Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Transforming the Middle East?

Michael Barone gets around to summarizing some of the findings of this survey report, released last month. Here’s a taste:

support for terrorism in defense of Islam has "declined dramatically," in the Pew report’s words, in Muslim countries, except in Jordan (which has a Palestinian majority) and Turkey, where support has remained a low 14 percent. It has fallen in Indonesia (from 27 percent to 15 percent since 2002), Pakistan (from 41 percent to 25 percent since 2004) and Morocco (from 40 percent to 13 percent since 2004), and among Muslims in Lebanon (from 73 percent to 26 percent since 2002).

Support for suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq has also declined. The percentage reporting some confidence in Osama bin Laden is now under 10 percent in Lebanon and Turkey, and has fallen sharply in Indonesia.

Similarly, when asked whether democracy was a Western way of doing things or could work well in their own country, between 77 percent and 83 percent in Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan and Indonesia say it could work in their country -- in each case a significant increase from earlier surveys. In Turkey, with its sharp political divisions, and Pakistan, with its checkered history, the percentages hover around 50 percent.

It is fair to wonder whether any of this would have happened without U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq and the U.S. push for greater responsiveness and public involvement in government there.

Discussions - 12 Comments

Thank you for the insight Joseph. No doubt the MSM won’t cover this. Not to say that it is without any faults but it provides an interesting perspective.

This is a hopeful sign (if it’s actually true...surveys are notorious).

It is fair to wonder whether any of this would have happened without U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq and the U.S. push for greater responsiveness and public involvement in government there.

Yes, that is fair to wonder. But if none of these people were taking any action against the United States, then what would the problem be? I think we need to keep in mind that our military action in Iraq has certainly sparked some of this hatred that maybe would have laid dormant in the minds of these people. We are giving the reduced percentages of terrorist-supporting Muslims a reason to use their hateful ideology. I think it’s fair to wonder if that wouldn’t be the case had we refrained from using military action.

But, because we cannot go back and we are stuck with our current situation, those numbers certainly are promising and make me feel a little more optimistic about the future. Thanks for pointing that out.

Judging by the events of 9/11, there were Muslim fanatics eager to murder us BEFORE the U.S. went into Iraq.

The U.S. has traditionally preferred to make war an "away game," not a "home game." I prefer we fight the GWOT ’over there’ myself.

In a recent interview, ex-CIA agent Larry Johnson suggested that actual terrorist acts are way up since our invasion of Iraq, and that people feel (and are) much less safe than they were before our invasion.

If he is correct, then we might wonder if we would trade an increase in verbal support for terrorism for a decrease in actual terrorism.

Here’s an article on Larry Johnson, who is not exactly an unbiased source.

The timing of that article was unfortunate, but Johnson was only "wrong" in hindsight. And, if one reads the whole thing, we see that he was emphatically NOT soft on terrorism. He simply wanted then (as now) for our leaders to use some method other than fear to guide decision and policy making.

To use an analogy, suppose he had written an article comparing (a)the probability of head injury due to failure to use seat belts, with (b) the probability of being kileed in a plane crash. He would be correct to do so, and to remind people of the more mundane but highly probable auto collision. But, his timing would be unfortunate if his article had been followed by a major plane crash.

Now, I know that terrorism is not the same as a plane crash, but it is VERY possible that Johnson’s numbers were correct. And, again, he was NOT advocating a "soft-on-terrorism_ policy. Merely a sane, effective policy, and one that paid attention to problems like North Korea and Iran.


I am somewhat suspicious when it comes to quantifing "feelings." How in the world could any study determine that people feel less safe now, than before Iraq war? As far as preventing attacks in the US, the current policy cannot be completely bad. I do not keep up with terrorist things, but it seems there have been two major attacks against the west since 9/11. One was in Spain while the other was in England, neither was in the US.

To Steve Sparks- What the Pew study did was to compare the results of a "feelings or attitudes" survey with the results of (I assume) the same survey two years ago.

As long as the methods, the instruments (survey) and the population represented are the same, then this is a valid way to measure changes in feelings over time.

I agree that we have not had any major terrorist acts in the US since 9/11. But, (1) that was also true BEFORE 9/11, and anyone who trumpets this success too loudly runs the same risk that Larry Johnson did, and (2) our allies are not faring very well.

For what it’s worth, I want my government to protect my family and my neighbors and your family effectively and thoroughly. I ALSO want them to pay attention to policies that increase terrorism in the future, and amend those policies.


Spain used to have an army in Iraq, but they pulled out when the terrorists attacked them. I wonder if their retreat, which was directly attributed to the terrorist attack, made the terrorists MORE likely to attack in England (also has an army in Iraq). The same reasoning holds for paying terrorists or submitting to their demands because of hostages. I know almost nothing about psychology, but reacting to terrorists seems to be positive reenforcement. If we are going to think about policies that encourage terrorism, I think you have to be fair and admit that showing no backbone in the face of terrorist attacks increases terrorism. If this were true, then it seems that American use of force in response to 9/11 decreases the chance for terrorism. Even if we do not kill legitimate terrorists, such attacks cause the legitimate terrorists pain (negative reenforcement). I’d like your critque of this theory. I think my only qualification is that the US has to be careful and not destroy too much, because as people have less and less to fear losing the deterrence of force would diminish.

Steve- You are right, except for two pertinent technicalities. If WE attack THEM contingent on THEIR behavior, then we are trying to punish them. That is punishment IF it has the effect of deceasing the problem behavior. Similarly, if I yell at my son after he hits his brother, that is punishment IF it decreases his hitting behavior.

The point is that the definition of punishment includes a subsequent weakening of the punished behavior. Often, we find that a consequence intended as punishment has the opposite effect: it strengthens behavior!

Second point: Negative reinforcement involves STRENGTHENING a behavior by removing an aversive stimulus after that desired behavior occurs. This is what drill instructors use: The recruit stands straight NOT to get praise from the DI, but rather to cause the DI to yell at another recruit, thus removing the yelling from ME.

having made that distinction, this is what Spain did to Britain, if you are correct. Spain gave the terrorists what they wanted by pulling out (withdrawing the negative stimulus: Spain) and that supposedly reduced terrorist attacks against Spain, but directed them at England instead.

As you can see, it can become a chicken-and-the-egg kind of situation. If I punish you, it is for your earlier behavior. If you stop that behavior, then you negatively reinforce me if you stop. You might not want to do that, and so you might continue your problem behavior because maintaining your own freedom is more reinforcing than pleasing me is.

That is how I see the terror situation (acknowledging that groups do not always behave the way individuals do, according to the same laws).

Taking right/wrong out of it for the moment, we have two groups, both of which fail to respond to punishment in order to maintain their freedom, which is more important to each group than the individual battle, along with its hardships and prizes.

Easy answers? Obviously none. Possible models? I am watching Gaza very closely.

This article by Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker about a year ago is worth reading. In it, we learn that planning for the 3/11 Madrid attacks may have begun as early as October 2000 (Mohammed Atta visited Spain several times, by the way) and that another and larger attack on the Spanish high-speed passenger train line narrowly failed in early April--weeks after the Madrid attack, Zapatero’s election, and the decision to remove Spanish troops from Iraq. Among the claimed Islamofascist grievances is that southern Spain still "belongs" to Muslims, who used to rule Andalusia centuries ago as "al-Andalus."

So the Islamo-fascists quite possibly planned to hit Spain well before Operation Iraqi Freedom, they tried to hit Spain harder even after Zapatero cravenly bugged out of OIF in response to 3/11, and they define at least a good-sized hunk of Spanish territory as "Muslim land" (i.e., Spain is no different from Israel--they are both non-Muslim polities that the Islamofascists claim are squatting on "Muslim" land).

You can read Wright’s entire report at:

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