Americans love to congratulate ourselves on how great we are. On Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and on most any day, we enjoy re-telling how we saved the world from itself on more than one occasion. We took the Greek concept of Democracy, improved on the British version, and after winning a Revolution wrote a Constitution that has remained unequaled in the 200-plus years since.
We addressed our own faults and after another war, used that Constitution to end slavery, at least in the form it had been for thousands of years. We helped “make the world safe for Democracy” in World War I, then really made our mark in World War II, when we took on Hitler and defeated Nazism.
We finally ended the “second civil war” by living up to our creed in the 1960s and ‘70s, again ending the modern form of “slavery,” and again doing it on our own because we saw that it was the right thing to do, not because some foreign power came in and made us do it.
We took on Stalin and Communism and defeated that, too. One by one, we saw evil, injustice and wrong, took on the challenge of ending it, and time after time did just that.
We have every right to congratulate ourselves on our greatness.
Now, a new challenge faces us. This challenge is double-barreled. First, we must reduce terrorism, or the worst threats posed by terrorism, to its bare margins. We have the manpower, the technology, the intelligence and the will to do it, so I imagine this will be accomplished in relatively short order.
The second part of the equation is the tough part. That is the called “winning the hearts and minds” of our enemies. We have had more success through “failure” doing that in Vietnam than we did when we were over there, but this time we face 50 or 100 years – several generations, a century of conflict for our children and their children – unless we accomplish this task sooner rather than later.
This brings us to the great problem of addressing why so many Arabs hate us. We find this an absurd premise, given the wonderful deeds we have performed on behalf of Mankind through our history.
Let us examine Western influence in the Middle East. The Khyber Pass through Afghanistan has long been a passageway of trade, and as the natural resources of the region became apparent and coveted, white soldiers were sent in to subjugate the region. Russians under Peter the Great tried, and failed. The British Raj tried in the nineteenth century to take Kabul, and in what Rudyard Kipling called the “Great Game,” they were slaughtered.
By the time World War I came around, there was no particular reason for Arabs and Muslims to fear or respect the West. The Ottoman Empire controlled much Western territory, and exerted political, social, military and religious influence over an enormous swath of geography.
During World War I, things changed with mixed results due to the work of T.S. Lawrence, a young English officer who formed disparate Arab tribes into a singular fighting force that helped defeat the Turks.
In retrospect, many Arabs look back at Lawrence with disdain, feeling that he used them as a sacrifice on the altar of English hegemony. More to the point, he used Muslims to defeat Muslims, which eventually led to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. The English carved up the region, creating Iraq, taking over Palestine, and re-making the Middle East in their image, more or less.
For Muslims, Christians, Arabs and Middle Eastern people of all stripes, World War I concluded with mixed results. The Armenians were freed from Ottoman rule after millions had died in genocide. The Faisal Family in Saudi Arabia found wealth catering to the oil demands of the West. Other regions, countries and governments did not prosper.
Then came World War II, the great, shining moment of American history. Surely, everybody must love us for what we did in Europe and in the South Pacific. Think again.
First of all, with the exception of a relatively small group of Arabs who avail themselves of an education in America and really choose to immerse themselves in our glorious history; plus whatever Arabs somehow find a place in the Middle East to learn true U.S. history (such places are very rare), the average Arab and Muslim knows little or nothing of our history, and what they are taught are usually distortions and lies.
This is because they were mainly by-standers during World War II. Moroccons may have understood that they had something to gain by a U.S. victory over Germany on Vichy-French held territory, but for most of the Nomadic tribesmen and simple dwellers of the nation’s where Rommel, Patton and Montgomery fought in North Africa, it was just a bunch of white men trying to blow each other up.
Arabs do not have a D-Day in which Americans liberated them from the Germans. They do not have a history of fighting by the side of their American “brothers” in a just cause, like the Philippinos do. The war in their neck of the woods was about property, strategy and oil.
Surely, had Germany won the war and controlled the Middle East, Hitler would eventually have come up with an Arab Solution in which these natives of the conquered lands, considered sub-human with their dark complexions and “dirty” religion by the Aryan supermen, would have been rounded up and killed in concentration camps.
The Arabs do not seem to know this, and therefore do not understand that they, too, were saved by us.
In fact, many Arabs think the Nazis were the good guys. After all, the Nazis were doing “great work” killing millions of their sworn enemies, the hated Jews. Millions of Muslims, if they even know about the Holocaust, think it was a swell idea. All for it. Too bad it had to end.
Why should they love America for beating Hitler when Hitler was killing their enemies? According to this logic, we are of course the enemy because we stopped Germany from completing what many Muslims consider to be sacred work. If it was not for us, there would not be any damn Jews around, much less a whole country full of them right in their backyards.
The Arabs have made bad political choices for years. Whose side were they on during the Cold War? Not the Americans. The Soviets, second only to Nazi Germany when it comes to killing Jews, swooped in and worked hand in hand with them for years. They played on the fears and prejudice against Jews, antagonizing them by playing the Israel card for all it was worth. They did it because the Arabs let them do it.
These are the people whose “hearts and minds” we are trying to capture. We must consider whether we can ever get them to change. The only chance is not just through acts of kindness like a New Marshall Plan of food and humanitarian relief, but a campaign of Truth. Arab Muslim children must be taught real world history, not propaganda. Nobody has to go in and paint us as perfect, but the distortions and lies that have festered like cancer amongst these people must be replaced with real facts.
It will take years. The current generation is lost in a cloud of hate, but the West must tell the real story in a way that allows these people to make their own decisions on an informed basis. We must not be occupiers, but we also must insist that the lies be put to rest.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism