Olivier Roy thinks "they" [al-Qaeda's army] hate us for cultural reasons, not religious reasons:
It is precisely because they do not care about Afghanistan as such, but see the United States involvement there as part of a global phenomenon of cultural domination.Other writers think it's our policies -- change our policies, forget Israel, leave Iraq, don't meddle -- and the attacks will stop. They make good arguments too, though they sometimes tend to reference the Iraqi insurgency rather than to al-Qaeda itself. There may be more than one class of reason to hate America and the UK.
What was true for the first generation of Al Qaeda is also relevant for the present generation: even if these young men are from Middle Eastern or South Asian families, they are for the most part Westernized Muslims living or even born in Europe who turn to radical Islam. Moreover, converts are to be found in almost every Qaeda cell: they did not turn fundamentalist because of Iraq, but because they felt excluded from Western society (this is especially true of the many converts from the Caribbean islands, both in Britain and France)...
...The Western-based Islamic terrorists are not the militant vanguard of the Muslim community; they are a lost generation, unmoored from traditional societies and cultures, frustrated by a Western society that does not meet their expectations. And their vision of a global ummah is both a mirror of and a form of revenge against the globalization that has made them what they are.
Four years ago, I put together a post-9/11 model that included many contributing factors to the hatred equation. It had some similarity to typical crime models - motive + capability + opportunity. I thought then, and still think, that fear of feminism is a "significant" (10%?) contributor to "motive" -- but there seems to have been no testing of any model, much less my amateur effort.
The interesting questions is then -- why do we seem to have made little significant progress on this key question? Is there no body of research and analysis? No attempt to create and test predictive models? Why didn't Bush fund a 'Manhattan Project' of social science research to understand the enemy? Did he think it was only necessary to crush them with overwhelming force?
What idiots we are. The cost of havoc continues to fall as technology disseminates new and old knowledge; we must either kill all who might hate us (a futile and evil goal) or convince them to hate us much less. (If all we did was convince us to hate us 50% less, the falling cost of attack would overwhelm such seemingly significant gains.) Can we win by increasing educational opportunity? By hiding western feminism from view? By showing impressive brutality? By letting the global economy work things out? By accelerating social transformations and gritting our teeth as Gulf societies become more technocentric? These are not irrelevant questions. We ought to have better data and more reason.
Instead we have faith-based government, and the power of the Will. History will not forgive us for re-electing George W. Bush.