The Dartmouth Observer
Sunday, September 08, 2002
If the Past serves as reference, then certainly not the United States
In late 1942, Japan's growing web of control over the Pacific Rim was at its peak, but it faced the threat of its ships, war machine, industry and homeland coming to a grinding halt if it didn't get access to more oil and soon. Risking war with nearby Russia might seem a possiblility, but the danger to the home islands too close. The only other answers were strike at the United States and its oil embargo or simply run out of gas and watch the newly created Empire collapse. American foreign policy aimed directly at Japan forced this ultimatum. They resorted to their naval and air attack on American military and naval assets in Pearl Harbor, their strategy being a swift blow would destroy any American spirit of war and end the embargo. Japan attacked military targets to a strategic end.
Before the attacks on September 11th, the links between American foreign policy aimed directly at Islamic states did not so clearly threaten the very survival of their nations or people. American military installations in Saudi Arabia are intended to protect the Saudi's greatest source of income from their aggressive neighbor to the east. The United States was/is the greatest contributor of humanitarian aid to Egypt (and if my memory is correct a few other Mid-East countries). America's greatest sin seems to be the support of the bastard child of World War II, Israel. However confused this position always seems to be, since the early 1990s it has been mostly as attempted peace-maker, and restrainer of Israeli hard-liners.
So, while I think it is certainly arguable that the United States forced the hand of Japan in 1942, I do not believe this was the case with Al Qaeda in 2001. And of course, that is before one remembers that in no way are terrorist means considered anything close to being a legitimate course of action. This was not an act by rouges intended to compliment civil disobediance during a struggle for freedom. Terrorism, according to all civilized national and international law, is never justified. Al Qaeda sought to create the greatest amount of economic havoc on the United States (and by extention the global economy, Europe, South America---ie human civilization) and the loss of as many civilian lives as possible. Understanding their position though intellectually fascinating does not justify the actions of madmen---nor does it place the blame at the feet of the victim. It is a delicate link trying to attach the grievances of Islamic fundamentalists to American foreign policy. Trying to blame the United States for the terrorist attacks on September 11th is logically out of reach and an outrage.