There was only one small part of Bush’s State of the Unon address that really jumped out at me. Here it is:
This war is more than a clash of arms — it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and to come and kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom — societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they’re given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates and reformers and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must.
There’s a serious problem there.
It’s not lack of freedom that attracts people to violent ideologies. Instead, and this is especially true in the Middle East, it’s usually religious mania that does that. We see that, for example, in the willingness of the Palestinians to elect Hamas despite its fondness for terrorism. The 19 people responsible for the events of 9/11 did not lack freedom, most of them had been living in the West for years. It was their insane religious beliefs, not their lack of freedom, that motivated them to do what they did. (Which shows once again the absurdity of arguing that we shouldn’t worry about what people believe, but only about what they do.)
In less dramatic form we see it in this country, especially in the red states. There are many people who win elections in this country who, left to their own devices, would happily make Christianity an integral part of American public policy. I wouldn’t describe that as “violent and malignant,” but it does illustrate the principle that free people are perfectly happy to restrict the freedom of others.
What protects people from violent and malignant ideologies is a strong separation of church and state, and civil protection for people holding minority religious views. The reason America’s would be theocrats can’t find a foothold in this country is that we have such protections. Most of the Middle East lacks them, which is why the violent religious views held by so many there continue to flourish.