October 19, 2003


Behind a widening US-Arab clash: US stature in Middle East is eroding, resulting in increasingly open attacks against American targets. (Peter Grier, 10/17/03, The Christian Science Monitor)

Two years into the war on terrorism, the US and the Arab world are as estranged as ever, and appear to be drifting further and further apart.

The situation may not yet be the "clash of civilizations" foreseen by Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington in a now-famous 1993 journal article. But on both sides, opinions seem to be hardening, while conflict spreads to new fronts:

• In Gaza, Palestinian militants targeted Americans for the first time in their three-year uprising with this week's fatal attack on a US diplomatic convoy.

• In Washington, the House Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a measure that calls for economic sanctions against Syria until the White House certifies that Damascus no longer supports terrorists.

• Throughout the Middle East, Arab publics increasingly see the US presence in Iraq as one step short of colonial.

The relationship may only get worse, if a front-page editorial in Lebanon's main daily paper, As-Safir, accurately reflects the region's mood.

"One does not reveal a secret by saying many Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims kill an American every day in their dreams," said As-Safir following the Gaza attack. "The United States is responsible for massive catastrophes that have befallen this region and its people...."

Whatever those catastrophes are, they're nothing compared to the one that will be visited on them if they really decide to generalize this conflict.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2003 7:04 PM

Vicious, ignorant and utterly worthless people. I cannot believe that the US admin might seriously let Iran get the bomb just because it would cause too much embarrasment to blow up a few of their facilities.

Posted by: Amos at October 19, 2003 8:10 PM

Amos - Iran's nuclear facilities are so many, so spread out, and so hidden in bunkers and under urban areas that it's not possible to delay their bomb by "blowing up a few facilities." Anything short of regime change will be ineffective. And it seems the Bush administration does not want to venture on regime change in the current political climate. Hopefully, after the 2004 election is not too late.

Posted by: pj at October 19, 2003 8:27 PM

Bring 'em on!

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 19, 2003 8:58 PM

This story could have been written with very few changes in 2000, after the U.S.S. Cole bombing, in 1996, after the Khobar Towers bombing, in 1983, after the U.S. Marine barricks in Lebanon was bombed, or half a dozen or more other incidents.

The number of dead in that latter incident was almost the same as the number of dead so far for U.S. troops during their first seven months in Iraq, so it's not as though Lebanon was filled with peace, love and understanding towards the U.S. 20 years ago. Innocent trees didn't have to die for the CSM to print this article, which breaks no new ground and seems to have no history about the ground previously traveled.

Posted by: John at October 19, 2003 11:32 PM

pj: I'm no nuclear expert, but from what I understand building a working nuke small enough to put on a missile is a mammoth engineering task requiring some big and delicate installations.

Saddam tried the 'production everywhere' rout on his bomb project after his French reactor went boom, using some kind of WW2 era magnetic unanium enrichment technology, it didn't much work and even when he kicked the inspectors out he couldn't get his program back up.

To get nukes you really need a big, visable, delicate and targetable reactor facility. The Iranians have one. Let's bomb it.

Maybe I'm wrong. As I said, I'm no technical expert, but making nukes is hard, it become almost impossible when someones blows up your reactor like the Isrealis did Saddam's. The Iranians might have scientific facilities everywhere, but with no enriched plutonium, you've got no nuke.

Posted by: Amos at October 20, 2003 12:12 AM

"In Gaza, Palestinian militants targeted Americans for the first time in their three-year uprising...."

Debka.com explains that it's actually the third time.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 20, 2003 2:43 AM

My sense is similar to John's about the trend. The general level of hatred is probably higher now, but it's been high for years. If you think about it, our being in Iraq isn't another reason for them to hate us -- it's just another data point for them that underscores all their existing reasons. They already think our support for Israel is colonial. We are, however, presenting the Arabs with more targets.

Posted by: Dave in LA at October 20, 2003 5:48 AM

Palestinians seem blind to the fact that although Europe bitterly opposed the US invasion of Iraq, in speech, it did nothing whatsoever militarily to prevent it. In terms of economic retribution, it was Europe, particularily France, that suffered, not the US.
The same fate could befall Palestine, should the US get fed up enough to let slip the Israelis.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 20, 2003 6:35 AM

If you listen to the media, the War on Terror is the first war in history in which body count means absolutely nothing. Granted, whenever fighting an enemy, like Islamicists or 1940's Russia, that can pour corpses into a hole faster than you can dig it, body count is going to be less important than, say, territory controlled. But we're winning on both those counts, and there is not an infinite number of suicidal America-hating muslims in this world.

They may hate us more, but there are undeniably fewer of them today.

Posted by: Timothy at October 20, 2003 10:12 AM

"The same fate could befall Palestine, should the US get fed up enough to let slip the Israelis."

Except that the US can't get fed up enough; because it must appear to be even-handed, even though it may not wish to, and even though no one in the Arab/Moslem sector will be convinced.

Unless, or course, Arafat does something incredibly outrageous (!)....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 20, 2003 10:12 AM

Amos - I hope you're right. But a usable nuclear reactor can fit in a basement. I doubt they could keep reactor locations secret, but they can assure that there are enough civilians around that there would unavoidably be lots of collateral damage, and they can make that collateral damage be things like hospitals, schools, and mosques that we'd be embarrassed to destroy.

My perspective is, why risk going after a few buildings and missing something important? We really want to overthrow the regime. Let's do it.

Posted by: pj at October 20, 2003 10:31 AM


In the past, the US had to give at least lip service to even-handedness, for two reasons: The USSR, and access to oil.

Now the USSR is no more, and American troops occupy the heart of the Middle East.

I'm surprised that Arafat still lives, and that the US still pressures Israel to moderate her response to terror. I'll be shocked if either is the case in a decade.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 21, 2003 12:39 AM