"I say there are two sides in the struggle:" wrote Osama bin Laden in one of the bombastic manifestoes that have so signally failed to unite the Islamic masses under his leadership. "One side is the global Crusader alliance with the Zionist Jews, led by America, Britain and Israel, and the other side is the Islamic world." President Ahmadinejad sees it the same way: America, Britain, and Israel are out to destroy everything that gives meaning and decency to the world.
This isn't just about power. The United States, says bin Laden, has "the worst civilization witnessed in the history of mankind." Greedy, licentious, exploitative — we are a danger to man and an offense to God. The Syrian parliamentarian and critic of Hollywood culture Muhammad Habash describes the "project" of American culture to "crush the weak, oppress the weak, crush them, climb all over their corpses."
On this point, our enemies are less original than they suppose. A common hatred of Britain, America, Jews, and liberal capitalist modernity emerged in the 19th century and played a major role in the history and culture of the last 100 years.
Today's anti-Americans, anti-Semites, and anti-Zionists — whether they are ex-Marxists, thuggish populists like many supporters of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez or fanatical jihadis holed up in Waziristan — have embraced a set of images and beliefs that haunted the European imagination for hundreds of years.
This hatred is the product of the great story of modern world history: the rise of a global system of power, commerce, finance, culture, and ideology resting first on the power of Britain and now on that of America. As horrified Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Soviets looked on, since 1688 the British have been on the winning side in every great power conflict in which they have fought — with the single exception of the American Revolution. In other words, the two great English speaking powers have either separately or together won every major war since the 17th century, and the global system resting on their military and commercial prowess remains the foundation of international order today.
Those who have fought and opposed this system attacked both its geopolitical ambitions and its ideological foundations. Where the Anglophones considered themselves to be fighting for freedom and tolerance, their enemies saw an economic and social system based on exploitation, greed, and a ruthless will to power. European suspicion of the allegedly harsh and inhuman character of the dreaded "Anglo-Saxon" model of capitalism echoes these concerns.
Jews and Wasps have their differences, but the rest of the world saw us as fighting on the same side long before America's support of Israel became a major world issue. French Jacobins attacked Britain as "Carthage" — a cruel, commercial, maritime, and Semitic empire that opposed the noble agrarian Latin world. By the Dreyfus controversy, French anti-Semites increasingly saw specific linkages between the supposedly rootless and cosmopolitan Jew and the terrifying Anglo-American economic machine.
Throughout Europe the Boer War was seen as evidence that Jewish plutocrats secretly manipulated British politicians to launch a war against virtuous farmers to protect Jewish interests in South African gold. "Oncle Sam" became "Oncle Shylock" in French nationalist propaganda during the 1930s. Fascist leaders attacked both Churchill and Roosevelt as tools of the Jews, pointing to the significant presence of Jews among their closest advisors and friends. Stalinists shared both the hatred of liberalism and the identification of liberal capitalism with evil, cosmopolitan, and unmistakably Jewish values. As the Soviet apologist Genrikh Volkov put it, American capitalism reflected a "Shylock passion to utilize for the sake of profit not only a man's blood but also the living soul and his beating heart." The critics have seen something real. Despite a steady undercurrent of anti-Semitism, both Britain and America have long histories of tolerance and more than tolerance for Jews. From the time of Oliver Cromwell, when medieval laws against Jews began to lapse, Jewish immigrants played a growing role in the commercial and cultural life of the English speaking world. Benjamin Disraeli's father received an honorary degree from Oxford in tribute to his scholarly achievements. Disraeli himself, though baptized a Christian, was openly proud of his Jewish heritage even as he headed the ultra-traditionalist Tory Party.
Other European courts tolerated wealthy "court Jews" as financiers. Disraeli was seen as the ideological heir of Edmund Burke and helped construct an ideology of English identity that remains strong today. In the 20th century, men like Isaiah Berlin and Milton Friedman were leading influences in the development of "Anglo-Saxon" political and economic liberalism.
Where critics see a conspiracy, I see a confluence. On the one hand, as Max Weber observed, Judaism like Protestantism provides a solid foundation for success at capitalist enterprise. On the other, it turns out that cultural and religious tolerance are necessary qualities for capitalist success.
Capitalism requires careers that are open to talent: successful investment banks need to be run by the best brains rather than the best pedigrees. At the same time, capitalism produces social change. Competition leads companies to invest in new technologies. Great social cataclysms like the industrial and information revolutions change the way people live. Urbanization uproots farmers and peasants in the tens and ultimately hundreds of millions and sends them into alien new cities. Within and across national frontiers, vast migrations of people course across the landscape.
Some cultures, some societies, tolerate this kind of diversity and upheaval better than others. Jewish society, with a culture shaped by millennia of exile, encountered capitalist modernity with the ability to maintain a sense of identity and continuity in the face of change and has generally adapted well to the new conditions.
Wasps, with cultural roots in a form of Protestant Christianity that is individualistic and future-oriented, have also managed to negotiate the challenges of liberal modernity relatively smoothly. For different reasons, we are at home in the same kind of world, and the "Anglo-Judaic" synthesis remains the despair of our enemies.
Mr. Mead, author of "God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World," which was just released, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.