Why They Are at War with Us

January 14th, 2010

By Tom Carter

I disagree with Pat Buchanan more often than not.  However, in a recent column he asked and answered questions about why Islamic extremists, al-Qaeda in particular, are at war with the West and particularly with the U.S.  We routinely denounce the religious extremism of the backward culture that spawns them, but we don’t often look at things from their perspective.

Buchanan noted the President’s recent, belated statement that “We are at war. We are at war against al-Qaida, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred….”  Then Buchanan asked, “Why is al-Qaida at war with us? What is its motivation?”

He answered his question by reference to the expert, Osama bin Laden, who declared war against us in 1998:

First, the U.S. military presence on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. Second, U.S. sanctions causing terrible suffering among the Iraqi people. Third, U.S. support for Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians. “All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his Messenger and Muslims,” said Osama. …

To Osama, we started the war. Muslims, the ulema, must fight because America, with her “brutal crusade occupation of the (Arabian) Peninsula” and support for “the Jews’ petty state” and “occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there” was waging war upon the Islamic world. …

Americans are being killed for the reasons Osama said we should be killed — not because of who we are, but because of where we are and what we do.

As Buchanan accurately points out, U.S. casualties in Iraq have fallen quickly, to the point where we suffered no deaths in Iraq last month.  Why?

Because we no longer conduct raids, patrol streets, kick down doors and pat down suspects. We have ended our combat operations, withdrawn to desert bases and seem anxious to go home. When we stopped fighting and killing them, they stopped fighting and killing us.

By contrast, we can expect casualties in Afghanistan to escalate apace with increased troop strength and more combat operations.  Gen. Barry McCaffrey has said that we must now prepare for 300 to 500 killed and wounded every month in Afghanistan by summer. 

We threw the Taliban out of power, imposed a corrupt puppet national government on them, and are preventing them from re-taking their country.  Of course they’re going to fight back, and “We will bleed in Afghanistan as long as we are in Afghanistan.”

Are we in Afghanistan to fight terrorists who have attacked us in the past or will attack us in the future?  Not at all.  Al-Qaeda and their like have moved on to Pakistan, Yemen, and a lot of other places.  We’re wasting our time, our blood, and our treasure in Afghanistan.

I want to be careful not to be misunderstood.  As might be supposed from my background, I don’t much care what motivates our enemies.  When we are attacked, we should relentlessly hunt down and kill our enemies.  Allah can sort their souls out later in terms of their motives. 

But shouldn’t we fight our real enemies instead of other folks who don’t present a threat to us?  And if fighting them provides additional motivation to our real enemies, aren’t we shooting ourselves in our own feet?

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10 Responses to “Why They Are at War with Us”

  1. d |

    Good article,Tom. They do have a side and they are human,they are trying to stop us,they are our enemies,but deserve to live their lives and religions without our interference.

  2. Brianna |

    Well, if there are no Americans in the Middle East, then Americans won’t get killed in the Middle East. That’s easy enough. Can’t kill people who aren’t there.

    I agree that America made itself a target by interfering in Middle Eastern affairs. Not in the sense that we deserve to get attacked, but definitely in the sense of calling attention to ourselves. And I agree that these actions help draw people to the cause of terrorism who wouldn’t be otherwise. But I do not think these are the fundamental motivations of the terrorists, any more than I think that the well-being of humanity is the goal of hard-core environmentalists or economic prosperity is the ultimate goal of our current administration.

    Islam is, quite simply, a “my way or the highway” religion. The more seriously you take the faith, the more likely that is to be true. America does not go Islam’s way, and never will (nor should it). And until we find some way to resolve that, there will always be tensions and conflicts between the Middle East and the West.

  3. Tom |

    As I said, we need to relentlessly hunt down and kill those who have attacked us or plan to attack us. Aside from that, I’m happy to leave them to themselves. We ought to have learned by now that we can’t “convert” these backward, primitive people to democracy (Bush), and we can’t kiss up to them enough to make them like us (Obama). As long as they don’t threaten us, we should simply maintain good diplomatic relations with the countries of the Middle East, even providing development assistance if they want it and if it’s in our interest to do so. If the various religious factions, tribes, and clans want to periodically butcher each other, they can have at it.

  4. Brianna |

    I agree with your strategy. But I wanted to point out that if you don’t have any Americans in Iraq, then casualties in Iraq will go down for reasons that have nothing to do with the attitude of the locals. While I’m sure some of the drop in casualties can be attributed to the fact that Iraqis are happy we are leaving, I doubt we’re suddenly their new best friends.

    I guess I’m also just more pessimistic than you are about the terrorists’ motivations and whether a cessation of hostilities on our side (assuming we even could) would do anything to lessen hostilities on theirs.

  5. larry |

    I feel that your appraisal of our Muslim adversaries may be a little to kind and gentle. To think that our absence from Arab lands and the deserting of Israel will stop them is a bit dangerous to say the least.

  6. Tom |

    I don’t say we should be “absent” from Arab countries, and I certainly don’t advocate eliminating or even reducing our support to Israel. Check the article again.

    My point, in partly agreeing with Buchanan, is that it doesn’t do us any good to fight Muslims in their own lands when we aren’t fighting in defense of our vital national interests.

  7. BK |

    It is logical that if we are in an offensive stand in another’s land, the patriotic would surely stand up against the offensive external party; as can be seen in the many cases in history. Thus you made a very good that we should be targeting the offensive and not the folks that do not present a threat.

  8. Elizabeth |

    Re your comment: “We threw the Taliban out of power, imposed a corrupt puppet national government on them, and are preventing them from re-taking their country.”

    According to the two Afghans I’ve talked to, one of whom was involved in sensitivity and culture training for the military here in the West, the Taliban are invaders. They are Arabs, not Afghans. Their language is different and so is the type of Islam they bring to Afghanistan. Apparently when they invaded, they were surprised to see mosques; they had believed they were liberating a very primitive people. Afghans, on the other hand, regard the Taliban as primitive. The man who is now involved in training the military told me he was abused by the Taliban because he was a medical student–and had pictures of women in his textbooks. The other didn’t see the light of day for two years and was beaten daily. His crime? He had demanded to know why the Taliban were in his country.

  9. Tom |

    Elizabeth, the Taliban are Afghans (mostly ethnic Pashtuns). Some have returned to their homeland following periods of exile, and there are a few foreigners fighting with them.

    Here are a couple of good sources on the history and origin of the Taliban (here and here).

  10. Elizabeth |

    Thank you for the links to these well-written articles. I don’t really know how to explain my informants’ views, particularly those of the medical student/military trainer. Is it possible he just met more foreign Taliban wherever he was in Afghanistan? However, I do believe that your sources indicate that the Taliban type of Islam has not been the norm, historically, in Afghanistan.

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