The world’s most dangerous, powerful and pathological hatred isn’t racism or anti-Semitism, homophobia or sexism. It is anti-Americanism – consuming, obsessive, utterly irrational hostility to the United States, its people and its culture. Until we stop trying to understand or explain this antagonism, and recognize its unreasoning and self-destructive core, we will never be able to confront it effectively.
The anti-Americanism that inflames much of the Muslim world hardly represents some cry for help, or a comprehensible response to failed U.S. policies. After Sept. 11, there can be no doubt that this hatred qualifies as sick and evil – it needs to be punished and rooted out, not respectfully analyzed.
Ironically, the same “enlightened” souls who understand the importance of battling other forms of obsessive hostility, prefer to temporize when it comes to anti-Americanism. Paul Hollander, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, makes the point that liberal opinion applies a double standard in response to the attacks of Sept. 11. “America’s homegrown critics hold the peculiar conviction that if hatred of the sort that led to the destruction of the World Trade Center is directed at the United States, there must be good and justifiable reason for it,” he writes in The Washington Post. “Yet these same critics never seem to take such a position in regard to victims of other hate crimes … Nor do they seek to ‘understand’ or plumb the ‘root causes’ behind the actions of the wife beater or those who assault or murder gays.”
He is exactly right, of course. When three brutal ex-convicts killed James Byrd in Jasper, Texas by dragging him to death behind their pickup truck, no one paused to ask what message the thugs were trying to send.
And when it comes to the millions of Jews who faced liquidation in Hitler’s Europe, historians make little effort to figure out what, precisely, the victims had done to make Der Fuehrer so terribly angry.
With racial and religious antagonisms, we understand that rage can flourish with no basis in reality, serving no practical purpose. Such hostility destroys the hater as surely as it harms the hated. The brutal misogyny of the Taliban, for instance, doesn’t elevate the life of the Afghan male. We recognize that this oppression impoverishes and corrupts the entire society. Why, then, do we assume the Taliban’s fury at the United States makes more sense than their twisted hatred of females?
The irrational nature of anti-Americanism emerges most clearly when facing a question raised by our most fanatical adversaries: How would the world change if terrorists got their wish and the United States collapsed or disappeared? If the mighty engine of American productivity broke down, would that provide more food, cars or computers for the rest of the world? Would Saudi Arabia suddenly devise a way to drink its oil if America no longer proved able to purchase it with dollars?
Assuming that America’s Muslim allies – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan – gave way to new, Islamic fundamentalist regimes, why would those successor governments turn out to be more peaceful and prosperous? And even if the removal of the U.S. led to the destruction of Israel (and the massacre of Israelis), would the resulting Palestinian state magically enjoy harmony and justice among its heavily-armed Hamas and Fatah factions – let alone peaceful coexistence with its chronically jealous, constantly warring Islamic neighbors?
Muslim rage against the U.S. has little to do with the alleged “crimes” of the “Great Satan.” Consider the far harsher history of relations between Russia and the Islamic world, including truly genocidal wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya; long-standing support for Milosevic, mass killer of Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims; and the betrayal and abandonment of one-time allies in Syria and Iraq. Despite this record, the al-Qaida network has largely ignored Moscow and Leningrad, and never denounced Russia as the source of all the world’s evils.
Unfortunately, Islamic anti-Americanism gained force and virulence by its virtual merger with the western “anti-Globalism” movement, which similarly identified America’s economic strength as the reason for other nations’ failures. Never mind the fact that no one attempted to explain why selling low-cost phones or hamburgers, or creating new factory jobs, somehow damaged the welfare of consumers and workers in developing nations. Anarchists in black ski-masks ardently believed that smashing store windows in Seattle would feed starving masses in Bangladesh, and logic never intruded on their impassioned anti-Americanism.
Once we understand this hatred as no more rational than racism, we can combat it without apology. We can also establish that rhetorical outbreaks of this antagonistic obsession, even when unaccompanied by physical violence, play an important role in the promulgation of the pathology. Vicious expressions of anti-Semitism contribute to a climate of brutality that makes mass murder possible. So too do outrageous expressions of America-hatred facilitate violence against the USA. Academics and movie stars who solemnly denounce all other hate crimes, should shun the similarly enraged, irresponsible and profoundly risky denunciations of the very nation which remains the sole guarantor of their safety and free-expression.
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