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East Vs. West

June 2024
1min read

In his February/March article “The Longest War,” Victor Davis Hanson proposes that “if we read it properly,” history proves that Osama bin Laden is inherently evil and there is no basis for the Islamic extremists’ view that America’s economic, political, or military policies have justified terrorist aggression. All the author’s arguments in support of that view are unassailable; indeed the article ably proves that our government has shown, and continues to show, appropriate self-restraint in the Islamic world. However, in his historical assessment of why bin Laden was able to attract so many followers, Hanson has avoided discussion of a very important modern element of the East-West conflict: cultural imperialism.

Western popular culture has trodden heavily on the toes of the Islamic world. To the orthodox Islamic believer, the exportation over the airwaves and Internet of our entertainment industry’s products, against which there is no defense other than a closed society, is an outrage. Our programming’s sexual and violent content is a matter of concern to religious conservatives of all faiths, at home and abroad, and this is one aspect of American society over which our government, because of the constitutional protection of free speech, has no control. Is Islamic terrorism, in this light, strictly the result of an extremist wish “to lord over a medieval caliphate spanning a united Middle East,” or could it be an attempt, like a bee’s, to sting and drive off the intruder threatening its hive?

Hanson demonstrates that throughout history, America’s military endeavors have been motivated not by imperialism but by the need to protect our way of life. All our wars have been waged in defense of freedom. Does this mean that eradicating tens of thousands of civilian Japanese lives at Hiroshima was not “inherently evil"? Or were we, like today’s terrorists, so threatened that we went too far in imparting the message “You must back off, for look what we can do"?

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