n Feb. 11
the government warned of impending terrorist attack, and newspapers
published the names and photos of 17 glowering young Muslims. For
the first time we were being told: These particular young
men, out there right now, hate us so much that shortly they
could be involved in murdering large numbers of Americans. Thus a
often-asked question came to the fore with fresh poignancy: Why do
they hate us?
After Sept. 11,
some commentators said Islamist fanatics hate America because we
have been kind to Israel. But the theory sputtered when, in
videotaped lectures, Osama bin Laden persistently downplayed the
has argued that Muslims suffer from shame mixed with resentment at
the way their civilization has fallen to material and cultural
poverty from the long-ago heights of the Islamic and Ottoman
empires. The problem is those 17 faces, of men mostly in their 20s,
who one strongly doubts possess Lewis's sweeping grasp of history
over the past millennium and more. Mention Saladin to these recently
bearded thugs and you would get back the Arabic equivalent of
The key to
understanding why these youths hate us may be their very youth.
There are dynamics at work here that are most readily explainable in
terms of children's interactions with each other and with
First there is
the Parenting Effect. Did you ever hear of a parent who resented his
children? Rarely. Now did you ever hear of a child who resented —
hated! — his parents? It is a paradox that often the more you give
to others, the more they resent you. This is why the Fifth
Commandment demands that we honor our parents, while no commandment
asks that we love our children. The former is against our nature, so
it needs to be commanded.
parent, America is always mending broken nations, pulling apart
squabbling peoples, giving indulgent allowances (called foreign aid)
even while our children revile us in international forums. Every
time natural disaster strikes the Third World, we're on the scene
immediately in mothering mode. We pay for our generosity as parents
have always done: by enduring the hatred of those we
is the Bully Factor. I know bullies because in grade school I was
one myself. In the momma's boy who would not put up a fight against
me I found something contemptible, inviting me to humiliate
Sept. 11, America was bullied. After the 1993 World Trade Center
bombing; after the 1995 bombing of an American facility in Saudi
Arabia, killing five Americans; after the 1996 bombing of Khobar
Towers, a U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia, killing 19
Americans; after the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies, in Kenya
and Tanzania, killing 12 Americans; after the 2000 bombing of the
U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 American sailors — after each of
these, wrought by Arab terrorists — we little or nothing in
response. Young Muslims found something contemptible in this,
inviting them to humiliate us.
Third and most
importantly there is the Enemy Advantage. This dynamic is seen among
elementary-school kids, who bond in groups by joining together
against other children. In nice schools, the phenomenon is called
"cliques." In not nice schools, "gangs."
Thus the first
rule for building any social movement is: Create an enemy.
Communists had the bourgeoisie. The Sixties anti-war movement had
the Establishment. The American academic Left has America. The
Anti-Defamation League has its phantom skinheads hiding under the
bed of every little old Jewish lady in Fort Lauderdale.
Long ago, Islam
established world empires by focusing its wrath on the infidel:
Christians. The adults in the Islamic nations, some of whom
remember, have brilliantly deployed the Enemy Advantage to rally
their young. America makes the perfect enemy because this is the
most enthusiastically Christian nation in the world, and because
that callow Muslim youth who never heard of Saladin has certainly
heard of the United States.
understand our foes a bit better, we should be in an improved
position to defeat them. This isn't, of course, to say the struggle
against fanatic Islamism is child's play.