Home / Europe / The West’s Foreign Policy is not the Root of Terrorism
By Gertrud Zach

The West’s Foreign Policy is not the Root of Terrorism

by Julie Lenarz – Executive Director

10th June 2013. Security and Defence, Issue 2, No. 1.        

Take away foreign policy and terrorists would still hate our freedom, democracy, rule of law, gender equality and religious pluralism.

The brutal images coming from Woolwich could not have been more surreal. A man with bloodied hands holds a knife and explains he has just hacked a British soldier to death on the streets of London in broad daylight. His declaration of war reads as follows: “the only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers.  An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Once again, terrorists justified their acts of barbarism under the false premise of challenging the West’s amoral and unethical foreign policy. And yet again too many in the West too readily bought into their narrative.

Michael Moore sarcastically tweeted: “I am outraged that we can’t kill people in other counties without them trying to kill us!” “Those who have sent British troops to wage war in the Arab and Muslim world for more than a decade must share culpability”, ranted Seamus Milne and Glenn Greenwald concluded that “the proximate cause of these attacks are plainly political grievances”. Following their analysis, one could get the impression that Lee Rigby was the perpetrator and not the victim.

The claim that our foreign policy is the root cause or catalyst for terrorism, however, is a logical fallacy and a distortion of the political reality. It must be wholeheartedly and categorically rejected.

Put them to the test and you will find the terrorists’s teaching to be misleading and fraudulent.

Firstly, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were a response, not an initiating provocation to an unprecedented slaughter of civilians on American soil. Despite hundreds of terrorists attacks predated both Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. For example, the first World Trade Center bombing, which killed six and injured over 1000 people, was carried out by a coalition of radical Islamist groups in 1993. And ask yourself how wars fought by American and British soldiers justify atrocities in the name of radical Islam in Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Indonesia or Somalia.

Secondly, terrorists decry neo-imperial aggression and criminal foreign occupations in Muslim countries, yet fight as religious mercenaries all over the world. The Woolwich killers are of Nigerian background. Notwithstanding, one of the men was picked up by police last year on his way to join al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia. Take the Syrian civil war as another example. Right now, over 4,000 Hezbollah militants are fighting on behalf of Assad but, apparently, that is not a foreign occupation in the book of jihadists.

Thirdly, radical Islamists ignore the fact that the US-led coalition saved hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Christian Serbs in the Balkan. One reason, of course, is that it does not fit their agenda and directly contradict their propaganda. Even more so, by and large, radical Islamists considered Bosnian Muslims to be too secular and too pro-Western. In other words, they deserved to die. A similar fate awaits Muslims every day across the Middle East if they happen to be of the wrong sect or ethnicity.

None of that can be attributed to the presence of Western troops in Muslim countries.

Our foreign policy should not be restricted by fear of reprisals, nor should we submit our national interests to an ideology of clerical fascism.  Radical Islamists exhibit an undisguised hatred and contempt for life. They hate us not only because of what we do but because of who we are. Take away foreign policy and terrorists would still hate our freedom, democracy, rule of law, gender equality and religious pluralism.

To claim otherwise negates the Taliban’s annihilation of culture, the Wahhabis’ brutal enslavement of women and Iran’s vigilant persecution and killing of homosexuals.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” – Voltaire once said. Terrorist live and breathe absurdities. Let us stop apologising for our own position.

Julie Lenarz is contactable at:


Please cite this article as:

Lenarz, J. (2013). ‘The West’s Foreign Policy is not the Root of Terrorism’

Human Security Centre, Defence and Security, Issue 2, No. 1.

About Julie Lenarz

Julie is the Executive Director of the HSC and co-chairs the Security and Defence division. She tweets @MsJulieLenarz.