(Today's guest post is by Joseph Suh. Joseph is currently a student at the University of Utah who writes for their The Daily Utah Chronicle. He is currently in the Army ROTC program, and plans to join the U.S. Army after graduation. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines. We look forward to publishing reader posts on future Thursdays.
Quick note: The views of guest writers are not necessarily the view of Michael C or Eric C. For our take, please check out the comments below.)
Think that the West is the root cause for the most casualties with its most malevolent intentions? You aren’t alone. Scholarly studies and pundits have been tirelessly repeating the claim that the United States’ foreign policy is the underlying cause for the violence in the places it intervenes in.
The general sentiment from such arguments is that America’s violent invasion of countries is the indisputable motivation for the sanguine killing and the catastrophic violence in the aforementioned regions. Despite the convenience of such simplistic views, they don’t correlate with the facts. Let’s take, for instance, the facts about the United States' wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here are thereligionofpeace.com’s statistic on killings in 2006 Iraq:
- Iraqi civilians killed (mostly intentionally) in 2006 by the Iraqi resistance: 16,791.
- Iraqi civilians killed (mostly accidentally) in 2006 by Americans: 225.
All of these deaths, undoubtedly, are extremely tragic and disheartening. However, a comparison of body counts is the only way to dispel the myths surrounding such a heated issue.
The common, “blame America” explanation fails to expound why the number of Muslim civilians murdered by other Muslims is so magnanimously disproportionate. Perhaps, in spite of their supposed mission statements calling for war against the West, the fact that the vast majority of targets chosen by insurgents suggest their war is against other Muslims.
In Afghanistan, this paradigm is also sadly ever-present.
According to the United Nations in a 2010 report, 75 percent of the deaths in Afghanistan are caused by the Taliban while 16 percent are caused by NATO and Afghan forces. Again, although Western forces may be contributing to the aggregate total of Islamic extremists to fight in Afghanistan, and ergo inciting more frequent skirmishes, it’s ultimately irrelevant. Simply because Western troops are present doesn’t necessitate the clash between the different sects of Islam.
Yet another example of this turbulence in Afghanistan is the repugnant and under-reported Taliban massacre of the Shi’a Hazara population in Afghanistan. This massacre took place in May 2000 and January 2001, significantly before any type of direct American intervention. This should further illuminate the core problem not as Western invasion.
In response, the counter-argument could be made that this pattern is only applicable to a particular region at particular times.
Not so. According to a 2009 study by West Point, “non‐Westerners are much more likely to be killed in an al‐Qa’ida attack. From 2004 to 2008, only 15% percent of the 3,010 victims were Western. During the most recent period studied the numbers skew even further. From 2006 to 2008, only 2% (12 of 661 victims) are from the West, and the remaining 98% are inhabitants of countries with Muslim majorities”.
These are global, international numbers — so if these Islamic extremists were created due to Western occupation of Muslim lands, then why is it that their victims are almost unanimously adherents of the same religion?
Even though some contend, to this day, that western foreign policy is the foremost and root generator of Islamic extremist violence, their positions are undermined by the sheer facts that illuminate most of the bloodshed to be Muslim-on-Muslim, a truism which doesn’t sit well with this strain of contention.
After all, if it was due to Western intervention that’s responsible for the killing in the Near East, why is it that in Iraq after the US left, fellow Muslims are murdering each other? Why is it that before the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban were killing the innocent Hazara people? Ultimately, it may not be because of the difference of sectarian beliefs of the same religion. It may simply be power politics played by a stronger sect in order to ensure its position.
One thing is unequivocal and irrefutable, though: the core cause isn’t Western foreign policy.