Eye-popping peregrinations in places where people are most likely to succeed in hating Americans—and in killing us, too.
Soviet-born, Rome-resident Wall Street Journal correspondent Trofimov—his Italian passport comes in handy, we see—has been traveling about the Muslim world for years, speaks Arabic and knows his way around the Arab street. It’s a dusty road, filled with people who have lately come to dislike the U.S., thanks to “a nagging suspicion among some Muslims, a firm belief among others, that what started as a war against terrorism in 2001 is mutating into an intractable, almost apocalyptic conflict between the West and Islam.” But out in the tonier neighborhoods, where the doctors and government folk live, hating Americans has been de rigueur for years now; even the staff of the Jeddah Chuck E. Cheese, by Trofimov’s account, is likely to assume that any Westerner is a Zionist spy. The fact is, several interviewees suggest, the greater the American influence in the region, the more likely it is that Islamists will flourish. (Not all Americans are verboten: one semiofficial Yemeni newspaper Trofimov thumbs through features a long op-ed piece by Klansman David Duke.) Trofimov roams the Arab world looking for evidence of how we’re doing out there. The answer is not encouraging: having weathered ethnic slaughter, many Bosnian Muslims are drifting into the fundamentalist camp; secular democracies such as Tunisia are steadily losing ground to the mullahs; a steadily poorer Saudi Arabia is ever more “defiantly different from the West in its core”; the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, where, relative to the size of the force there, American casualties are as high as in Iraq, while in Iraq, those who were supposed to cheer our liberating them are counting coup on the bodies of our soldiers. As one mullah says, “We only believe in American technology. We don’t believe in American democracy, because the Americans themselves don’t have any.”
Essential for readers walking the minefield of U.S.-Arab relations—for anyone trying to follow the news.