The beginning of Islamic terrorism against the West is difficult to pinpoint, because of its numerous manifestations. During the original colonial era when the Middle East was primarily occupied by France and Britain, terrorism took the form of anti-colonial resistance, which was the original foundation of the now-famous Muslim Brotherhood (founded in 1928). This group’s main goal was to terrorize the British colonial authorities into fleeing Egypt. Later on, terrorism became intrinsically linked to Israel with a spate of hijackings, bombings, and more intimate forms of attack directed against Israeli Jews and their backers. From this point on, the violence refused to be confined to the Middle East, as was made abundantly clear during the attacks by Black September during the Munich Olympics in 1972. During the 1990s, the focus of Islamic terrorism once again began to shift, but it wasn’t until the 9/11 attacks that this change truly cemented itself in the public consciousness.
The target of this new wave of Islamic rage was not classical colonial authorities strutting around in pith helmets, nor simply the transplanted Israelis. The target was now suddenly the United States and those viewed as its strategic allies or proxies. Why? What exactly was it that prompted the change in the Muslim world which informed its conscious desire to punish the West at every opportunity? I myself believed only the most simplistic and convenient answers to be true during my early political life. I believed that Muslims were willing to blow themselves up because they “hated our way of life,” that they had always conducted themselves in this fashion owing to their religion, that their hatred was an unjustified and bitter reflex of a people who just didn’t want to see their lives improve. Looking back, that view seems on its face to be completely irrational. If the West is truly great, if it is a universal panacea to whom dissent is as crazy as opposition to laughter and joy, then nobody would find themselves fighting against it, much less willing to kill themselves in aid of that struggle.
Seeing things from the perspective of others is often derided as a liberal pastime, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I have been rather stunned at how strictly conformist and closed-off liberal thinking is. When they see Muslims, they do not try to understand them by actually putting themselves in the shoes of a Syrian, an Egyptian, an Iranian. Instead, they draw a completely surface-level distinction between ‘moderate Muslims’ who are good and exactly like us in every way, and then ‘extremist Muslims’ who are bitter and hateful and probably not even real Muslims at all. The dividing line between the two is acceptance of Western and liberal ideological conformity. If we were to truly put ourselves in the shoes of a Muslim however, what would we see?
We would see a world in which a formerly great and powerful Muslim empire collapsed in 1922, in which Muslim lands were ruled by foreigners of different racial and religious backgrounds, in which an entire people was transplanted into our midst and given possession of some of our holy sites. It would be a world where our leaders were puppets to distant powers, be they monarchs under the direction of London, or Arab nationalists under the direction of Moscow. This is a world where sectarianism is now inflamed to the benefit of foreign entities, and a world where any form of resistance is met with characteristically brutal force. It is also a world going through profound religious changes that mirror those in Europe, the slow creep of secularization, the ‘liberation’ of women, relaxations of prior prohibitions, and commercial domination by overseas companies. We look at these things and see ‘progress.' But for the Muslim, these are nothing less than total, national humiliations.
The various successive stages of terrorism are the result of successive national humiliations for the various Muslim groups, be they Arab or Persian, Sunni or Shi’ite. The United States became the primary target, the ‘great satan’ as it were when it became the main participant in humiliating the Muslim world, altering its culture, and breaking its resistance. The reasons for this vary depending on which leader was making the decisions, and which party under that leadership was carrying out activities in the Arab world. Corporatist motivations? Sure. Ideological utopianism? Absolutely. Pure geopolitics? No doubt. All of these things are explanations as to why after all these years, the US has never ‘pivoted to Asia’ or anywhere else for that matter. Individual Muslims may indeed hate the United States for what it believes, but this doesn’t explain the disproportionate hostility it receives vis-à-vis somewhere like Taiwan, which since the fall of Chiang Kai-shek’s dictatorship, has essentially been the most liberal country in Asia. The difference comes in what the country does. Muslim actions, in light of this, can only be seen as retaliatory, rather than driven by some burning inborn hatred of the US. Did Muslims hate what their colonial masters believed in? Did they hate what Israel believes in? Probably, but this wasn’t the motive for their violent behaviour which, much to the annoyance of Medieval fantasies, is not a pure successor to the grand Jihads of ages past, but only a pale shadow of it.
Yet the Muslim world is not the first part of the globe to be dealt national humiliation by the United States. We could very easily point to Japan, which was unceremoniously feminized after WWII and had pacifism jammed into its constitution. But Europe is, of course, a more interesting case. One narrative tells the story of how the United States liberated Europe from tyranny, that it put down the most evil ideologies known to mankind and freed Europeans from slavery to brutal dictators who rose to power in the last century. Many Europeans would probably assent to this version of events after all these decades. But what about in the immediate aftermath? What about the period of time before European security was paid for by American taxpayers, before NATO bases peppered its rolling hills before the first McDonalds was opened in Amsterdam? How did Germans perceive their defeat in WWII? A liberation? Far from it. This was nothing less than the violent humiliation of a European power which had believed firmly in its racial supremacy, in its technical capability, in its high culture. It was left with its cities destroyed, its territory divided, and its identity essentially rendered illegal for the foreseeable future. America worked diligently to dismantle the remaining European colonies after WWII, the culmination of this being its reprimand to Britain in the wake of the Suez Crisis, a humiliation which effectively ended the UK as a serious global power and triggered the final stage of its descent into what will likely be dissolution in the near future. And what of the Cold War? Why did Vladimir Putin speak those now immortal words “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” Is Putin a Marxist? If he is, he certainly isn’t a very good one. More likely his sentiment reflects the fact that the 1990s were, again, a period of national humiliation for Russia.
Did Europeans display the same response to these humiliations as the Muslim world did? Only in a very limited fashion, and only really targeting the liberal order that native loyalists to the United States were building. One could point to the neo-fascist terrorist groups in Italy during the Years of Lead, or minor instances of left wing terrorism since the Cold War. For the most part, though, Europeans internalized their humiliation at the hands of the United States in the form of Nietzsche’s ressentiment. The relevant aspect of ressentiment here is self-hatred. A subjugated and defeated group absorbs the dominating culture, and in doing so accidentally absorbs the latent inferiority implied by the fact that this culture is dominating them. Americans viewed Germans as vicious, cold, mass-murdering criminals, moral reprobates who needed to be marched through the camps and shown what they were guilty of, and so is it really any wonder this is exactly how they came to view themselves, and thus how they came to the suicidal conclusions they have about Germany’s future being a better one without Germans in it? Consider why it is that formerly communist nations do not experience such guilt and self-loathing, despite the fact that many of them were willing parties to Europe's nazification. It is perhaps obvious that the mass-murdering Soviets couldn't credibly impart masochistic sentiments on to Croats, Slovaks, Ukrainians, etc. for their crimes, real or imaginary.
What worked with the Germans never worked with the Arabs, because the neo-colonial project in the Middle East has never managed to be as overt or as successful as that implemented in West Germany. The response from Muslims has of course been homicidal, not suicidal.
Surely though, when we look at the hard laws of realism concerning geopolitics, this should thrill Americans to know that this is their people’s achievement, the destruction, and humiliation of societies they have conquered through various means? Not quite so. You see, unlike Nazi Germany for example, taking joy from your enemy’s defeat is something of a misnomer for Americans. After all, America is not a homogeneous state, nor an empire in the classic sense. It is a mercantile entity functioning under the cloud of a ‘proposition nation.' Why not take this opportunity to discuss the inner humiliation of America, that is, the destruction and subjugation of the South. As Stefan Molyneux recently pointed out, it’s very popular to describe the Syrian Civil War as “Assad murdering his own people!”, but I have rarely heard a description of America’s Civil War that went along the lines of “Lincoln murdering his own people!”. The American South, which inarguably had a unique culture, character, way of life, and even ethnic makeup, was brutalized by the north. Reconstruction was viewed by the war's losers with the same unmitigated disdain as ‘nation-building’ in Afghanistan has been perceived. Reconstruction continued all the way up until the final breaking of the South’s will with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. From this point on, there was no formal challenge from the south against the north’s power. It’s not as if a similar dynamic of division and hatred hasn’t emerged between so-called “real America” or “flyover country” and the nation’s coastal metropolises which deride everyone in between as “clinging to their guns and Bibles.” What are the spate of socially transformative Supreme Court decisions (made by a court which features not a single Protestant, and an oversampling of Jews), but the humiliation of middle America by the left coasts?
It has long been acknowledged that the United States is rather unique in how it functions, and is distinct from individual European nations due to its size to the point where its coherence as a single entity is as questionable as that of the European Union, especially given the type of government it has. The American people vote for less wars and always get more wars. Red or blue, it doesn’t seem to matter, the same cabal remains in power, the same products from the same universities, thus leading one to the observation that its democracy is a sham. Accepting this, should Donald Trump’s voters take a victory lap over his broken promises in Syria? Some are, but I find it odd that Christians, in particular, would celebrate a Jewish figure of influence urging an attack on an Alawite autocrat, thus enabling Sunni extremists to murder defenseless Christians. That’s a peculiar merry-go-round of sectarian celebration, but maybe the humiliation of Syria is that thrilling. What about Europe? Moscow funds and gives tacit endorsement to 80% of the continent’s nationalist parties, while the United States funds and gives tacit endorsement to 100% of its liberal parties. For the humiliation of the Europeans, for their displacement, their eventual extermination, should the American take pride in this conquest? To go into very dark territory, should he celebrate the most ironic humiliation of all, that of America itself, the ‘fundamental transformation’ forecast by birth rate demography and economic migration? After all, for America, as described above, these will be national victories. The profit margins from cheap labor have the potential to be enormous, and that proposition upon which the USA is founded will finally be tested; are all men born equal? Because we really won’t know for sure until the helm is turned over to another race.
These are tough questions, but by dispensing with moral posturing, we can actually hope to understand the world in clearer terms. When we stop the lies about the ‘free world’, about moustache-twiddling dictators who murder babies for sport, about liberators who were but the modern and profane incarnation of conquerors, then we can interpret why people respond to hegemony in the contemporary world in the fashion that they do, and we can start to decide what this means for our future, whether we’re talking about terrorism or demographics.
Jean-François Thiriart, a 20th Century Belgian academic, was so eager to drive out and reverse the hegemonic humiliation of Europe, he spent his entire life trying to bridge the gap between fascism and communism, to present a united European front against liberal, capitalistic, indeed Western, civilization. He made the observation:
“Today France, England, Germany are but the historical fiction of independent states, the parodies of them. All these so-called “great” countries do not have foreign policies anymore.”
This strange geopolitical disarmament and dissolution is what the Muslim world has been fighting for a century to bloody and disastrous effect, and what the Europeans are unwilling and unable to cast off. Until the contemporary dynamic experiences a seismic alteration, the present course will only continue, with all its attendant miseries and evils.