During the Gulf War there was a lot of chatter about how, if only we paid more attention to. Iraqi culture, we wouldn’t be bombing. an entire ancient civilization back to the Stone Age just for the sake of our wasteful dependence on foreign oil.
It seemed to me that people who said things like that had it backwards; that Saddam Hussein would’have been better off paying more attention to our culture. Fat, dumb, and happy as we may have been in 1991, our armed forces were at the beck and call of a commander in chief who had almost gotten himself personally killed in a war that wouldn’t have even happened if the world had stood up to a bully when he first got rolling. What possible lesson did Saddam think Mr. Bush had learned? Which brings us to Afghanistan.
Had bin Laden and his hangers-on known the slightest thing about America, they would have realized that New York City is the beating heart of the professional liberal establishment and that attacking anything on Manhattan would bring elite opinion-makers together with redneck yahoos in a common cry to tear al Qaeda a new asshole.
But he didn’t see that simple fact and, when it came, Sept. 11 wasn’t Pearl Harbor. It was the My Lai massacre of the Peace Movement.
Things could have easily gone the other way. All bin Laden had to do was take out the National Rodeo Championships in Las Vegas, and the liberal establishment would have waxed all superior and multicultural and started showing off their pet terrorists at fancy cocktail parties, and the biblical plague that rained down would have been upon American heads in an endless sanctimony about why the whole thing was our own fault, and how speciesist rodeos are, and all bin Laden did was send us a much-needed wake- up call, and at least he doesn’t eat pigs, and we need to rethink this whole thing about how we treat animals and, besides, violence never solves anything.
I think the problem was too much formal education. Even a good Quranic education is too narrowing. Spend most of your days memorizing the words of the Prophet, and the rest praying, and you miss some of the big-ticket stuff, like understanding your enemy. And, the first thing you know, you attack the wrong target and bring down the wrath of Stan himself upon your head.