I write this knowing full well the emotions the topic engenders. I am prepared for that. My intent, however, is to generate honest, thoughtful dialogue. Perhaps I am foolish in that hope.
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.--- Sun Tzu
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
There seems to be two polar positions regarding US foreign policy and terrorism. At one extreme is the belief that Islamic terrorists attack the US solely because of US involvement overseas, particularly the Middle East. The other extreme is that the US can act overseas without regard to consequences because there are none. Neither is correct.
I agree with the notion that the United States is far too involved with far too many foreign countries. Our military is spread too thin across the globe. Forget nation-building policies, bringing democracy to authoritarian countries our protecting our allies in Europe. If nothing else, it is a matter of economics. We simply can not afford it.
This is not some Crazy Uncle Ron Paul wacky isolationist position. Colorado conservative Republican Congressman and U.S. Marine Mike Coffman agrees.
Close our military bases in foreign countries. If not all, then most. If not most, then half. If not half, then some. But start closing them.
The "pure blowback" position.
Some of the anti-war libertarians, and others, have this notion that Muslim terrorism is entirely a creation of U.S. policy overseas. They believe if we leave them alone, terrorism will stop. This is nonsense.
Elements within the Islamic culture believe in domination. This element believes the infidels must either be converted or killed. Pretending this is not so is foolish. This element exists regardless of U.S. foreign policy, and we must be vigilant against it.
The "love it or leave it" position.
It does not follow, however, that U.S. foreign policy is not relevant to this fight. Of course it is. The U.S. has propped up dictators like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, just to name one. We have given our enemies, at the least, pretext upon which to foment hate against us. It is just as foolish to believe our involvement in the Middle East is irrelevant to the Islamo-fascist terrorists as it is to think it is the sole cause.
Leaving aside the merits of our involvement in the Middle East, our involvement is used by our enemies to recruit suicide bombers and generate sympathy for their fascist cause. One may (and should) ultimately conclude, for example, that killing Osama bin Laden was absolutely the correct action, even if failing to inform the Pakistani government cost us good will in that country.
To ignore that our action made some people angry and will be used to recruit further terrorists is as foolish as the "pure blowback" position. To understand the consequences, to weigh them, and then decide the appropriate action is the prudent course.
One may ultimately decide it is a good idea to poke a hornets' nest, but to make that decision without considering the hornets will be displeased is absurd. Likewise, to assume the hornets will never sting you or expand their hive just because you ignore them and leave them be is just as foolish.