America's Diminishing Influence in the World
If all of the desires of human beings the world over were to be reduced to just three, would they not be:
- Freedom , both personally and nationally,
- Prosperity , both personally and nationally, and
- Peace and the means of escaping from the apocalyptic anguish brought on by the plague of war.
While there may be a few in the world who have so twisted their thinking so as to not desire these three, surely the masses of humanity still have these aspirations, expressed or unexpressed.
America's Founders gave their all to make sure that this nation led the way. Their expanded view of Manifest Destiny was the hope that America's example would be a light and beacon for the rest of the world to follow. John Adams saw the blossoming of human hope which was beginning to flower in America, and wrote:
"I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth ."
In the same spirit, James Madison wrote:
"Happily for Americans, happily we trust for the whole human race , they [the Founders] pursued a new and more noble course."
The outreaching mind of Thomas Jefferson, which continually surveyed the world in search of principles which would enhance the welfare of all mankind, had this to say in a letter to one of his friends:
"A just and solid republican government maintained here, will be a standing monument and example for the aim and imitation of the people of other countries; and I join with you in the hope and belief that ... our revolution and its consequences, will ameliorate the condition of man over a great portion of the globe . What a satisfaction have we in the contemplation of the benevolent effects of our efforts, compared with those of the leaders of the other side, who have discountenanced all advances in science as dangerous innovations, have endeavored to render philosophy and republicanism terms of reproach, to persuade us that men cannot be governed but by the rod."
Opposition to the Spread of American Influence
If America has the only proven formula whereby individuals and nations can attain to these glorious three goals of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom; if America's example of incredible achievements is held out for all the world to see; why then are an increasing number of nations rejecting America's presence and influence which will bring them what their people desire most?
It has been said that it is the militant leaders who are against America while their people are not. But there is a growing resentment among the masses themselves against anything American, particularly in the Arab world. How are their leaders able to exercise such persuasive influence over them to generate such growing hatred?
In his book, What's So Great About America , Dinesh D'Souza (a native of India, a policy analyst in the Reagan White House and now a Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University) gives three insightful reasons why Americans are loosing influence abroad. He cites the European view and the Asian view which we will not discuss here. But as D'Souza explains, "Undoubtedly the most comprehensive and ferocious attack on America comes from what may be termed the Islamic school." And while the Islamic critique seems to be mainly focused on our foreign policy, such as our support for Israel, he feels that there is a much deeper and even more powerful basis for their position against America. He explains:
"Once we begin to peruse the newspapers and listen to the public discussion in the Muslim world, and once we read the thinkers who are shaping the mind of Islamic fundamentalism, we realize that here is an intelligent and even profound assault on the very basis of America and the West. Indeed, the Islamic critique, at its best, shows a deep understanding of America's fundamental principles-which is more than one can say about the American understanding of Islamic principles. This critique deserves careful attention not only because of its intrinsic power but also because it is the guiding force behind the jihad factories-the countless mosques and religious schools throughout the Muslim world that are teaching such violent hatred of America.
"Islamic critics recognize that other people around the world are trying selectively to import aspects of America and the West while rejecting other aspects that they do not like. Thus the Chinese, the Indians, the Africans, and the Latin Americans all want some of what the West has to offer-especially technology and prosperity-but they want to keep out other things. 'Modernization without Westernization' expresses a widespread desire to preserve the treasured elements of one's own culture and identity in the face of Westernization.
"But the Islamic thinkers argue that selective Westernization is an illusion. In their view modernity is Western, and they regard as naive the notion that one can import what one likes from America while keeping out what one dislikes. The Islamic argument is that the West is based on principles that are radically different from those of traditional societies. In this view, America is a subversive idea that, if admitted into a society, will produce tremendous and uncontrollable social upheaval. It will eliminate the religious basis for society, it will undermine traditional hierarchies, it will displace cherished values, and it will produce a society unrecognizable from the one it destroyed. As bin Laden himself put it, Islam is facing the greatest threat to its survival since the days of the prophet Muhammad."
"My Family Wonders Why I'm Here"
I attended a speech given by Dinesh D'Sousa and he related that his family is still in India. They wonder why he is still in America. He says their source of learning about America comes from America itself-America's public television. They say if America is full of murders, adulterers, and immoral people as it shows on American television shows, why do you stay in America. It will corrupt your children. They say we may not have all the things here that make life comfortable like in America but we at least still have a belief system in our country based on God's commandments. They fear that American technology is so powerful and overwhelming that their culture and religion is being destroyed because of America. He continues:
Why Muslim Populace Is So Easily Swayed Against America
"So what is the Islamic objection to America? In conversations with Muslims from around the world, several common themes emerge. 'To you we are a bunch of Ay-rabs, camel jockeys, and sand-niggers.' 'The only thing that we have that you care about is oil.' 'Americans have two things on their mind: money and sex.' 'Your women are whores.' 'In America mothers prefer to work than to take care of their children.' 'In our culture the parents take care of the children, and later the children take care of the parents. In America the children abandon their parents.' 'America used to be a Christian country. Now atheism is the official religion of the West.' 'Your TV shows are disgusting. You are corrupting the morals of our young people.' 'We don't object to how you Americans live, but now you are spreading your way of life throughout the universe.' 'American culture is a kind of syphilis or disease that is destroying the Islamic community. We won't let you do to us what you did to the American Indian people.'
"What stands out about the Islamic critique is its refreshing clarity. The Islamic thinkers cannot be counted in the ranks of the politically correct. Painful though it is to admit, they aren't entirely wrong about America either. They say that many Americans see them as a bunch of uncivilized towel heads, and this is probably true. They charge that America is a society obsessed with material gain, and who will deny this? They condemn the West as an atheistic civilization, and while they may be wrong about the extent of religious belief and practice, they are right that in the West religion has little sway over the public arena, and the West seems to have generated more unbelief than any other civilization in world history. They are disgusted by our culture, and we have to acknowledge that there is a good deal in American culture that is disgusting to normal sensibilities. They say our women are 'loose,' and in a sense they are right. Even their epithet for the United States, the Great Satan, is appropriate when we reflect that Satan is not a conqueror-he is a tempter. The Islamic militants fear that the idea of America is taking over their young people, breaking down allegiances to parents and religion and traditional community; this concern on their part is also justified."
Philosopher Sayyid Qutb Provides Roots of Terrorism
"The most important and influential of the Islamic critics of the West is the philosopher Sayyid Qutb. Born in Egypt in 1906, Qutb became disenchanted with Arab nationalism as a weapon against Western imperialism. He became a leader and theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization that is also one of the oldest institutions of radical Islam. Qutb argued that the worst form of colonialism-one that outlasted the formal end of European colonialism-was "intellectual and spiritual colonialism." What the Islamic world must do is destroy the influence of the West within itself, to eradicate its residue "within our feelings."
"What, for Qutb, was so evil about the West? Qutb argues that from its earliest days Western civilization separated the realm of God from the realm of society. Long before the American doctrine of separation of church and state, the institutions of religion and those of government operated in separate realms and commanded separate allegiances. Consequently, Qutb argues, the realm of God and the realm of society were bound to come into conflict. And this is precisely what has happened in the West.. Qutb's alternative to this way of life is Islam, which is much more than just a religion. Islam is not merely a set of beliefs; rather; it is a way of life based upon the divine government of the universe. The very term 'Islam' means 'submission' to the authority of Allah. This worldview requires that religious, economic, political, and civil society be based on the Koran, the teachings of the prophet Muhammad, and on the sharia or Islamic law. Islam doesn't just regulate religious belief and practice; it covers such topics as the administration of the state, the conduct of war, the making of treaties, the laws governing divorce and inheritance, as well as property rights and contracts. In short, Islam provides the whole framework for Muslim life, and in this sense it is impossible to 'practice' Islam within a secular framework.
"This is especially so when, as Qutb insists, the institutions of the West are antithetical to Islam. The West is a society based on freedom whereas Islam is a society based on virtue. Moreover, in Qutb's view, Western institutions are fundamentally atheistic: they are based on a clear rejection of divine authority. When democrats say that sovereignty and political authority are ultimately derived from the people, this means that the people--not God--are the rulers. So democracy is a form of idol worship. Similarly capitalism is based on the premise that the market, not God, makes final decisions of worth. Capitalism, too, is a form idolatry or market worship. (ET note: the World Trade Center is considered an icon of Capitalism) Qutb contends that since the West and Islam are based on radically different principles, there is no way that Islamic society can compromise or meet the West halfway. Either the West will prevail or Islam will prevail. What is needed, Qutb concludes, is for true-believing Muslims to recognize this and stand up for Islam against the Western infidel and those apostate Muslims who have sold out to the West for money and power. And once the critique is accepted by Muslims, the solution presents itself almost automatically. Kill the apostates. Kill the infidels.
"Some Americans will find these views frightening and abhorrent, and a few people might even object to giving them so much space and taking them seriously. But I think that they must be taken seriously. Certainly they are taken seriously in the Muslim world. Moreover, Qutb is raising issues of the deepest importance: Is reason or revelation a more reliable source of truth? Does legitimate political authority come from God or from man? Which is the highest political value: freedom or virtue? These issues are central to what the West and America are all about. Qutb's critique reveals most lucidly the argument between Islam and the West at its deepest level. For this reason, it should be welcomed by thoughtful people in America and the West." (Dinesh D'Sousa, What's So Great About America , Washington D.C., Regnery Publishing, 2002)
Current Headlines for the World to See
One cannot help but ask what foreigners think when they see headlines of the last few days such as; "Ninth Circuit Court affirms decision to take 'under God' out of Pledge", or "California's 1600 judges should not be allowed to participate in Boy Scouts because of the youth's organization's discrimination against homosexuals."
No doubt this is why America's Founders warned us that without virtue in our own people, our mission to be an example and blessing to the entire human race could not be accomplished. No amount of persuasion or force can bring it about.
Earl Taylor, Jr.