One of the central themes of those coming from the non-interventionist position is that Arab/Muslim anti-Americanism is primarily the result of American foreign policy and not deep cultural and value differences. Patrick Basham, a CATO adjunct scholar, purports to prove this with some recent polling data. (Why Muslims Still Hate Us)
I am no position to dispute this data (though I think one should always take polls and surveys with very large salt licks); however, I think Basham runs with the data in a misleading way.
First, why only post-9/11 polls? The Muslim hatred of the West (including America) goes back well before 2001, indeed it seems well before any significant American involvement in the Middle East. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the leading anti-Western ideological movements, was founded in the 1920s.
This is a point that the non-interventionists tend to ignore. If Muslim hatred of the US is based primarily on our foreign policy, why was their antipathy prior to any serious, prolonged military or diplomatic forays into the Middle East? A better way to state this might be: why were ideological and religious movements that were anti-West so popular?
Second, the fact that polls show, generally, positive attitudes towards many facets of American culture (movies, TV, scientific progress) doesn’t demonstrate that antipathy for the US is not based on a deep cultural and value differences.
Anecdotally, I’ve had too many arguments with anti-American types in Levis and Nikes to think that people don’t compartmentalize these things. People are quite capable of liking the products of American culture without liking the values and principles that make those products possible. That’s all this particular polling data appears to show: Muslims/Arabs enjoy many of the products of American culture. It doesn’t say anything about their points of view on the kinds of values and principles that underlie that culture: namely, individualism and the primacy of reason.
- I am not saying that all Muslims or Arabs are anti-individualism or irrational. But, that many of the widespread, popular ideological movements in the Arab and Muslim worlds are.
- I am not saying that our often irresponsible and unprincipled foreign policy hasn’t created or increased antipathy towards the US. My point is just that to say this is the primary cause is putting the cart before the horse.