Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum both have the same view. The U.S. is fighting "radical Islam" or "radical Islamists" or "radical jihad" or "violent, radical, Islamic, fundamentalism." See here, here, here, here, and here. Many other Americans also believe this and buy the line that they hate our freedoms.
There is no doubt that the terrorists we are talking about here (which are only a portion of all terrorists on earth) are violent, radical Islamic fundamentalists. But does that explain much? It does not explain why they have sprouted in the late 20th century as enemies. Why not earlier? They have had centuries to blossom. Why now? Their old enemies were in Europe. Why have they now chosen America as an enemy?
If radical Islam is their controlling motivation and if American freedom is their prime target, then why do they make statements like the following? I quote Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Center mastermind as cited in a Wikipedia source:
"Ramzi Yousef sent a letter to the New York Times after bombing the WTC which spelled out the motive: 'We declare our responsibility for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel, the state of terrorism, and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.' He later stated that he had hoped to kill 250,000 Americans to show them the exact pain they had caused to the Japanese in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
Does that statement sound like radical Islam is the enemy? Notice that he specifically says that the action "was done in response." Notice that he mentions that Israel is a "state of terrorism." The Israeli treatment of Palestinians seems to have been on his mind. He does not say that he is anti-Jewish or pro-Islam or anti-freedom. But he is against American support of Israel and of other countries (like Saudi Arabia) receiving U.S. support. These he calls "dictator countries." He conceives his enemies as being the terrorists:
"Yes, I am a terrorist, and proud of it as long as it is against the U.S. government and against Israel, because you are more than terrorists; you are the one who invented terrorism and using it every day. You are butchers, liars and hypocrites."
Now, it is true that Yousef was a very busy terrorist and that he bombed a Shiite shrine in Iran and planned to kill other notables. His motivations were multiple. It is also true that we are not going to understand terrorist motivations by examining one single case. But do we not have enough grist for our mill even here to see that the U.S. has itself supplied reasons for terrorists to arise in reaction to U.S. policies?
Look, for another example, at the major terror incidents that are laid at the door of Iran. The first case is the hostage crisis in 1979. Why was the American embassy a target? The triggering cause was that the U.S. admitted the Shah for medical treatment. More deeply, the embassy taking was "widely seen as a blow against the U.S, and its influence in Iran, its perceived attempts to undermine the Iranian Revolution, and its long-standing support of the Shah of Iran, recently overthrown by the revolution. The Shah had been restored to power in a 1953 coup organized by the CIA at the American Embassy against a democratically-elected nationalist Iranian government,..."
It was tit for tat. The Americans operated out of the embassy, including CIA operatives with cover posts. Ergo, the embassy was fair game, since it had compromised its diplomatic neutrality. The mob may not have thought this out in this way, but its choice of targets does make sense.
Turning to another attack on a U.S. Embassy, there is the 1983 suicide bombing in Beirut that killed 63 people, including 8 CIA operatives. and many innocent passers-by. The Wiki article indicates that this attack was another response. It says:
"The attack came in the wake of the intervention of a multinational force, made up of Western countries, including the US, in the Lebanese Civil War, to try to restore order and central government authority. It also followed the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinian refugees by Lebanese Christian militiamen."
Again we seem to have tit for tat in a long running low-grade war of sorts. The West calls all these responses "terrorist." Reagan called it a "vicious terrorist bombing," which it was, without question.
But such statements do not at all help Americans to understand why they are happening, where they are happening, and when they are happening. This is not terrorism out of the blue. And it is not terrorism for the sake of fundamentalist Islam.
Not all terrorist attacks can be traced back to specific prior events. Not all can be interpreted as responses to specific triggers. The terrorists have their own timetables. But the targets are revealing, such as the attacks in Argentina on Israeli and Jewish facilities.
A study of Palestinian suicide bombers finds that "religious motivation is not the decisive factor."
The anti-American orientation of many terrorists is not going to go away because the U.S. exterminates violent, radical Islamic jihadists all over the planet. The more places the U.S. goes to, the more reason there is for new terrorists to arise. The U.S. fertilizes terrorist recruitment, not to mention that the U.S. and CIA intentionally sometimes ally with these very same elements on an opportunistic basis! These problems are not going to be mitigated or even partially resolved until the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved and until the U.S. relations with a number of foreign governments are clarified and altered. The U.S. has to back away from numerous entanglements, cease its interventions in the domestic politics of client countries, cease its selective support of favored satellites and parties, and stop being the world's self-appointed policeman. The CIA should be terminated. Outfits like Blackwater should stop getting contracts.
The stiff-necked, rigid, and superficial views of Romney and Santorum, if carried into foreign policy, promise more of the same, and that means that Americans will continue to fear terrorism indefinitely and indefinitely be subject to ever-stricter controls by the Homeland Security apparatus. That apparatus can easily morph into a full-blown police state.