Interesting article in the Age today by Robert Pape, professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism on the reasons behind the bombing campaign by terrorists.

According to him, it’s not a war about ideology and religion, it’s purely anger about western forces in the middle east and in other islamic nations. He doesnt quite go as far to say that these guys are freedom fighters but I think the implication is there.

He paints a persuasive incomplete picture, choosing to ignore much of the statements from the terrorists themselves who paint it as a battle of cultures and as a religious war.

He also seems to ignore that there is a primary difference between this bunch of suicide bombers from other suicide bombers involved in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Kashmir and the West Bank. This bunch views the entire Islamic world as a single entity from which all western influences must be purged. It isnt a nation state they’re dying to defend, Islam doesnt differentiate between state and church, politics and religion. Its an ideal *Islamic* nation state that they are dying to *create* often against the wishes of the majority of the Muslims they purport to represent.

As with many who bring up this argument, he stops short of advocating the withdrawal of all troops from the middle east. He merely wants people to see the real reason behind the terrorists actions. But the implication is there I think.

I’ve been getting more and more disturbed by much of the left’s reactions to the bombings. It is appearing to me that their rabid anti-americanism especially their hatred of Bush and Howard is clouding their judgement when it comes to the motives and desires of these terrorists.

Wise up. These people are not freedom fighters, they are Islamic revolutionaries. While they may hate the Americans and Bush just like you do, do not be fooled into thinking that the enemy of your enemy is your friend.


Let me state my prejudices.

I have a visceral dislike for Wahabism although I can dilute this statement by saying that my dislike extends to any puritanical, fundamentalist religion. I am especially unimpressed by its non-secularism and growing up in Malaysia, the thought of any form of religious court sticks in my libertarian craw. Of course, western laws themselves still bear elements of religious values, some much more than others. And religion-associated parties and lobby groups try assiduously to influence policy making. I probably dislike their attempts to push their poorly-disguised religious beliefs as societal values as much.

Having said all of that, a person’s religion is their business and I have no real problem with vibrant Islamic communities (even if they happen to be wahabis) coalescing in Australia, instituting their own schools and places of worship and persuading local authorities to institute segregated bathing nights at local swimming pools.

In my free market way, I view multi-cultural communities (or ghettoes if you will) as a great way of creating competition and innovation in culture. The more cultures, the more choice there is for individual citizens. And if it happens that a developed western liberal democracies (complete with materialistic individualism and free-ish market capitalism) cannot compete in this popularity contest (or alternatively population growth contest), then so be it.

My only caveat is that competition, of course, should be limited to non-violent means, something which some particularly devout adherents of certain puritanical fundamentalist religions and certain political ideologies seem unable to do.

But given that, I suppose that part of my position is that I believe that the western liberal democratic (complete with materialistic individualism and free-ish market capitalism) way is inherently superior in both appealing to the selfish and slightly hedonistic side of most people and delivering the goods to that side. Plus, I believe that the simple message of “So long as I’m not hurting anyone, there’s no reason why I cant do what I want to” is inherently more appealing to variants of “Don’t do such and such because the elders/god/supreme authority said so.” which puritanical religions all seem to push.

OK, so maybe the latest spate of bombings in London have shown that it’s not a guarantee but I maintain my own particular brand of faith in that eventually, bombings or no, provided that poverty can be alleviated and inter-cultural rivalry remain on the simmering but polite level, then most people are eventually going to move towards a more relaxed and tolerant liberalism.

I’ve seen it happen in the more prosperous Muslim population within Malaysia and I think it’s likely to happen here as well. So long as not too many bombs go off and revenge mosque burnings happen that is.