Stephen M. Walt takes the “especially fatuous” Tom Friedman to task for one of his obstinate screeds. By the most conservative estimates, Walt explains, the U.S. has killed 30 Muslims for every American killed by Muslims, extremist or otherwise.
It’s more complicated than that, as Walt himself acknowledges, but what nerve for Friedman, who by cheerleading the U.S. into war has himself contributed to the death toll, to claim that the reason Muslims hate us is because they just don’t get that “U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny.” —PZS
Contrary to what Friedman thinks, our real problem isn’t a fictitious Muslim “narrative” about America’s role in the region; it is mostly the actual things we have been doing in recent years. To say that in no way justifies anti-American terrorism or absolves other societies of responsibility for their own mistakes or misdeeds. But the self-righteousness on display in Friedman’s op-ed isn’t just simplistic; it is actively harmful. Why? Because whitewashing our own misconduct makes it harder for Americans to figure out why their country is so unpopular and makes us less likely to consider different (and more effective) approaches.
Some degree of anti-Americanism may reflect ideology, distorted history, or a foreign government’s attempt to shift blame onto others (a practice that all governments indulge in), but a lot of it is the inevitable result of policies that the American people have supported in the past. When you kill tens of thousands of people in other countries—and sometimes for no good reason—you shouldn’t be surprised when people in those countries are enraged by this behavior and interested in revenge. After all, how did we react after September 11?