Just in case Ithaca College’s alumni and trustees had any doubt that its faculty is composed of professors steeped in the decadent anti-Americanism that plagues so many of our nation’s universities, the latest issue of the Ithaca College Quarterly clarifies things rather nicely. It is hard to imagine why the Quarterly’s editor would want to alienate IC alumni by bringing the paranoid, resentment-filled rantings of the likes of Asma Barlas to the attention of those whose donations contribute so much to paying her salary. But whatever the editor’s motivations, I consider myself to be in her debt for informing me about the views we would be supporting and promulgating among our country’s youth were we to contribute financially to the College.
The specific accusations that Professor Barlas launches against the United States all boil down to a single assertion: U.S. policy "oppresses" much of the world, and so murderous hatred of America is justified. She may claim not to endorse the actions of those who murdered almost 3,000 innocent civilians in a time of peace and who surely would have slaughtered the population of the entire country if they possessed the means to do so, but Barlas espouses views indistinguishable from the Islamo-fascist ideology of our country’s enemies. Like Osama bin Laden, Barlas believes that the particular policies with which she disagrees constitute nothing less than a concerted, conspiratorial effort by the United States to take over the world.
From Professor Barlas’s account, it is hard to see how U.S. policy --- in either its aims or its tactics --- differs in any fundamental way from National Socialist or Soviet Communist ambitions. And therein lies the fatal flaw in the thinking practiced by Barlas and such fellow purveyors of academic nihilism as Noam Chomsky: each of these figures lacks a sense of moral proportion. I am not going to recount basic historical facts of which every college freshman should be well aware --- like, for example, that some of the American military interventions that Barlas lists to justify hatred of America in the Islamic world were conducted to defend Muslims against their oppressors, and others had nothing to do with Muslims at all (as if bin Laden and his ilk care about America’s policies in Central America in the 1980s!). Suffice it to say that by any sensible, historically informed measure America’s "rule" of the world since World War II has been largely benign, as freedom --- that’s human freedom, not "Western" freedom --- and economic prosperity have spread into regions they had barely touched 60 years ago. There are far more liberal democracies in the world than there were in 1945, and the world economy has in this same period expanded sixfold, in part because trade has increased 1,600 percent. And World Bank data show that during the past decade of accelerated economic globalization, approximately 800 million people have escaped poverty. If the United States has conquered the world, then its domination is the most salutary in human history; its policies have done more to relieve human suffering than those of any other country ever.
Now, it is sadly true that in this same period the Islamic world has stagnated both politically and economically. But who is to blame? Professor Barlas, no less than the members of Al Qaeda, would have us believe that it is largely America’s fault. I respond with the assurance that the world’s Muslim population will continue to languish in poverty and "thugocratic" political oppression as long as its political, cultural, and religious leaders insist on indulging in scapegoating and resentment rather than turning some of its disturbing capacity for indignation on itself. If Asma Barlas wishes to encourage Islam’s current tendency to blame others for its own problems, that is her business. But American citizens have no obligation to support her efforts to instill self-loathing among America’s youth. Ithaca College will be receiving no donations from me anytime soon.
Damon Linker ’91
A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 5. Apr. 2002