When the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens coyly
that Lady Gaga was to blame for anti-American Islamic
extremism, he was really making a broader point. Dancing, skin-baring
pop stars like Lady Gaga signify the Western decadence that, he argued,
is a far greater driver of Islamic terrorist recruitment than the
Israel-Palestine conflict. Think-tanker Andrew Exum pushed back
noting that popular Arab pop stars are just as scantily clad as
America's. Now, more foreign policy experts are weighing in, and
Stephens has written a follow-up, all exploring how American culture in
general and Lady Gaga in particular explain, or don't explain,
- It's About The Culture Clash Defending
against his critics, Bret Stephens writes that,
as the Muslim world gradually opens to Western media and culture, those
transformations are causing internal turmoil, which is the real cause of
anti-American rage. However, "the sensual currents of Western life
exert a constant and ineradicable attraction, even as they also provoke
censorious and violent reactions. If America wants to tilt the balance
of Muslim sentiment in its favor, it needs to stand up for its
principles, its liberties and its friends--Israel, Playboy and Lady Gaga
- Fixing Gaga vs. Settlements Foreign Policy's Daniel Drezner gives Bret
Stephens the benefit of the doubt. What if American culture really
incited more rage than Israel-Palestine? "If that's true, from a policy
perspective, which issue should the United States prioritize?" he asks.
Do you censor all of American media or just push for an Israel-Palestine
peace settlement? "If you were offering the president advice among
these policy options, which one would you say yields the greatest gain
for the least cost to the United States?" Obviously, he suggests, the
- Al-Qaeda Decried Booty-Shaking? Cato's Justin Logan dryly notes
that al-Qaeda makes its agenda quite clear. "Bin Laden's 1996 fatwa,
after all, was not titled 'Declaration of War against the Americans with
their Supple Buttocks and Protuberant Breasts.' Instead, it was called
'Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two
Holy Places.'" Those two places are holy sites in Saudi Arabia. Logan
cites formal studies showing that most Arabs (if not all Muslims) are
angry at the U.S. for its foreign policy, not its domestic culture.
Jihadists Really Care About Foreign Policy's Thomas Hegghammer reads
the terrorist literature and finds no evidence to support Stephens.
do we know that Palestine is more important than Westernization for the
anti-American jihadists? First, al Qaeda's leaders have spoken more
often about Palestine and other political issues (pdf) than about moral corruption. Second, when al
Qaeda recruits cite their reasons for joining, they more often mention
Palestine, Chechnya, and other political issues (pdf) than they do examples of Westernization.
Third, incidents of anti-American violence and vandalism in the Middle
East have tended to increase during or shortly after dramatic events in
Palestine. Fourth, recruitment to al Qaeda has tended to expand during or shortly after escalation of
hostilities in Palestine. Fifth, al Qaeda militants are happy to embrace
aspects of Western culture when it suits them -- witness the use of
videos and music in jihadi propaganda -- and they are arguably more
pragmatic about matters moral and ritual than many other Islamists.
No Anti-Marilyn Monroe Attacks in 1950s? Conservative blogger Daniel Larison
looks at the timeline. If they hate us for our decadent culture, why
did they show such indifference to four decades of skin-flashing stars
like Marilyn Monroe? "In fact, attacks on Americans and American
installations began after we inserted ourselves into the region's
conflicts and began establishing a military presence there. [...]
Anti-American jihadist violence did not occur until the misguided
1982-83 intervention in Lebanon."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.