Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The War on Terror: Missing the Mark

A family member of mine summarized the Afghanistan war with a creative analogy-

Imagine you're in a grocery store. Your kid gets away from you for a few seconds and goes to the candy aisle. When you get there, the candy aisle is a mess. There are bags of sweets all over the floor, strewn about across the aisle, and everyone around you is looking at your son in disgust. Its obvious that what he did was wrong, but you can't just walk away. Its your responsibility to clean it up. And people are watching to make sure you do it all the way and not make a half-ass job out of it.

According to a story today published on Politico, the Obama administration is worried that "Liberal, anti-war democrats will try to end the war in Afghanistan before progress is made."

This first implies that what we've been doing there for 8 years has been working. It implies that success in the "War on Terror" is made through aggressive troop deployment and ever-increasing defense spending. It also implies that we can defeat radical Islamic terrorism, an ideology, with guns and bombs alone. This is faulty reasoning, and will only make the situation more dire. Below is a three-step solution to permanently end the War on Terror with nonviolence.

A Three-Step Solution to Eradicating Terrorism
To eradicate an idea, guns and bombs alone will never work. They only solve the effects of a situation, and completely ignore the roots. For example, no matter how many time you trim the weeds, they always grow back a week later. The more you let them sit there, the worse they get. But imagine if you uprooted the weeds and made it so the weeds could never grow back in the first place? You could move on to other more important matters.

Terrorism is the same idea; it is a weed that shows it's ugly face every few years and we respond by spending a bunch of money, deploying thousands of troops, and suffering casualties and debt only to deal with more terror attacks a year or two down the road. But if you took out the root causes and the enabling factors of terrorism, then it would have nowhere to grow. There are three roots to terrorism; the desperate social conditions and oppressive regimes people are forced to tolerate abroad, radical religious fundamentalism, and finally, the terror networks themselves. Here is how to uproot these problems.

1. Apologize for and actively work to rectify past mistakes of foreign policy.
TIME Magazine's Person of the Year in 1951 was Mohammed Mossadegh, Iran's populist, democratically-elected prime minister. Mossadegh refused to cower to imperial wishes, and sought to nationalize all of his country's oil resources to insure his people saw the profits. In the first part of the Corporatocracy series, I mentioned the clandestine ways we financed CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt to stage false rallies and violent protests to stir civil unrest in Iran and make it look like Mossadegh was corrupt and not in control of his populace. After we successfully helped the Premier's son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, become the Shah of Iran in a violent coup, we secured oil resources for the United States. However, this had a devastating side effect.

As we proudly tout our founding values of democracy, equality, liberty, and reject oppression and tyranny here in the States, hypocritical Washington administrations propped up and financed ruthless and brutal regimes that promised to be a puppet for US interests. The Middle Easterners saw this in 1951, and became incensed at our doublespeak. Political scholars have theorized that had we instead decided to support Mossadegh's regime instead of overthrow it, Iran could have served as an example for the Middle East. Arabs throughout the Gulf might have been inspired to try democracy in favor of despotism, and we could build allies and forge friendships with Middle Eastern countries other than Israel.

Instead, we indirectly fostered a culture that wields religious extremism as a fierce weapon, who praises their dead as "martyrs" willing to die in order to stop what they see as US imperialism. The rampant anti-US stances harbored by many in the Middle East are a direct result of our interference in Middle Eastern affairs for our own selfish gain.

I propose that we rather than defense, we focus our Middle Eastern spending on honest-to-goodness foreign aid projects. Rather than costly infrastructure that only benefits the top 1%, we could instead turn the slums and ghettos of Jordan, Syria, Iran, Kuwait, and so many other exploited nations into places where everyone has access to clean water, public education, basic health services and electricity. We could do all this and more with a fraction of the money we spend on bombing cities in Afghanistan and Iraq. We would also show the Middle Eastern people that we want to genuinely help them out of poverty and allow everyone the opportunity to succeed and prosper.

2. Fund and support peaceful Islamic clerics, political campaigns, and social reform movements.
The militant form of Islam championed by Al-Qaeda is far from an adequate representation of Muslims in the rest of the world. Benazir Bhutto dedicated her life to advocating for peaceful Islamic movements and reforms. She was violently assassinated in December of 2007 after working overtime to eradicate Islamic terrorists from Pakistan. Her book, "Reconciliation," talks about the tremendous possibilities of progress when peacefully-motivated Islamic movements are supported by the international community.

If the US worked to eradicate poverty and desperate social conditions along with propping up peaceful Islamic politicians and clerics, we would demonstrate our commitment to peace and nonviolent diplomacy. As the image of the United States would be shown in a much more positive light, one would simultaneously find people less willing to preach and act against the United States. By apologizing for our actions and working to rectify them, radical Islamic clerics would find their audiences and followers dwindle in their numbers, and those movements would eventually cease to exist.

3. Forge military alliances with our newfound Muslim allies.
Only after apologizing for and working to fix past mistakes, as well as supporting peaceful Islamic movements and candidates, can we proceed with using military force against radical extremists. We must root out those who work to stir up chaos and who live to kill and oppress. But we must do this with multi-lateral support from cooperating Middle Eastern and other Islamic governments. With Muslims dedicated to open-mindedness and tolerance on our side, the international community would simultaneously rally against the fundamentalist Muslims who actively seek to harm others.

These military alliances would be long-lasting, and would be the best way to insure that the Islamic faith is equated with peace and understanding, as was originally intended before the corruption of the Qu'ran by the extremists.

Muslims in the Middle East are still largely against us due to our hypocrisy in preaching democracy but supporting tyrannical dictators. With this three-step solution to ending the War on Terror, we would eradicate both terrorists but also root out the initial causes of terrorism both in the Middle East and elsewhere. By bolstering our international image in this way across the globe, the international community will start to see our nation in the positive light in which we do. Only through smart solutions and creative, nonviolent diplomacy can we eradicate ideologies like religious extremism.

No comments:

Post a Comment