Thursday, 25 October 2007

Republican Ron Paul on 9/11 & Giuliani's Bulldozing Answer...

As any historian or social scientist will know, it is extremely difficult to determine what the main cause of an event is. Ron Paul makes a few good points in drawing attention to the unintended effects of the US' interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East. It clearly had a strong influence on the ideology of Islamic terrorists - though the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, and US support of the Taliban at that stage, were possibly just as important as factors that helped the rise of Islamic terrorism. Paul's remarks don't explain why 9/11 happened; but they are are least an attempt to think about the terrorists' ideology and motivation from their perspective.

What really scares me, however, is the extent to which the political discourse among Republicans seems to consist of hypocritical bashing about of taboos. "As someone who lived through 9/11", Giuliani seems to imply, he finds it offensive to be told that the attacks may be an unintentional result of US foreign policy. In the US today, being offended by a comment all-but equals the unspeakability of the idea behind the comment - even if its truth content hasn't been examined at all.

With the cheapest of rhetorical tricks, Giuliani equates the idea that US foreign policy was one of the causes of 9/11 with the entirely different idea that the 9/11 attacks were jutified because of America's foreign policy. Whilst it is difficult to disagree with the first idea, few people - certainly not me, certainly not Ron Paul - would agree with the crude second idea. If you study World War II you will conclude that Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor because of America's support for the Allies - but not that Japan was justified in doing so...

The really interesting question, of course, would be to ask, from America's perspective, whether international influence is worth the risk of retaliation. If America had not played such a prominent interntional role since World War II, today it would not be the main target of Islamic terrorists. This clearly doesn't mean that it shouldn't have done so. Neither would isolationism have made the US safer today - the threats would just be of a different kind.

The US needs an intelligent President, who weighs all these considerations, with a good understanding of both the ideology of America's opponents and the possible adverse effects over the long term of short-term strategy. Giuliani's bulldozing answer to Ron Paul's remarks indicates that he's not the man America needs to combat terrorism intelligently.

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