Most Americans are under the mistaken impression that the Arab and Muslim worlds hate America because they hate democracy and our freedom. Or possibly that they are envious and jealous of our wealth. The truth of the matter is that they hate us because we have become the new colonialists of the modern era. We do not like to think of ourselves as colonialists, but it's hard to describe George Bush's Iraq misadventure as anything else.
Many Americans are completely unaware that prior to World War II, we enjoyed significant popularity in those parts of the Arab and Muslim world (which was practically all of it) that were living under the British, French and other European colonialists. The Arabs viewed us as the original "anti-colonialist" nation since we were the first in the New World to rebel against and defeat the European colonialists when we won our freedom from the United Kingdom in the late 1700's.
The Arabs and Muslims clearly haven't always hated us; it is only in relatively recent modern times that they have learned to so as Rashid Khalidi explains in an excellent piece that appears in the Washington Post (I encourage you to read the whole thing):
So it may come as a bit of a shock to learn that the United States has had an uninterrupted military presence in the Middle East for 65 years, dating to 1942. Most Americans would also bristle at the idea that this presence, from the arrival of GIs in North Africa onward, has essentially become a continuation of nearly a century and a half of European military adventures in the region. But history shows a disturbing continuity between what the European colonial powers did in the Middle East, starting with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798, and what the United States is now doing in Iraq and elsewhere. Indeed, the United States has managed in a few short years to do more damage in the region than did the hated colonial powers that were finally driven out only a few decades ago.
We have fallen into the trap of appointing ourselves the "nationbuilders" of the world; a role the British and French prided themselves on prior (and to some extent after) World War II. We have decided for ourselves that what the world wants is to be just like us, and we will stop at nothing to stamp our image on worthy countries around the world (in particular, those that are wealthy in natural resources). Then, we act astonished when this activity engenders a deep hatred among many and instills a commitment in a few to wage jihad against America through the use of violence and terrorism.
Proponents of the Iraq misadventure like to point to Germany and Japan as successful examples of nationbuilding, but Khalidi points out the obvious factors that make those situations far different from what we face in Iraq:
As a general rule, democracy does not grow out of the barrel of a gun. Moreover, few prologues are as unpropitious for the establishment of democracy as war, invasion and occupation. Apologists for the Iraq invasion have suggested historic parallels between Iraq and postwar Japan and Germany, ignoring the fact that the latter had been two of the world's most highly developed industrial powers, with large middle classes and established, generations-old traditions of parliamentary government before they gave way to dictatorship in the 1930s.
Khalidi continues to explain how the ignorance of history and the arrogance of power demonstrated by our leadership led us into the endless quagmire of Iraq:
We are told that Iraq is a recently created, artificial state; and it is, like scores of other states that colonialism carved across three continents. One would think that that would be all the more reason to keep in place the institutions that held Iraq together, but the arrogance of those in charge of the Pentagon and in Baghdad was as limitless as their ignorance, and they swept away the entire Iraqi governmental structure, putting in its place an overstretched American army of occupation to control a vast, devastated country of more than 25 million people with a history of resistance to foreign control.
There was a day when we maintained our national interests in the Middle East without a massive occupying military force, but those days appear to be gone forever:
Iraq has changed everything. In Washington, a city obsessed with the present, it was easy to forget that as recently as a few years ago, the United States was not particularly disliked in the Middle East and that al-Qaeda was a tiny underground organization with almost no popular support. It was equally easy to forget that in the last phases of the Cold War, the United States had managed to protect its interests in the Middle East with no land forces on the ground, through an over-the-horizon presence.
Despite the recent downturn in violence in Iraq, we are hearing no plans for an accelerated withdrawal from that country. The people who turned us into modern-day colonialists and got us into this mess have no plan for getting us out. It should be clear to everyone by now, that they have no desire to either.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!