September 12, 2006

Bush's deal with the King of Saudi Arabia

to bring 15,000 young Saudi males to study at American colleges, exactly five years after 15 young Saudi males in the U.S. helped kill 3,000 Americans, continues to amaze. The notion that the American college experience will uniformly turn these 15,000 into America-loving Seinfeld fans is dangerously naive. As I explained in in 2003:

The U.S. college experience can set off ugly reactions in foreigners. Perhaps the most disastrous example: the Egyptian fundamentalist ideologue Sayyid Qutb, the "Philosopher of Islamic Terror" who became "the intellectual hero of every one of the groups that eventually went into Al Qaeda," according to Paul Berman. In the New York Times March 23, 2003, Berman writes:

"[Sayyid Qutb] even traveled to the United States in the late 1940's, enrolled at the Colorado State College of Education and earned a master's degree. In some of the accounts of Qutb's life, this trip to America is pictured as a ghastly trauma, mostly because of America's sexual freedoms, which sent him reeling back to Egypt in a mood of hatred and fear."

It’s hard to predict what will outrage visitors from other cultures. Qutb's conversion from modernizing to jihad is sometimes said to be a reaction to the lasciviousness of a church dance he attended in Greeley, Colorado!

Perhaps the most detailed account of this alienation process at work in a foreign intellectual is John Updike's 1978 novel The Coup. Written when Updike was at the height of his powers, it might be his most spectacular (if hyperbolic) effort. The Coup consists of the extraordinarily articulate memoirs of the revolutionary dictator of an impoverished African country.

Colonel-President Hakim Ellellou is a fervent Muslim, Marxist, and black racist. He's perfectly aware that his three faiths are contradictory. But, since they each give him additional reasons to indulge his consuming hatred of America ("that fountainhead of obscenity and glut"), he luxuriates in them all.

Ellellou traces his obsession with America to the four seemingly-pleasant years he spent at a liberal arts college in small-town Wisconsin in the 1950s, where he made blonde Candace the second of his Prophet-sanctioned four wives.

How can America's openness backfire so badly? Well, American universities specialize in leftist indoctrination. Maybe their foreign students, well, study.

And foreigners living in America are constantly confronted with America’s superiority over their homelands. It would be wonderful if every visitor to the U.S. reacted as objectively as Alexis de Tocqueville. But don't count on it.

For instance, years later Updike’s Ellellou is still driven into a rage by the thought of how well stocked a Wisconsin drugstore was compared to the shops at home:

"Hakim's instinct was to smash, to disarray this multifaceted machine, this drugstore, so unlike the chaste and arcane pharmacies of Caillieville, where the sallow Frenchman in his lime-green smock guarded his goods behind a chest-high counter showing only a few phials of colored water."

I sympathize. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and went to Rice University in Houston. On any kind of rational scale, the difference between living in suburban California and suburban Texas is minimal. But so what? I was young. I missed my home. The testosterone was flowing. So I just decided I was going to hate Houston. I spent four years, objectively as enjoyable as Ellellou's, searching out reasons to despise Texas.

If I could succumb to pointless anti-Texanism, how much more understandable is the anti-Americanism of many immigrant students?


A graduate of the U. of Oregon in 1900 was Yosuke Matsuoka, who was the fanatically anti-American Foreign Minister of Japan in 1941. He died in 1946 before his war crimes trial could be completed, but he is listed as one of the 14 Class A War Criminals.

Even one of the success stories of foreign college students turned out to be a disaster in the complicated long run. The U.S. magnanimously converted its share of the indemnity paid by the Chinese government for the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 into scholarships for Chinese students at American colleges.

According to reporter Theodore White, when he arrived at Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Chinese capital of Chunking in 1940, the Chinese government was apparently run by American college graduates. Like the rest of the American press, especially his Chinese-born employer Henry Luce of Time-Life, the son of a top missionary, White imagined that the Chinese government was completely Americanized. The American media was wild about Chiang.

Only gradually did he realize the English-speakers were just window dressing. Despite his American-educated wife (who died just three years ago in NYC at age 106!), Chiang was utterly Chinese in his thought patterns. A sense of wounded racial pride was dominant in his character. He didn't like America very much at all, and did as little as he possibly could to help us win WWII. Even though Japan occupied coastal China, Chiang felt that was a temporary trifle. Eventually, he reasoned, America would beat Japan, so Japan would go home. The Americans would go home next. Then the truly important struggle would ensue between he and Mao to see who would be Emperor of China. So, Chiang spent most of WWII maneuvering not to beat Japan but to put himself into position to beat Mao afterwards, driving poor General Stillwell round the bend with frustration.

But the pro-Chiang China Lobby in the U.S., snookered by the thin veneer of American college graduates in his government, didn't understand any of this. Not surprisingly, the winning Communists were vehemently anti-American, with disastrous consequences for both countries over the next two decades.

(Even though he lost to Mao, Chiang's fundamental insight -- foreigners always go home in the end, so the real question is which one of us will ultimately rule the homeland -- was largely correct. We should keep it in mind in understanding why the Iraqis do the frustrating things they do: they know we will leave sooner or later, so they are positioning themselves for the fight to become the Owner of the Oil.)

Similarly, lots of members of the Shah of Iran's affluent supporters sent their children to America to get college degrees. And America and Iran have been friends ever since. And it could never possibly happen that the Saudi royal will be overthrown...

This is not to say that we shouldn't allow in foreign students, but for the President of the United States to work out a deal to bring in 15,000 of Osama bin-Laden's countrymen speaks volumes about Mr. Bush's judgment.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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