Hey Woo . . . wasn't this guy supposed to be a millionaire?Anne Applebaum has just discovered that most terrorists are not "the illiterate warlords of Waziristan." I am not certain that the illiterate warlords of Waziriztan are the illiterate warlords of Waziristan, but let us not get distracted. Since just after 9/11, which was likewise carried out by something other than illiterates, the so-called West has reacted with the same shocked dismay that engineers and doctors and elementary school teachers and suchlike have been so often implicated in various acts of terrorism or insurgency or irregular combat or what have you, despite the fact that engineers and doctors and elementary school teachers and suchlike have been so often implicated in various acts of terrorism and insurgency and irregular combat and what have you. This suggests some kind of a priori fallacy, does it not? I mean, if your own personal Weltanschauung is consistently rocked by seismic WTF moments, then maybe you need to set all those neatly ordered continents adrift.
Alora. If you flipped on al-Jazeera and found their infotainers gathered in a koffeeklatch gaggle around a brightly-lit, technicolor dream set wondering how it could be that a CIA forward operating killbot command center was populated by multilingual, highly educated Americans rather than methsmoking subliterate Great Plains cannonfodder stock, you'd laugh. It would seem preposterous. Obviously the genetic mulligan stew of America's great brooding middlelands provides a fair portion of our grunt quota, but just as obviously we are going to send the smartest of our true beleivers to do the really Important work. No one is surprised by this. The surprise that anything other than a cave dweller would sign on to fight the Americans suggests only that we still cannot wrap our fat-thickened Western brains around the notion that, agree with it or not, there are people in this world nursing real grievances against us, willing to fight and die just as some of us are. One can hardly spit in the direction of an NPR affiliate without splattering some fatuous report on a Harvard Medical grad who forsook his lucrative ENT practice to dress wounds in Afghanistan--that guy is practically an archetype in our wartime Commedia. So why should the other side not have theirs as well?
Part of the shock in these instances is that professionalism is assumed by Westerners to mean Westernized. Clearly those primitive Others could not produce medical doctors! This is our last remaining ideology, a sort of monopolistic modernity, which struggles with the notion that there may actually be a few universities in the Muslim world. It is simply presumed that anyone attaining some modest degree of literacy, vocational ability, and access to a satellite dish will become immediately Americanized. We are very content to repeat the self-congratulatory silliness that imbues a certain moral superiority in something we call innovation, frowning biliously in the vague direction of Mecca and complaining that They are merely using Our inventions against us. And while there is a certain truth to the notion that for the last few centuries, anyway, Europe and North America produced a large part of the world's scientific and technological advancements, the idea that this fact alone obliterates cultural preferences and makes any supposed value system other than our own some kind of pathology is the purest of hubris and the most asinine sort of egotism. (Meanwhile, it turns out that the Hindus and Confucians and Shinto and so forth are quite good at science as well, for what it's worth.) The presumption that every educated Muslim will turn Washingtonward because the West produced the technological systems that said Muslim was trained to operate is wholly nonsensical; it has nothing at all to do with the political and cultural antagonisms driving the ongoing insurgency against American hegemony. Osama bin Laden is not, after all, complaining that Windows is a clunky operating system or childhood vaccination has somehow created autism. He and his compatriots are pissed that America keeps fucking invading other countries.