After spending a week traveling the frontline of the “war on terrorism” — from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan in the seas off Iran, to northern Iraq, to Afghanistan and into northwest Pakistan — I can comfortably report the following: The bad guys are losing.
Yes, the dominos you see falling in the Muslim world today are the extremist Islamist groups and governments. They have failed to persuade people by either their arguments or their performances in power that their puritanical versions of Islam are the answer. Having lost the argument, though, the radicals still hang on thanks to gun barrels and oil barrels — and they can for a while.
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To the extent that the radical Islamists have any energy today, it comes not from the power of their ideas or examples of good governance, but by stoking sectarian feuds. In Afghanistan, the Taliban play on Pashtun nationalist grievances, and in Iraq, the Sunni jihadists draw energy from killing Shiites.
The only way to really dry up their support, though, is for the Arab and Muslim modernists to actually implement better ideas by producing less corrupt and more consensual governance, with better schools, more economic opportunities and a vision of Islam that is perceived as authentic yet embracing of modernity. That is where “our” allies in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have so consistently failed. Until that happens, the Islamist radicals will be bankrupt, but not out of business.
+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++
Most readers will focus on the beginning of Friedman’s story and completely miss the ending. What Friedman does not state that needs stating over and over again is that the U.S. taxpayer is being cheated by a foreign policy that substitutes technology for thinking, military sales for strategy, and convenient dictators for democracy. Until we have an Undersecretary of State for Democracy with one Assistant Secretary for those dictators that agree to a five-year exit strategy, another for those that do not; and a counterpart Undersecretary of Defense for Peace who can move beyond the lip service that Defense continues to give to Operations Other Than War (OOTW), Stabilization & Reconstructions (S&R), Humanitarian Assistance (HA), and the mother of all military strategies, Irregular Warfare properly defined as Waging Peace by All Means Possible, we will continue to betray the public interest at home as well as abroad.
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