Reading the president’s speech to the United Nations last week, the question came to mind: Is George Bush a conservative at all?
At the United Nations, writes The Washington Post’s Colum Lynch, Bush "linked his campaign against terrorism to the anti-poverty agenda advanced by other nations, although he shied away from adopting some of the specific commitments sought by allies."
Thank Bolton for that one. For one of those commitments, agreed to at the Millennium Summit in Monterey, Mexico, in 2000, was that America should commit 0.7 percent of its GNP to foreign aid.
That would be $100 billion each year from Uncle Sam, sent to Third World regimes, the United Nations and the international aid agencies.
Yet, Bush clearly believes poverty and terror are inextricably tied. "We must help raise up the failing states that provide fertile ground for the terrorists," said Bush, and "change the conditions that allow terrorists to flourish."
But where is the hard historical evidence that people turn to terror because of poverty? Almost all of today’s terrorists are young men who could easily make their way in the world. When has any of them blown himself up to demand an increase in foreign aid or to protest the plight of the African poor?
At the United Nations, Bush repeated another of his unproven assumptions. "Bush used his speech," writes the Post’s Glenn Kessler, "to explain why … democracy thwarts the growth of terrorism."
But if democracy thwarts terror, why did terrorists strike Britain, Spain, Russia and the United States? If democracy is the antidote to terror, why was there not one terror attack inside Iraq under the dictator Saddam? Yet, with Iraq free, we can get a dozen terror attacks in Baghdad in a day.
If democracy thwarts terror, why were there, as F. Gregory Gause III writes in Foreign Affairs, 203 terror attacks in India, the world’s most populous democracy, from 2000 to 2003, but none in authoritarian China?
Israel is the most democratic nation in the Middle East, with the least poverty. Yet, Israel is a primary target of terror attacks. Why? When Hezbollah fires a Katyusha rocket or Hamas blows up a bus, do they accompany the attack with an Al-Jazeera broadcast demanding money for the Arab poor or greater democracy for Palestinians in Israel?
Said Bush, "Democratic nations uphold the rule of law, impose limits on the power of the state, treat women and minorities as full citizens."
Yes, they do. But what has this to do with whether democracies are victimized by terrorists, or whether terrorists operate in democratic societies?
Terror, the murder of innocents for political ends, has been with us for over a century. The Russian narodniki assassinated the Czar Liberator Alexander II to strike a blow at autocracy. But when terrorism moved west, it was not just kings and queens, but the leader of the freest country on earth, President McKinley, who was assassinated by an anarchist. Nor did common folk have any immunity.
Emile Henry blew up a working-class bar in Paris. Asked by his trial judge why he attacked the bourgeois, but not the rich, Henry shot back, "There are no innocent bourgeois!"
Were the enlistees in the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, the IRA in Britain, the Red Brigades in Italy and the Puerto Rican FLN in the United States killing to protest a lack of democracy or a stingy welfare state?
Terrorism is a weapon of war. And as Clausewitz reminds us, war is the extension of politics by other means. Almost every terrorist movement today has a political agenda. The FLN terrorists who blew up Fraunces Tavern wanted the Americans out of Puerto Rico. They failed. Hezbollah wanted the Israelis out of Lebanon; Hamas wanted them out of Gaza. Both used terror. Both succeeded.
In the Middle East, as scholar Robert Pape, who has analyzed suicide bombings from 1980 to 2004, writes, the suicide bombers are men on a mission: to kill and die until all U.S. forces are off their land. No foreign aid or free election will cause them to give it up.
In Europe, as Tony Blankley writes in his provocative new book, "The West’s Last Chance," a new type of threat has arisen: home-grown terrorists, dead souls, deracinated young Muslims, born, bred and educated in Europe, but alienated from society — like the orphaned boys of Weimar Germany after the Great War, searching for a family and a cause to live for, and finding both in the Nazi Party.
These young Muslims, disgusted or bored with La Dolce Vita that the West offers, seek a cause to live and die for. And the radical imams of Europe are providing them with what no democratic election or Consumer Society can match: a heroic death — and life eternal.
It is a war of faith and beliefs we are in, and the president’s speechwriters ought to round-file the Kerner Commission cliches. They weren’t even right about the 1960s.