by Austin Bay
June 4, 2003Why do they hate us?
The first mistake behind
this classic American question is a guilt-laced assumption -- assuming "they"
is a representative sample of the planet and "hate" is the culprit
The popular origins, political abuse and greedy
media leverage of the American public's proclivity for guilt trips are fodder
for a library's worth of books. From lunatic left to ridiculous right,
the American strength of self-critique has a tendency to end with
self-blame. Maybe the folks who hawk the "Puritan origins" myth have a point,
even for allegedly secular Americans. "Forgive us Lord, we've done wrong" --
and no doubt we have in numerous circumstances -- becomes "Good God, we
caused this mess. Why, observe the anger of the Arab street." Or plug in any
group with a grievance.
The charge made by international
critics that America is dangerous is true. America has been dangerous since
1776 -- dangerous to autocrats and the vicious elites that still control much
of the planet.
Liberty remains a threat to the autocrats, as
it remains a great hope to those they oppress. If you doubt this, then you
are blind to the toppling statues of Saddam. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince
Abdullah can give The New York Times his plans for Mideast peace, but don't
ask him about the oppressed in his own kingdom. Very few in Saudi Arabia have
the guts to raise that lurking issue -- it leads to jail, or
A few will, with great care. In a souk in a Saudi
port, I drank a cup of tea with a Shiite jewelry dealer. Sometime in the
conversation about nothing too important, he asked me what it's really like
in Texas. That's when I asked, "What's it really like for a cosmopolitan Shia
trader in a land run by a Wahhabi-radical Bedouin tribe?" Bottom line: It
isn't easy. Eastern Saudi Arabia has a lot of Shia Arabs, but you won't find
them cropping up in the official religious statistics.
are we unpopular at the United Nations? Consider the U.N.'s membership list.
Most of the so-called nation-states are anything but. Sure, they have Rand
McNally borders, but they aren't modern states rooted in legitimate, popular
authority. These hoaxes are areas controlled by the primitive sovereignty of
tyranny, empires of fear where autocrats (often backed by a favored ethnic
group, a tribe with a flag) call the shots.
Yeah, they hate
us. The autocrats running the fake states hate us because they fear the
liberty that empowers us will encourage their oppressed to topple
And that's happening. Satellite Tv puts the First
Amendment in orbit around the globe; the Internet slips it into every home.
The USSR's evil Stalinist apparatus couldn't handle the globalizing First
Amendment. Post-Cold War thugs can't, either. Communications technology
undermines the dictators. Who "programs" the First Amendment? We can kavetch
about Hollywood's often smutty fare, but the truth is every American programs
the First Amendment. That scares the tyrants.
So they hate
Which leads to the other embedded complaint directed
at America -- we're powerful. Quick lesson in the counter-intuitive: The
U.S. political system is based on a system that seeks to check and balance
power. That system, imperfect as it is, is the source of what the
French disdainfully call the American "hyper-power." Our system permits
creativity and experimentation -- in politics, in economic endeavors. That's
a threat to fossil bureaucracies everywhere, including the one governing from
the Champs Elysee.
Little wonder those bureaucrats despise
us. Religious fanatics attacked us on 9-11. Parse Osama bin Laden's
complaints, and the United States is somehow responsible for events eight
Bin Laden, a truly old-time reactionary, did
come up with a new wrinkle -- turning airliners into ballistic missiles.
Osama showed us that the technology of mega-death is no longer solely
controlled by national governments. With nuclear and chemical weapons, the
small tyrants (North Korea) and the tiny terror gangs (Al Qaeda) can threaten
a hundred million innocents. International means for controlling these
killers are demonstrably inadequate. The Untied States has the military and
political power to defeat them.
Hyperpower? As one
Malaysian Muslim told me last fall, there is no other country capable of
leading the necessary fight.
So what if the killers hate