The Root Cause of It All

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Alright, now that we've all had ample time to digest the media mantra that 9/11 Changed Everything, let's take a brief recap things have somehow seemed to remain the same.

Did you know that the biggest and most entrenched conspiracy theory in the Arab Middle East is that 11 September was actually planned and executed by the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency? That four thousand Jews were reportedly warned not to go to work that day, proving once again that secret handshakes and messages beamed into dental fillings actually do accomplish something.

Middle Easterners could not fathom that Arabs could actually carry out these stupendously fantastical attacks. "We are too stupid and our intellectual obesity prevents us from figuring out the basic essentials to living. How could Arabs perpetrate something that required such thought and planning?" is the jaw-dropping reasoning we culled from interviews from the Arab street.

President Hosni Mubarak, leader of the Arab world's most populous country should have just gone on the air and declared: "No matter that Islamic civilization reached its nadir while Europe clawed its way through the Middle Ages. It was only a fluke. Our incompetence just begs for guidance from the West. Look at us! We Arabs might be well hung, but we are far too dumb to do much, and our children are ugly, ugly, ugly! I have officially requested that the British re-colonize Egypt and help us out."

Now in the same breath as these "we are dumb" arguments came the Root Cause Argument. After professing mass stupidity, everyone suddenly turned into an expert psychoanalyst. "It's American foreign policy that is the root cause of so much misery and hatred" became the deafening roar in this limited echo chamber. But let's go beyond that for a moment and see if we get this reasoning correct: If America's foreign policy was different, people would not hate us, hmm? That out of all the problems that occur in the world, American foreign policy is the straw that breaks the camel's back and just makes people crazy. The Root Cause Argument is a fallacy – not because American foreign policy is some glittering jewel, carried out by angels, but because the subtext to this argument suggests that all will be right if only the policy changes. That's like claiming an independent Palestinian state will solve the problems of the Middle East in one fell swoop. Right.

The phrase "American foreign policy" is typically a codeword for referring to that little alien state, Israel. The Root Cause Argument has its finger pointed directly at American support of the Jewish State (sorry, "Zionist entity"). Under the Bush Administration, Israel has been allowed to act unilaterally in its minor dispute with the Palestinian Authority, while the State Department issues contradictory policy statements almost daily about the situation in that otherwise peaceful region of the world. Now, let's go back a few years when America was ruled with an iron fist under Tyrant Clinton: were the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania attributed the Root Cause Argument? Was President Clinton's trip to Gaza International Airport (the first such visit ever by a US president and a potent symbol of recognition of peaceful Palestinian aspirations) just a subtle ruse to make Arabs falsely think we care about them?

The worst aspect of the Root Cause Argument is how intellectually vacuous it really is. Following the 11 September Disaster, you could see light switches going off in peoples' heads all across the United States and Europe: it must be our foreign policy, that's it! A quick little fix here and all will be right with the world. That's the calculus of appealing to this argument, because it completely belies real context and conditions that make people despise the US. It also allows breathing room for fundamentalist apologists to ignore accomplishments made by US foreign policy: ever hear any outraged Muslim take the time to comment on the spectacle of the infidel West rushing to save Kosovar Muslims by bombing the Serbs? Bosnia-Hercegovina, anyone? Preventing Kuwaiti soldiers from slaughtering any Palestinian they found once Kuwait City had been liberated? Didn't think so.

It's not just foreign policy alone; it's myriad other issues that make America seem like everyone's obnoxious older brother, ridiculing them and telling them, "I know best." Oh yes, Virginia, people really do hate the United States, but not because of the way we brush our hair or wear our clothes. Thus it seems that world really hasn't Changed Since 11 September -- it's only the arguments that have gotten more deceptive than ever.