Coming to America

By Steven Miller
  • Tuesday, April 2, 2002

Many of us who realize how vulnerable Nevada would be to a single terrorist incident on the Las Vegas Strip found our attention riveted recently when former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu spoke about the prospective coming to America of the “suicide bomber” phenomenon.

“If we do not shut down the terror factories that [PLO Chairman Yasser] Arafat is hosting—those terror factories that are producing human bombs—it is only a matter of time before suicide bombers will terrorize your cities here in America,” Netanyahu told the U.S. Senate.

“If not destroyed, this madness will strike in your busses, in your supermarkets, in your pizza parlors, in your cafes. Eventually, it is not impossible that those human bombs will supplement their murderous force with suitcases equipped with devices of mass death that could make the horrors of September 11th seem pale by comparison.”

Even more troubling than the former prime minister’s words was the alarming context in which he uttered them—the manifest collapse of what had been Washington’s clear, principled and largely unified stand against terrorism.

Standing in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 4, the president emphatically declared, “No nation can negotiate with terrorists.” He then announced he was dispatching Secretary of State Powell to the Middle East. And to do what? To negotiate with Palestinian terrorists.

Out here in Nevada the next day, the Assistant Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Nevada’s Harry Reid, excoriated the president. Bush needs to “get in touch with reality,” fumed Reid. And what had been the president’s error, according to Nevada’s senior senator? That Bush had not sent Powell off to negotiate with the mavens of Palestinian terror earlier. “You can’t do it on the telephone,” seethed Reid. “You need the personal attention, and [Powell’s been doing] this by telephone.”

Remember the catch-phrase we kept hearing after the 9-11 attacks? “Everything is different now,” we were told time and again.

What the last few weeks have clearly shown, however, is that among certain political and diplomatic elites this is simply not true. Major segments of the U.S. diplomatic apparatus, the United Nations, the Democratic Party, the European Union and even the prone-to-black-and-white Bush White House still labor under critically serious delusions about the actual nature of the terror threat that America faces.

Main Street Americans may have taken note of the qualitatively different threat that confronts this country today, but the Powell mission to Israel shows that Foggy Bottom elites are still afflicted by the same massive Eurocentric blind spot that has beset Western diplomacy in the Middle East for over a century.

What is that Western blind spot? Stated baldly, it is the Westerner’s reflexive tendency to ignore the distinct nature of the Arab social milieu and its unique formative impact on everyone who grows to adulthood in that culture.

Arabs in the Middle East are born and develop under a self-reinforcing family-tribe-clan socio-political order that for millennia has destroyed each and every attempt to create any genuine rule of law or constitutional order that transcends tribal loyalties. What children adapt to instead is a constant Hobbesian war—whether subtle or gross—of all against all, of “our group” against “their group,” of constant betrayal amid always shifting alliances and power-seeking, of bribery and corruption and brutality and dissenters suddenly taken away in the night.

In this cruel Darwinian selection contest, “honor” is accorded to the most amorally cunning and ruthless survivors of the competition, while “shame” is the lot of those who fail or decline to dominate—and cannot opt out by emigrating to the West.

This over-all reality—not Israel—is the primary source of all the Arab rage that has been building for centuries. Israel’s great “sin” before the Arab world is simply that it succeeds—that, as a basically successful Western-style democracy, it keeps releasing the intelligence and creativity of its citizens. In so doing, it also keeps demonstrating implicitly the horror show that is the Arab world, where tin pot dictators and depraved kings impose permanent repression and terminal stagnation.

If we Americans allow our representatives in Washington to resume rewarding Middle Eastern terrorism, we hasten the day when Arab power seekers like Arafat and Hussein will have their “martyr” bombers coming to America.

It is therefore crucial to the safety of Las Vegas and every major city in the United States that this new and delusive Washington experiment in appeasement end forthwith.

Steven Miller is policy director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

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