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It's the Regime, Stupid! By: Angelo M. Codevilla
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 17, 2003


Neither “disarming” Saddam, nor “bringing to justice” any number of swarthy young men will rid Americans of the prospect that someone will bomb or shoot, or poison us for the sake of some Middle Eastern cause. To have peace, we must defeat those causes by doing away with the regimes that embody them - the prominent people who make today’s Middle East what it is.

Every terrorist attack teaches anew that no amount of “security” can prevent shooting missiles at airliners, throwing flaming gasoline bottles into school buses, driving bomb laden cars, spreading germs, or countless other outrages. Moreover, because new terrorists replace those “brought to justice,” hunting down individual killers makes no more sense than merely shooting enemy soldiers in war. The current Israeli approach, targeting the equivalent of the terrorists’ field grade officers, makes only marginally more sense because officers too are replaceable recruits to a cause.

Human causes are embodied, flourish and die, in regimes – leaders and institutions. Sacrifice for lost causes exists in novels more than in reality. Hence winning any war means defeating the enemy’s causes by doing away with the regimes that embody them.

The very existence of Arab anti American regimes inspires the persons who perform terrorist acts. Ridding any regime of its anti American causes is beyond our power. Trying to co-opt the causes of anti American regimes is counter productive. Nor can depriving a regime of “weapons of mass destruction” disable it from embodying and inspiring terrorism. 

Regimes and anti Americanism

That regimes are the matrices of movements should need no explanation. For most of the 20th century the world’s greatest problem was the vast networks of Nazis and Communists. Yet Communists and Nazis everywhere ceased to be a problem when the regimes that inspired them died. Where did all those Nazis go whom the New York Times once thought (all by itself, without orders from Berlin) were the wave of the future? Before the Nazi cause perished in a Berlin bunker, hunting them down one by one would have been futile. Afterward, Nazism lived on only as an insult.  Where are all the Communists who, so recently, argued and demonstrated, and schemed and spied and killed and betrayed for the grand cause of communism? The world’s 150-some Communist parties were just the tip of the iceberg. Every other party, every labor union, every newspaper, every school, every profession, every social organization had its Communist sympathizers. Almost everywhere it was uncomfortable, and in many places dangerous, to be anti communist. Democratic politicians (Reagan excepted) were afraid to say that Communism was evil.  The Soviet Union did not recruit all the world’s Communists, pull every string on them, any more than the sun has to reach down and make every sunflower follow its path. But it embodied Communism’s cause. So when it went away, so did all those Communists - just as sunflowers would cease to be were there no sun.

Terrorist attacks on America stem from the fact that many of today’s Arabs, like Yesterday’s Nazis and Communists, are influenced by regimes that are living, breathing, spawning expressions of hate and contempt for us. The precise relationship between the bombers and trigger pullers, and the House of Saud, the Palestinian Authority, or the Ba’ath parties of Syria and Iraq need not overly concern us. Nor does it matter whether terrorists get money directly from intelligence services or through circuitous routes from the leading persons (including the tolerated “opposition”) in the very same countries. One way or another, the people, the money, and above all, the inspiration for terrorist acts come from certain places because certain kinds of people are prominent in those places – the regimes. All the reasons, or excuses, commonly cited to explain Arab animosity against the West existed many decades ago. But terrorism became prevalent only after the empowerment of ruling classes that produce nothing, are ethically bankrupt, live as rent collectors, and fight through proxies.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq openly pay what amount to endowments to the families of suicide bombers. “Charities “ from these and other regimes – which dwarf the CIA’s “proprietary” covert action infrastructure - make possible anti Western recruitments not just in the Muslim world but as well in Europe and even in America’s prisons and armed forces.   The organizations that claim or shun credit for each outrage (about which our intelligence agencies say more than they really know) have offices in the leading Arab countries, and are by no means strangers to their regimes. Some may not be organizations at all, but rather flags of convenience.  Indeed, some terrorist acts may be the work of persons wholly unconnected with organizations or regimes, except psychologically – but that is terribly important. Stridently, The controlled media of the entire Arab world incite hate and contempt for America, Israel, and the West. The terrorists strike clandestinely on behalf of causes that Arab diplomacy advances officially and from which the regimes draw their legitimacy – causes indistinguishable from Osama bin Laden’s “war against Zionists and Crusaders,” which violent ones have defined as the common causes of the Arab world. 

Correctly, Arab regimes view terrorism as one of the two handles (the other is oil) of their lever on the West.  Inevitably, they accompany crocodile tears for terrorist acts with urgings that the West support theirs and the terrorists’ favorite causes to avoid further terrorism.

In the real world (not the world that US intelligence imagines with the help of Arab “liaison services”) rag tag privateers do not infiltrate and manipulate the ruling classes of authoritarian regimes. Rather, life works the other way around: Such regimes allow, foster, facilitate, use, and most of all inspire irregular fighters. Their leaders do this by living like kings, by being accepted by the community of nations as world statesmen instead of bandits of the desert, by declaring moral superiority over the American businessmen and politicians they bribe, by blaming America and the West for Arab troubles, as well as by providing by dispensing money, passports, and technical services on behalf of anti Western causes. Most of all, they give the sense that recruits to those causes are joining the winning side.

Misunderstanding hate and contempt

Incorrectly, the US government has accepted the Arab regimes’ explanation that terrorist acts are the work of wholly private individuals, arising out of spontaneous disdain for America’s ill treatment of Arab causes, as well as from Islam. Hence, Republican and Democratic administrations have tried to reduce anti American hatred by advocating the causes of anti American regimes as much as possible. Thus though President Bush criticized Yasser Arafat for terrorism against Israel, he continued to protect him and his regime and to demand that Israel make it a state. Thus also the CIA cannot understand how a secularist Saddam could motivate religious extremism, even as Arab regimes manufacture a caricature of Islam that is mere anti Americanism. Hence, the US government runs ignorant ads on Arab TV touting its respect for Islam as well as for Arab regimes.

Note that the America so many Arabs hate, the only America they know, is an image manufactured by Arab regimes. Regimes tend to purvey, and peoples tend to buy into, such hate to blame others for their own unhappiness. The essence of the volumes being written (the best by Bernard Lewis) on “the roots of Muslim rage” against the West in general and America in particular, is that this rage comes from resentment of their own failures and is very much their problem. Hence, it is not in the power of America or of any other country to reduce others’ hate for itself. Even if, God forbid, we were to fulfill the most strident demands, turn ourselves into raging Jew haters, and destroy Israel, we would earn not less hate but even more contempt. Concern for hate is misplaced also because hate alone seldom engenders violence. For that it must be mixed with contempt.

The Arab peoples’ contempt for us, however, is our fault.  The US government made America contemptible by letting Saddam survive the rout of 1991, his people’s revolt against him, economic sanctions, countless bombing raids, and the CIA’s fabled ineptitude, and now by suffering Saddam’s claim to leadership of the Arab world. Almost as contemptible have been all the instances in which the US government has saved the murderous, corrupt, Palestinian Authority from Israel’s retribution, allowed Yasser Arafat to claim, correctly, that US intervention on his behalf was his victory, and then suffered his movement’s role in anti American terrorism. The US government’s failure to act against Arab regimes in response to decades of terrorist acts by Arabs on behalf of Arab causes, its bombing and economic sanctioning of Iraqis who obviously had not done America harm, its fruitless hunt for small fry terrorists, and even cruise missile strikes against a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory, are powerful evidence that enmity against Americans is safe.  Contempt is the bite that the jackal inflicts on the stricken or befuddled lion. By earning it, America has given its enemies a cheap, heady, substitute for courage.

Regimes, and causes

In today’s Arab world, regimes can hardly escape serving anti American causes. Saudi Arabia epitomizes most of them.

The Saudi regime began to embody anti American causes circa 1970, when its 4000 - odd factious, corrupt, inept, prince lings discovered that doing so was the safest way of dealing with the trends set by Nasser’s Egypt and the Ba’ath regimes of Syria and Iraq. The Saudis judged correctly that there was less to fear from America for joining the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and quadrupling oil prices, than to fear from anti American Arabs for not doing so. Since then, mixing fear of radical Arabs with ever more contempt for the West, they have used some of the oil money to turn Wahabi Islam from a curio of the Arabian Desert into trouble for the world. Until the 1990s, Saudi money was the main source of support for the PLO as well as for its many other terrorist offshoots and cutouts. (Since then the money has come from the US and the European Union.) At the turn of the century, Saudi Arabia was second only to Iraq in its importance to terrorist causes, because of the vast sums it was funneling to them out of pride and fear, and perhaps above all because its influence in Washington was protecting other Arab regimes from American retaliation. As Iraq, the PLO, Syria, and terrorists for their causes increasingly set the Arab world’s agenda, more and more Saudi prince lings identified themselves with trends they have no power or wish to reverse.

Iraq’ Saddam Hussein and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat enabled themselves to set the agenda for others by spilling American and Israeli blood on behalf of Arab causes. That their regimes have exploited and brutalized their own peoples, that they have made a mockery of Islam, matters less than that they have claimed to be at the head of a war against “Zionists and Crusaders,” that they have proved their claim by surviving against everything that the US and Israel have thrown against them, and hence that any number of young people are willing to give their lives for causes that their regimes define.

The Iraqi regime finances Hamas, as well as other Palestinian terrorist groups. Any number of reports connects its intelligence service with al Qaeda, including with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, with Mohammed Atta in Prague, and of course in joint operations against Kurds in Northern Iraq. But even if personal connections did not exist, the causal, objective connections do. Above all, the hope that “Zionists and Crusaders” can be defeated and that the Umma of Islam can be united must rest on states with armies and television stations and diplomats.  Only regimes like Saddam’s and Arafat’s can inspire the people who can force the Saudis and other reluctant regimes to serve the cause.  Only all the Arab states together can recruit the Europeans keep the Americans from destroying Arab causes. Whether anyone likes it or not, the terrorists are tools of the most violent Arab regimes.

To be rid of terrorism we must rid ourselves of the regimes whose causes they serve.




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