Lee Smith seeks to explain why Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old activist, put herself in harm's way (in 2003) by protesting the demolition of homes in Palestine by the Israeli Defense Force.
From Taliban member John Walker Lindh to al-Qaida spokesman Adam Gadahn, a number of young Americans have crossed lines to side with U.S. enemies, or, in Corrie’s case, the enemies of American allies. Then there is a much larger contingent of middle-class, educated Westerners—academics, journalists, and politicians—that does not actively participate in anti-Western causes but still lends its sympathy to them and their representatives.
And the motivation behind such decisions?
Their complaint is precisely with their own liberal societies, which, from a safe distance, look dull and meaningless in comparison to the raw power politics of the region. These Westerners are bored of the mediocrity that Western societies breed. The Middle East, by contrast, is a place where winner takes all, enemies are vanquished, and people fight and die for their beliefs. Hassan Nasrallah fought the Israelis and lives to taunt them. Khaled Meshaal survived an assassination attempt. These men pay no attention to lobbies and competing constituencies but legislate by utterance, blood, and fire.
From Nietzsche through Foucault, a significant thread of Western philosophy has laid out its complaint with liberal democracy and the slave morality it fostered by granting the bourgeois the same political privileges as artists and intellectuals, the aristocrats of spirit. What these philosophers wrote about is not some footnote of intellectual history: It’s a subject that touches every individual to the core. What are the causes you are willing to sacrifice everything for? What would you die for? What would you kill for?