Testing the President's Hypothesis: Are Terrorist Attacks the Result of Freedom in the World?
On the evening of September 11, 2001 President Bush addressed the American people with the following words: "Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts...America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world." Here we see the President of the United States framing the conflict between al-Qaeda and his country in terms of liberty. President Bush asserted that "our very freedom came under attack" and the reason we were attacked was "because we're the brightest beacon for freedom." No one questions the propositions that (a) America was attacked and (b) America loves liberty. What is debatable, however, is whether a causal relationship exists between these statements. This inquiry seeks to determine if being a free society is synonymous with attracting terrorist aggression. The desire to better understand what motivates our adversaries to behave the way they do is not a new phenomenon. Two and one half thousand years ago the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu instructed his followers to not only "know thyself," but also "know thy enemy." Tzu went on to write: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt." This philosophy, if true, has significant implications for our present situation. Given the protracted difficulties endemic to America's conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, it would be wise to reassess how well we understand our adversary. Is freedom the issue at point, as President Bush suggests, or are these conflicts fueled by other factors which, if adjusted, could produce a different outcome? One final axiom from Sun Tzu will be mentioned here: "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." Approaching this ideal involves better understanding why our enemy wants to fight to begin with. It is to that end this thesis is written.
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