July 21, 2006

This War Can't Be One-Dimensional

I'm going to start by saying that I believe Israel's ongoing military response is justified however unfortunate the consequences, and that US action in Iraq and elsewhere is similarly important in advancing the cause of world freedom from Islamic terrorism. I do not, however, think that either nation has a policy complete enough to actually win. We used to hear a lot about "hearts and minds", but what are we doing to actually influence those hearts and minds throughout the region?

What we need is a new kind of war strategy that commits us to spend as much on aid (or at least more than we do now) as we do on strict military action, and to do it in patently obvious ways. I know we already do something akin to this, but we need to push the humanitarian aspect a great deal more if we are to be recognized by the Muslim world and indeed the world at large. The sad truth of the Middle Eastern problem is that, no matter how much we bomb terrorist targets and route out terrorist cells, only one suicide bomber has to reach a target for terrorist victory to be declared. We can achieve victory by destroying as much terrorist infrastructure as possible while simultaneously fighting to win over the civilian populace, because terrorism will largely cease to exist once civilians in the region stop tolerating it.

Consider what might have happened had Israel, instead of simply attacking Lebanon, informed the government of their intention to rebuild once the operation was complete? Presumably Israeli ground forces will be crossing the border quite soon. How much might it help to restore good faith with the Lebanese people to have work crews standing by to go in as soon as areas have been secured? What might happen if we delivered major aid to the Palestinian people (or Egyptian people, or Lebanese people, or Saudi Arabian people) personally, not through organizations that might or might not distribute that aid fairly and facelessly, but personally, through military channels when necessary? The fact of the matter is that we need to find ways to get credit for the positive things we do in the region, which means those things must be large enough for the world to take special notice. Hezbollah knows how to do this with terrifying levels of success. Why don't we?

Maybe we already do everything we can to achieve this aim. I don't feel this is the case given the diplomatic language we and other allies use. Maybe delivering on these ideas would be financially or logistically impossible, but I for one am willing to make sacrifices to make it happen. I hope I'm not alone.

Posted by Andy at July 21, 2006 03:49 PM to the Politics category

I'm not saying that we shouldn't give humanitarian aid, but the fact is we already give a phenomenal amount of aid to Islamic nations, especially after any natural disaster. The U.S. has been there both as a nation and individually as many relief workers and volunteer donations come from the U.S. We seem to help out of proportion to, say, other Islamic nations. I'm not sure how much more we could do to make a difference over there. They seem convinced we are the Great Satan. I can see some reasons why they might not like us, but it really is out of kilter (sp?) with reality. I think Huntington is right in calling it a "clash of civilizations".

Posted by: Anna Venger at July 25, 2006 09:39 AM
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