The list is so long and involved that the reaction of many is to throw their hands up in the air in helplessness. Addressing all of these issues simultaneously is simply beyond us. Addressing them quickly enough to stave off the inevitable next attack seems flatly impossible.
So we were most interested to come across several articles by Ivan Eland, an analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute, which suggest a quick-fix, all-American-get-it-done-now solution. Eland suggests that the hatred people have for us has to be distinguished from their desire to drive planes into our buildings to kill us. While people may hate us for all sorts of reasons, the primary motivation they have for wanting to kill us is that we have taken certain specific actions that they find intolerable. Stop doing what they find absolutely intolerable and they'll stop blowing us up.
Too simple? Perhaps, but Eland provides a compelling chronology of terrorist acts that seem to reflect the formula, action/reaction, as he explains in his article, "Does U.S. Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism?"
Eland's List (abridged)
1915: The Senate reception room in the U.S Capitol was damaged by a homemade bomb built by Erich Muenter, a former Harvard professor who was upset by sales of U.S. munitions to the Allies in World War I.And so on. Eland's conclusion: to avoid terrorism limit U.S. commitments around the world to the bare minimum needed in support of our vital national interests and stay out of everyone else’s business.
April 8, 1983: The anti-American, Iranian sponsored Hezbollah…bombed the U.S. in Beirut, Lebanon. […] All attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon around that time were in retaliation for the U.S. military presence there.
April 1986: In retaliation for the U.S. air strikes on Libya, an American hostage in Lebanon was taken to Libya and executed.
April 14, 1988: The Japanese Red Army ... planted a bomb at the USO military club in Naples, Italy, to coincide with the [anniversary of the air strikes].
March 3, 1993: A bomb was exploded in front of the U.S. embassy in Belgrade. This attack was most likely directed at U.S. policy towards Serbia and Bosnia.
In the real world Mr. Eland's vision may be impractical to implement. We cannot simply pull-out of Saudi Arabia, for instance, as long as Saddam, next door, is ready to pounce, putting in jeopardy our supply of oil. But Mr. Eland may be onto something. We could certainly decide that it should be a priority of the government to withdraw from Saudi Arabia (which would deprive Osama bin Laden of one of his chief grievances). Were that a priority we no doubt could achieve it, though at a cost. (Probably we would have to fight a quick war in Iraq to replace Saddam with a more friendly leader.) But the satisfying logic of Mr. Eland's formula is that we are not the prisoner of events. We can to a great extent control our fate. Action/reaction.
To be sure, we cannot abandon Israel, though Israel is a thorn in the Arab side. But would the Israeli-Palestinian conflict loom as large or as intractable if the other grievances that divide us and the Arabs were settled? Probably not. Making the changes needed to reduce the risk of terrorism would take several years, but in the context of the challenges we face, that's results in a McDonald's-minute. Liberals have been suggesting that the"fundamental causes" of Arab hostility need to be addressed to save us from future acts of terrorism. We better hope that's not the case. Most of the measures contemplated to achieve that desirable end--raising living standards, improving educational opportunities, invigorating the sclerotic economies of the Islamic world--require at least a generation, if not more. That's more time than we have.