It has been six weeks since the Boston Marathon bombings, and American media coverage has moved on to Oklahoma tornadoes, kidnappings in Cleveland, and various administrative scandals that Republicans are trying to link to the White House.
But there are lessons to be gleaned in the aftermath of the Boston bombings that will linger long after these other stories fall from public view.
Using the rationale of humiliation or victimization to attack the United States or other Western interests is getting tedious as an excuse.
There is hardly a country on Earth where people cannot claim political or economic victimization at the hands of some other group. Indeed, we need look no further than our own nation to witness the suppression of an indigenous population by an external invader.
Some conquests have been more humane than others, but the suggestion that terrorist attacks against innocent civilians could be a legitimate response is absurd. People more exploited and economically deprived than those in the Middle East do not attempt to rationalize such actions politically.
While only tiny minorities actually engage in terrorism themselves, few in their communities openly condemn or demonstrate against these tactics. It is incumbent upon those connected to the perpetrators of terrorism to openly and unambiguously declare their opposition.
Only by repudiating such ruthlessness “within the family” might potential extremists come to appreciate the counterproductive impact of their strategies.
Religious absolutists who are prepared to commit suicide while killing others, because they think it guarantees them a place in paradise, must be openly challenged by others within their own community. Such extremists are hardly going to be influenced by outsiders, and otherwise the question lingers whether the minority community secretly condones such activities.
For all the resentment and hostility trumped up toward the West, our offences pale in comparison with the casualties inflicted by their own co-religionists.
Virtually every day we read reports about sectarian bombings in the Middle East and neighbouring countries, but the political fashion is to blame only outsiders, frequently wrapped in some tautological conspiracy theory.
From Algeria to Pakistan, we see conflicts based upon sectarianism or political ideology. They particularly resonate in societies where the population is atomized, mistrustful and xenophobic toward others who are different.
Exceptions to this dysfunction only seem to occur in authoritarian police states where fear and intimidation sustain a veneer of stability. Since the outbreak of the misnamed Arab Spring, these regimes are increasingly being challenged, and even when they aren’t, the West gets blamed for subsidizing them, as in Jordan.
Syria is the most outrageous contemporary example of sectarian slaughter among the domestic population, where fatalities now exceed 80,000 people, mostly civilians. Evidence suggests while blaming outsiders is politically expedient, the locals are much more proficient at killing each other.
Occasional apologists for the perpetrators of violence are the left-wing fringe who romanticize the “struggle against tyranny and colonialism” with very objective and myopic projections against what constitutes the roots of tyranny.
Is the United States, or the West in general, really responsible for the mass killings by the likes of Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi or the Assads of their own citizens? By transferring responsibility for their own society’s shortcomings, the U.S. becomes a convenient villain, whether it intervenes, as in Iraq, or it doesn’t, as in Syria.
The United Nations, which once provided a veil of respectability to advocates of the theory of victimization, has become impotent in its inability to do anything beyond passing empty resolutions.
Its 2003 report on human development in the Arab region identified important target areas for social improvement, including human rights, education and the empowerment of women. None of this has been acted upon in the decade since the report was issued.
The once lauded and euphemistically titled Arab Spring has not been able to build upon the removal of dictators with a vibrant political system based upon tolerance of other’s opinions and political compromise.
When one looks to rectify the problems of the Middle East, those from the area should first be examining themselves.