A couple of years back people found themselves to be fascinated by stereograms, pictures of repeating patterns of color and shapes in which, if stared at for a few moments, a 3-D figure could be discerned. I thought of stereograms while reading an article in The Washington Times in which Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 commission, expresses puzzlement about the motives of the 9/11 hijackers:
What motivated 19 relatively well-off Arab men, all Muslims, to become such horrific suicide bombers? Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the national September 11 commission, says motivation was the "big question" the panel could not answer.
"We were never able to answer why the 19 were willing to kill themselves. What was the motivation? I am talking in a very personal way," Mr. Hamilton, a Democrat who represented Indiana's 9th District in the House for 34 years, said in an interview with The Washington Times.
"What was the motivation for each one of these hijackers? I think the question of motivation was opaque to us. We just could not nail it. They were dead, of course."
I'm not sure how, after all that the terrorists themselves have said, anyone in the West who hasn't been asleep could say that their motives are "opaque" to us. For the benefit of those who have not been paying attention and for those like Mr. Hamilton who are staring at the stereogram but simply can't pick out the figures, let me suggest one short-term, one mid-term, and one long-term goal of the jihadis:
In the short-term they want the United States out of the Middle East. There are two main reasons for this: One, we are infidels and our very exhalations defile their sacred land. Two, it's difficult for them to achieve political power in those Muslim states which are still governed by less radicalized rulers as long as we're in the way.
In the mid-term they want to destroy Israel. The Israelis are not only infidels who occupy land in the very heart of the future Islamic caliphate, but the success of the Israelis, political, economic, and military, is an indictment of the ineptitude and incompetence of the Arabs and hence of their religion. This incurs Arab hatred of the Israelis far more than does the "Palestinian problem" which most Arabs couldn't really care less about.
Having achieved the first two goals and consolidated their power in the Middle East, their long-term ambition is to spread their religion across the globe. Their dream is that the whole world be Islamic. The world will essentially be given the Centanni option: Those who will convert will be allowed to live, those who won't, won't.
Thus, what motivated the 9/11 hijackers was goal number one which they saw as a necessary step to reaching goal number three. The hijackers were motivated purely by a religious ideology that sees the war against America as the biggest battle in the struggle to impose Islam on the world.
Why do they hate us? They hate us because we're infidels and we're successful. In their minds it is they who hold the truth and yet they've been failures since the 14th century, while the West believes the lies of Satan and has been incredibly successful. This fills them with a burning rage borne of jealousy and humiliation coupled to a profound anguish over the injustice of it all.
But now they believe Allah wants to change that, and they are willing to give their lives in his service and to his cause. Like the Communists who believed that they were on the right side of history, the Islamists believe that they can't fail because they're carrying out the will of Allah.
They themselves have said all this which is why it is surprising that Mr. Hamilton and the members of the 9/11 Commission profess to be unable to discern the pattern in the Islamic stereogram.