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Lump of Terror

By Matthew Yglesias

"Lump of Terror"

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Cliff May really is a fool: “And had the US not toppled Saddam Hussein, these people now enlisting as terrorists would be doing what right now? Enrolling in law school, watching football games, and investing in 401K’s?”

This is just silly. Radicalization is a complicated process with multiple stages. No doubt there are lots of people, had the US not invaded Iraq, would have had more-or-less positive views of American foreign policy who are now sitting around stewing about the evils of the United States. And there are other people who, had we not invaded, would be sitting around stewing about the evils of the United States who are, instead, taking up arms against us. There are also bound to be some people who were already committed radicals who used to think the focus belonged on the “near enemy” — Arab apostate dictatorships — who now agree that there’s a Zionist/Crusader alliance that’s pulling the strings in the region and needs to be targeted.

You’re talking about millions of people — hundreds of millions, probably, if not billions — all over the world who have each in their own way been pushed a notch or two in the direction of hostility to the United States of America. This should be obvious. Massively unpopular actions have consequences. In particular, the United States has unmatched military power. This is, potentially, something that people everywhere — Muslims or not — could find threatening. Insofar as we used that power in a way that others regarded as reasonable, though, nothing was likely to happen. Insofar as we’ve started using in ways that most people regard as utterly unreasonable and that many — especially including Muslims in this instance — regard as being hostile to their interests and those of their co-religionists, there’s going to be a price to be paid. That includes more terrorists, more terrorist sympathizers, and fewer and fewer people interested in helping us fight the terrorists.

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