The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum writes a whole column today correctly observing that many Islamic extremists — including Terrorists — are well-educated, wealthy, sophisticated intellectuals — sometimes even quite Westernized — yet, to her apparent befuddlement, remain vehemently “anti-American.” Though she calls on the U.S. to fund programs to more actively promote “counter-arguments” to their animosities, there is, as usual, absolutely no discussion of why people like that would develop anger so intense towards the U.S. that it would cause them to give up their own lives to slaughter innocent civilians. It is, by definition, impossible to develop effective “counter-arguments” when one remains petrified even of acknowledging, let alone discussing and engaging, the “arguments” of the other side.
Talking about why people around the world are critical of the US unto committing violence is undoubtedly hard, but incredibly important. Without acknowledging what the arguments by those opposing the US through violent means are, it is impossible to win over hearts and minds outside the US. As long as there are still terrorist attacks being perpetrated against the US, we have an obligation to find ways to stop them. If some of this search to prevent terrorist attacks include evaluating our enemies arguments and finding ways to neutralize these arguments, then it must be done. That means engaging their critiques, recognizing where they are valid, and responding where they are not. Of course Greenwald is right that this cannot happen as long as the press or political leadership refuse to acknowledge the existence of substantive arguments against American policies abroad.