These are challenging and scary times on the world stage that require an overall strategy. Tuesday’s, September 16, 2014, Los Angeles Times editorial section written by Andrew Bacevich offers us all some challenging questions. It is true that we can not count on the Military to give us a permanent solution to the problems of the Middle East. Our ultimate challenge is what can we do after we destroy ISIL to prevent future ISIL’s or another al Qaeda? We need a comprehensive strategy that offers more than a military option to the greater causes of the problems that are manifesting themselves under the current radical group of the moment, ISIL.
Let’s be honest with ourselves if we want to stop what appears to be a forever war against terrorism by eliminating the root causes of why radicals find support for their religious extremism.
The trouble spots in the world today are part of the economic and politically weak and disenfranchised people of the world. The people who live in these countries are part of what has been termed the Gap. Thomas P.M. Barnett has pointed out brilliantly in his two books, the last being, “Blue Print for Action,” the causes of the problems that we face and solutions so that we may have a future worth living.
The people who live in the countries that are included in the Gap are countries that are failed states, kingdoms and autocracies. It is only logical to think that we human beings all share certain common goals. Included in these goals are a good job, to have a family that has food on the table and a roof over their heads, and finally good health. These are age old goals irrespective of religion and politics. If we can only work to connect the peoples of the GAP in economic progress we can eliminate the need for temporary military actions. Food on the table and full stomachs make for fewer extremists and future martyrs.
When times are hard economically, we humans attempt to find simple solutions to make life more understandable and fulfilling. We all want hope for a better life. If you lived in the Middle East, life would seem not worth living. In Egypt which was part of the Arab spring, little is being done to improve the lives of ordinary people.
In one resource countries like we find in the Middle East we find the most wealthy people in the world among the oil sheikdoms but too often the wealth does not trickle down to the people, and too much poverty exists even in the wealthiest places.
People often try to fill a void in their lives by using religious beliefs to make their lives make more sense. Religious faith can help give hope to the hopeless, who need answers as to the why of how they wound up in a life filled with such pain. This has often happened in the world’s history to help explain or bring some hope to the empty hopes and empty bellies of the disconnected peoples of the world.
A key part of a comprehensive strategy for the world is to connect the disconnected countries to the world economy. We need to combine realism and idealism and work to give real hope, to where is no hope to, too many of the world’s population. Countries in the Middle East, and Africa as well as a few in South America, make up most of the disconnected countries of the world. A military strategy is a weak substitute for a long term strategy which would deny the radical mullahs a key reason for winning over followers. If you have food on the table and a future worth living, you are less likely to be a martyr. Hope, real hope can replace desperation, hunger and despair, that exists too much in the disconnected countries of the world.
If we want a future worth living without a perpetual war against terrorism we must like the post World War II period, develop a strategy, a long term strategy. The Marshall Plan is an example of a plan that worked to not only give hope to millions of people during the time of their greatest desperation and hopelessness, it gave the world a community where peace and prosperity became a hallmark to Europeans who had known nothing but war for centuries.
Our view of the world and its problems only look to short time solutions. Today the problem is ISIL, yesterday the problem was Al Qaeda. It is not surprising that we are so myopic. Even in our own country we are so near sighted, we fail to spend money to improve our own infrastructure.
The United States needs to lead the effort to improve the lives of the disconnected if we are to stop the perpetual war on terrorism. It is our youth who bravely serve and come home injured by their war experiences. How can we expect our brave servicemen and women to come home unchanged from the wars that we send them to fight? It will cost us less in human tragedies and in monetary treasure to prevent the causes of terrorism than it will cost us in real human terms.
We need to have the United States, the EU, the countries with strong economies, the World Bank, the IMF and other strategies like having a World Peace Corps. Economic and educational strategies will have a real effect on our fellow human beings as well. Let us stop relying on the military and put in a real effort to make a future that will be worth living in. Let us have a real comprehensive strategy to end the perpetual war on terrorism.