Why no more 9/11s: Part Two

In part two of his series on why the US hasn’t been attacked since 9/11,  Timothy Noah puts forth the Near_Enemy theory:

I place the Near-Enemy Theory one stop further on the worry spectrum from the Terrorists-Are-Dumb Theory because even if al-Qaida is right now preoccupied with opportunities in its backyard, that doesn’t necessarily keep it from devoting some resources to attacking the United States.

Basically he’s saying that Al-Qaeda has not attacked the US since 9/11 because it is more preoccupied with abundant opportunities  in its backyard. 

This is true.  But here’s how I would interpret this:  Al-Qaeda was overwhelmingly condemned for the attacks of 9/11 and there isn’t a single Islamic scholar of note who says those attacks were legitimate.   Who are the people in Al-Qaeda?  They are very religious Muslims, the kind who take note when they face such strong internal condemnation from literally every Islamist on the planet, especially when they are trying to portray themselves as the defenders of Islam.

So they focus on things that are seen as more legitimate, like  fighting against US occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There are Muslim scholars who say “don’t go because you’ll only make things worse for Muslims everywhere.”  But you will never here a Muslim scholar say its illegitimate Islamically to go and fight the American, non-Muslim occupation of Islamic countries.  

Thus, the US presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is a major reason for the lack of attacks on the US homeland since 9/11.

7 Responses

  1. I don’t see where your last sentence comes from. Without US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Muslim scholars would say that it’s A-OK to do attacks like 9/11? Scholars denounced the attacks because they murdered civilians, not because there were more legitimate opportunities for jihad elsewhere.

  2. ??? i dont understand what u mean

  3. Well it’s two different arguments:

    a) the US mainland hasn’t been hit again because we are giving Al Qaeda our military for target practice

    b) the US mainland hasn’t been hit again because Islamist scholars said that the 9/11 attacks were wrong, and Islamist scholars have a lot of influence over Al Qaeda.

  4. how is this two different arguements? they go together.

    Attacking the US in the US is seen as illegitimate. Attacking the US military in Iraq and Afganistan is defintely not seen as illegitimate.

    how are the two arguments different?

  5. Could you clarify the degree of meaning of “illegitimate”? If attacking US civilians in the West is inherently illegitimate according to the scholars, then there would continue to be no attacks even after a withdrawal. However, if attacking the homeland is tactically illegitimate due to the US military presence, then a withdrawal would increase the risk of a homeland attack. The difference between Americans getting killed abroad and Americans getting killed at home appears to be merely geographical, unless one strongly prefers for primarily young men to die.

    In either case, you suggest that Al-Qaeda is heavily influenced by the opinion of scholars. You also stated in your post from 2/25, “New Poll on Muslim Views on Al-Qaeda”, that most Arabs perceive “Al-Qaeda’s cause [as] resisting US hegemony in the Muslim world.” Therefore, an end to both the military presence as well as an end to hegemony would undercut the legitimization of terrorist attacks against US targets. This will not happen anytime soon, of course.

    I just found your blog, so please forgive me if you’ve addressed these concerns in other posts I may not yet have read.

  6. Wordadvocate,
    Thanks for your comment.

    By illegitimate I mean that 99.99% of Muslim scholars would say that it is not a legitimate tactic to attack American civilians of any kind, whether in the US or in the Muslim countries. Therefore, 9/11 is seen as 100% illegitimate.

    ” If attacking US civilians in the West is inherently illegitimate according to the scholars, then there would continue to be no attacks even after a withdrawal.

    Yes, for the most part, I agree.

    ” Therefore, an end to both the military presence as well as an end to hegemony would undercut the legitimization of terrorist attacks against US targets. This will not happen anytime soon, of course.”

    Yes. I think this is correct. One, if the US presence stopped, then there wouldn’t be much legitimacy for terrorism attacks against the US forces in the Middle East.

    At the same time, I don’t think the military presence or hegemony will stop any time soon either.

  7. There’s also what might be called Muslim public opinion. The latest polling from from worldpublicopinion.org (http://bit.ly/JzBmx, which you posted on) shows that an average of 71% of respondents disapprove of attacks on civilians in the U.S. Of course that might be due to the clerical condemnation too, but it shows that further attacks also risk alienating potential supporters.

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