Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Better Way of Fighting Terrorism

Huffington Post
The Better Way of Fighting Terrorism
Cenk Uygur

There are two schools of thought in the country right now. One is the Republican idea that we are fighting against Islamic fascism (whatever that is) and that we need to go on the offense against Muslim states that support the Islamofascist terrorists. It's hard not to laugh as you say it.

The second school of thought is that we can fight terrorism better by isolating the terrorists from the rest of the Muslim population, finding them and neutralizing them. The idea here is that instead of fanning the flames of hate and helping the Muslim fundamentalists spread their ideology to others, we work with the majority of Muslims in rooting out the extremists in their midst.

I can see Republicans reflexively getting ready to shout now - you can't work with Muslims, they're all Islamofascists looking to destroy our way of life. Other than being painfully stupid, that is incomprehensibly wrong. A great majority of Muslims have nothing against our way of life. They have no desire to take over Kentucky or to make sure the people of Alaska don't have freedom.

The idea that Muslims are looking to take over the world and are on the precipice of dominating militarily as the Nazis did is so laughable that I can't quite believe they're saying it out loud. Nazi Germany took France in five days. Are Islamic fundamentalists about to roll their tanks in to Paris and Prague?

These conservatives want to pick a fight - not just with the Muslim terrorists - but with all of Islam. Hardly has there been a more dangerous idea. A majority of Muslim countries have absolutely no intention of taking over the West, even if it was remotely possible. But they will fight to the death if you needlessly invade them.

But there is a better way. And ironically, we are implementing the better way right now in Pakistan. Pakistan is a country that probably has more Muslim fundamentalists than any other nation on earth. They don't just have a WMD program, they have nuclear weapons. And they have spread their nuclear weapon technology to other countries. And to top it all off, Osama bin Laden is sitting comfortably in northern Pakistan.

If the Republicans were honest and they actually believed in their own so-called principles, the most ideal country on earth to attack would be Pakistan. They have a thousand times more WMD than Iraq and Iran combined (which is pretty simple, since that number is just about zero). And they shelter the biggest terrorists in the world. On the other hand, they don't have much oil and they are not a direct threat to Israel.

But the reality is our strategy in Pakistan, while lacking in intensity and focus, is roughly the correct one. We are trying to isolate the Taliban and Al Qaeda sympathizers in northern Pakistan while working with the Pakistani government. If we invaded, we would have nuclear war with a country that has hundreds of millions of Muslims. Instead, we cooperate with them and they help us to foil the bombings in the London airport.

If we had chosen the route of "going on the offense" against Pakistan, there is an excellent chance we would have lost ten airplanes full of passengers this week.

This strategy has its clear downsides. We have to put more pressure on Pakistan to find and turn over Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. We have to have tighter controls over their nuclear technology. But at least, this path is smart and doable.

And ironically, it is being pulled off by the very administration that is touting this nonsense war against Islamic fascists. It is clear that the administration doesn't even believe its own talking points. Otherwise, the 101st Airborne would be in Waziristan right now. So, why don't they apply this smarter strategy with the rest of the Muslim world?

I'm afraid it's because there are hardliners inside the administration that want to invade Iran - no matter what. So, they paint them as Islamic fascists and try to stir up more war fever. Just look at this ridiculous clip from Hannity and Colmes. It appears that Sean Hannity believes there is only one strategy for fighting against a couple of thousand terrorists spread out throughout the world - start a war with a couple of hundred million Muslims in select countries.

But, of course, there is a better way. The Democrats need to explain to Americans that war is not the only answer. The smarter strategy is to isolate the extremists and build up our relationship with moderate Muslims. Enlist the moderates to help us locate the terrorists and neutralize them - just like we did in the London plot we just foiled.

The American people are sick of war, just as the conservatives plot for even more wars. Democrats have to realize that pursuing the "isolate and neutralize" strategy against terrorists is not only sound policy but, at this point, also sound politics. People are eager for a better, smarter way of fighting terrorism. This is the time to finally offer it as an alternative to the endless wars the Republicans promise instead.