Islam traditionally does not separate church and state, nor does it separate political and military leadership. The tendency in centralized countries is to assume that others also are centralized and that events happen not because of a multitude of causes, but through the will of the most powerful. This year, World Public Opinion asked people in Pakistan (and several other Muslim countries), "How much of what happens in the world today would you say is controlled by the US?" Most respondents said "all" or "most."
Anti-Americanism rules the U.S. left and Pakistan, as well: Whenever anything bad happens, blame America first. But some Pakistanis have fallen further into conspiracy theories. Husain Haqqani, a Pakistani who directs an international relations center at Boston University, reports his countrymen recently spread rumors of a virus -- not a computer virus, a physical one -- that would kill those who answered phone calls from particular numbers. One man purportedly answered his cell phone and then "died like he was poisoned." One newspaper declared the rumor false but ran that denial under the headline "Killer Mobile Virus."
People subservient to centralized power also tend to become fatalistic. Listen to the helplessness evident in what one Pakistani laborer told a Los Angeles Times reporter earlier this month: "For us, life stays the same, even when politicians throw Pakistan into the sky, spin it around and watch as it crashes back down to earth."
What's the U.S. to do in the face of despair and ignorance? Foreign policy realism should not mean accepting dictatorships as inevitable. Instead we need to use all instruments available to promote religious and intellectual liberty. This will be a difficult process, but we have no alternative, for dictatorship means disaster for Muslim countries and more terrorism throughout the world -- and so does democracy without liberty.