ''we need to move on,'' a grudge over the First Crusade is surely it.
President Bush has to confront the real root causes--the comprehensive failure of the Middle East's various despotisms. If you've a different theory, let's hear it. But no offer to al-Qaida or Hamas or the other Islamists short of the West's conversion and submission to Islamic law will stop them from wanting to kill you. Memo to the American people: It's not your fault.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is Senior Contributing Editor of The National Post. Comment by clicking here.
08/23/02: Battered Westerner Syndrome inflicted by myopic Muslim defenders