This is an email I wrote on a political thread where I work. The original topic was about the recent beginnings of a “rebellion” in Iraq and trying to figure out why the invasion made people angry. I think the topic is interesting enough so I may as well also post it here.
Moving to the US has been an interesting experience of differences in imagery, which has a lot to do with people’s seeming confusion over why the US military has not been “greeted as liberators.” Within this country the news is almost entirely shown from the American viewpoint. This may seem logical and/or normal, however within other countries we get other viewpoints. As an example, when the US does an airstrike in Iraq the inevitable headline would be “Airstrike kills 2 suspected militants” whereas throughout most of the rest of the world the headline would be “20 civilians killed by US airstrike.” And that would be the headline in the paper of one of the allies of the US, not an enemy. My point, and I hope I’m not bursting anyones bubble, is that the rest of the world doesn’t view the US as a benevolent super-power who wields its power in the name of freedom and to help the downtrodden (which is how the news usually portrays things). But now people are surprised that an occupied country which has more than the average level of anti-American sentiment (because this is what they were taught) is rebelling? That is absolutely what is ludicrous. (Off on a small tangent it still boggles my mind that Bush and Rumsfeld actually believed this wouldn’t happen. Whoever produced the “we will be greeted as liberators” memo should be fired.)
I don’t want to start a debate on whether this image is correct or not in truth, but the fact that it is the image held by many is true. Over the last century the world has been listening to (or been a part of) US involvement in the political process and dealings of many other countries. Usually the US comes out ahead in these scenarios and most of the time there is also someone who loses. That doesn’t make people happy. Now I’m sure someone will point out “the US isn’t here to make everyone else happy.” However, when there are a lot of unhappy people there will inevitably be some extremely unhappy people, which breeds extremists. So I think sometimes it is within the best interests of a country to not make people of another country unhappy. On top of just actions, declaring to the world “You’re either with us or against us” definitely does not help, in fact I think it multiplies it many times.
So let’s propose a simple theory: more unhappy people leads to more extremism which leads to more terrorism, and less unhappy people leads to less extremism and less terrorism. The first half is currently being proven in Iraq. The second half is more interesting because even though it should be true intuitively Bush is obviously ignoring it as a possible way to combat terrorism. In fact, he seems to be mixing things up and reducing this theory to “more unhappy people leads to less terrorism.” It is in fact true that the invasion and occupation has made more people angry than just those people of Iraq. There have also been many reports in the news of how the intelligence sector believes that the ranks of terrorists groups have increased dramatically over the last year. This is why it still boggles my mind that the current efforts are considered (by some) to be an efficient way to combat terrorism. Does Bush plan to invade the rest of the world and give them all 7pm curfews in an attempt to stamp out terrorism? What scares me, and a lot of people around the world, is that the question is no longer a joke.
Also, if anyone would like to disprove the above theory, I would hope for some examples from history. ie: has there ever been an isolationist country that has suffered from external terrorism?
I guess my overall point is that the US has an image problem. This really shouldn’t be news to anyone, but I think its effects are vastly underestimated. Also, appearing to do the right thing is unfortunately not always the same as doing the right thing.