Some notice the connection between US foreign policy and the revival of extremism. It is conventional to discuss this in terms of mere ‘blowback’ and remark on how the US has sponsored and trained the Taliban, etc.
However, the true connections are more subtle. It is not that the US directly supports religious extremism that is the cause of the revival of fundamentalism and extremism. It is rather that US policy systematically undermines all liberal opposition to itself. It is the efficiency with which the US (CIA, State Dept, Pentagon) uses money and arms to discredit and manipulate liberal opposition to its policies that make extremism the solely available response.
Imagine a liberal opponent of US foreign policy. If the person is not directly under US control, they will consider him ‘unreliable’. A more reliable alternative must be found. From a range of policies, starting with sowing discord, bribing members either with money or opportunities for their family, to undermine their leader, to funding an opposition to eventually more direct attempts including assassination.
What principle offers any form of sustained resistance to this US approach? If you need a movement whose members will not be swayed by bribery, who will not fear torture or assassination, or buckle from suffering under many years in Guantanamo detention, who will keep struggling against impossible odds and will not be downtrodden by massive defeats; if this is what you need you have little option but to base your movement around religious fundamentalism.
Such a movement is, to a great extent, self-policing. Anyone showing a tendency to seek money and pleasure will be ‘outed’ as unreliable as a follower of the religious movement! To keep going in the face of heavy defeats becomes a show of one’s purity of religious intention. No ‘liberal’ opposition would consider taking on the might of the US army as a credible strategy. No educated liberal leader after several years at Harvard or Yale would consider the pain of 20 years of war (maybe 40!) a credible path to take. Smooth and suave, such people would be the darlings of US policymakers. Everyone around them will notice their efforts to ensure their pensions (just in case the US seeks to replace them a la Diem) and so follow suit.
On the other side, the ‘fanatics’ and fundamentalists do not generally worry about their earthly pension and will behave strictly. This is their calling card: we believe in the one true religion and in our nation and are willing to die for it and do. They need their fundamentalism to separate them from the liberal US puppets and to show they are not simply competing for the chance to loot the treasury. Everyone has access to the Koran and so that becomes the party manifesto. This is in a period where the US controls the media and can prevent any leaflet distribution. However, the Koran has already been distributed and any attempt to prevent its further distribution will show the US to be the worst kind of infidel. Fundamentalists are not affected by US spyware. Their campaigns simply involve asking people to read the Koran and look out of their windows to see what is happening. ‘Who are the people killing your neighbours and what is their religion?’ To put this in metaphors US liberals like to use: It can be seen that US policy had put the opposition under evolutionary pressure.
US policy can be summed up as: everyone can be bought, and if they cannot be bought they can be killed. It is only a religious fundamentalist who will say ‘Nyet’ to Don Corleone.