Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Hatred Function

What should we take from the whole Muslim cartoon brouhaha-ha-ha? I tend to agree with Patri Friedman: While militaristic U.S. foreign policy has certainly stoked plenty of Muslim hatred of the West, nevertheless George W. wasn’t totally off base when he said, “They hate us for our freedom.” Not just for our freedom, but partly. In functional form, Muslim hatred of the U.S. must look something like this:
However, Jon Goff, in a comment on Patri’s posted, made an interesting observation:
I read some commentary somewhere yesterday that implied that of all the Muslim rioting, violence, and death threats, that almost all of it was centered in Muslim areas that did have political and other greviances [sic], and that areas that didn’t really have any political beef with the West were mostly quiet other than one or two minor demonstrations…
No link, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the claim. But if true, it indicates the existence of an interactive term in the causation of hatred; the function would look something like this:
This means that an improvement in U.S. foreign policy could have both a direct effect (they’ll be less ticked off about our interventionism) and an indirect effect (they’ll be less irked by our freedom, too).

Don’t know if that clarifies anyone else’s thinking, but it clarified mine.


Ben said...

Just wondering what's the argument for them hating our freedom? It sounds quite ridiculous stated like that.

Caliban said...

What were the anti-US grievances in Indonesia? If our foreign policy is truly a factor, shouldn't we have seen less protests in Indonesia after the tsunmai aid?

I'm not being rhetorical, sincerely curious. What does anti-US anger have to do with the cartoon frenzy? Denmark hasn't had a foreign policy towards Muslim nations at all, yet they now seem to be hated. It definitely seems to tilt the hand towards the "they hate freedom" crowd. And this comes from someone who is definitely not into the whole Iraq war= thing.

To Ben: the "they hate our freedom" argument is just shorthand for a different argument. It's obvious that at least some Muslims hate the results of Danish freedom, and would be much happier if certain Danes didn't have such freedoms.

Gil said...

Where's the support for the assertion that an improvement in our foreign policy correlates with their being less ticked off at us?

Are you certain that everything they want us to do, or stop doing, is an improvement?

Glen Whitman said...

Ben -- yes, W. has a ridiculous way of saying things. But the idea is that some Muslims hate the West because of our decadent secular lifestyle -- which is, of course, a result of our freedom.

Caliban -- I have no idea why Indonesia would dislike our foreign policy, but I'm fairly ignorant of these things. They might dislike it out of solidarity with other predominantly Muslim countries. In any case, I agree with you that the Danish cartoon flap tilts the balance somewhat to the "they hate freedom" explanation. The point of my post was that the explanations are not mutually exclusive and may even be intertwined.

Gil -- Well, I'm not prepared to have a whole foreign policy debate here in the comments section. So I'll just summarize my position like so: The U.S. has an interventionist and often militaristic foreign policy. This makes people angry at us, and also makes the U.S. a lightning rod for more generalized anger against the West. Becoming more aggressive (e.g., as in Iraq) tends to create a blowback effect that (in my assessment) swamps the gains.

Jason Ruspini said...

Regarding, "They hate us for our freedom", in addition to the fear of decadence, that statement makes a lot more sense if "freedom" is replaced with "power". In fact, isn't a lot of our "decadence" essentially the empowerment of women?

Power and freedom are often sides of the same coin, and replacing the latter concept with the former can be an interesting exercise.