Americans are preoccupied with their own affairs and do not want to get involved in the problems of others unless they really have to. It is remarkable that America needed the impact of Pear Harbor to realize that millions of innocent people are being killed all over the world, and that without US involvement it could run on for long time. Behind the anti-American rhetoric of Islamic fundamentalists there is the bitterness and disappointment that America has failed as a world leader. Failed in the sense that it did not do enough to help them become more like us.
Iran is a textbook case. Under the shah the country was pro-American, taking advantage of our technological leadership. Or at least it looked like it. The truth was that, due to the corrupt political system, the benefits were enjoyed by very few, while the masses suffered the hardships of capitalism in the early stages. The peoples’ aspirations were awakened, but hopes of having them fulfilled were taken away. Khomeini filled that gap. It appears that a similar momentum exists now in Saudi Arabia.
America’s wealth is the result of a political system that gives everyone a realistic chance to become wealthy, and at the same time guarantees a socially acceptable redistribution of that wealth to the rest. When looking for American help, people all over the world will accept the fish – dollars and goods, but what they really want is the fishing pole, the fairness of the American political system. One may ask, how can we ensure that others adopt and execute our political standards? Looking at the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center, we have to ask ourselves: can we afford not to? How long can we pretend that we do not know that the people we are doing business with – beat their wives back at home?
When dealing with other countries we have to go by our standards of justice in its legal meaning and our understanding of fairness in its moral sense. We failed. And it ricocheted.