gets it right in today's New Republic:
Fourth, [Atlantic Monthly journalist James] Fallows emphatically rejects Bush's contention that Islamist terrorists and extremists "hate us because of our freedom." They don't much care what we do in our own societies, Fallows maintains; it's our foreign policy, especially our failure to stop Israeli repression of the Palestinians, that motivates Islamist extremism. I differ in thinking hatred of our freedom is a huge factor. My personal knowledge of this stops at 1989 when I left Pakistan, so maybe I'm out of date. But when I lived in Pakistan, I met and talked with extremists, and never thought they really cared particularly about the Palestinians, except as a symbolic issue. Probably no Arab government really cares either, except to deflect attention from themselves--Arab states treat expat Palestinians as second-class citizens, for instance. The extreme Islamists are driven by their fantasies about making whole swaths of the world into Islamic dictatorships. Freedom is the force most likely to stop them.
In my view, the first factor is the Bernard Lewis thesis--the pain of Arab and Muslim feelings of inferiority. For nearly 500 years, Western society has been clobbering Islamic and Arab society on every front. And what else has happened in that time? Western society has grown freer. So freedom is bad. Rather than come to the logical conclusion that Islamic and Arab society should also become free, the Islamists come to the folly conclusion that freedom is their adversary.
I bet what's burning reddest in the minds of Osama bin Laden and those he indoctrinates are not images of innocent Palestinians humiliated by a occupier or Washington meddling in Gulf state affairs or educated single women in mini-skirts with careers, it's a fantasy of Islamist despotism with the terrorists in power. Psychologists have shown that those who enjoy killing are usually motivated by power fantasies, and this seems to apply to Islamist terrorists. In their fantasies, they are giving the orders and receiving absolute obedience because all freedom has been eliminated: There are only male Islamic dictators, and the male Islamic dictators are them. Vladimir Putin may be a creepy guy, but he was on the money when he said, "Just imagine that people who shoot children in the back came to power anywhere on our planet." What the extreme Islamists want foremost is power, and freedom is what stands in their way.
Per some of our earlier discussions...the people hacking the heads off journalists and aid works in Iraq aren't "freedom fighters". They're power-hungry nutjobs who want to drive us out so they can take over and set up a place devoid of anything resembling a free society.