I find myself quite uncomfortable with the near consensus I see in America today (as reflected in the media and recent policy coming out of the House and Senate) on the belief that "the war" on terror is going poorly, and the answer to this problem is for America and the world to pull out and leave the Middle East to solve it’s own civil and societal issues.
My two main contentions/concerns are as follows:
1. I feel everyone is missing the forest (the real war), as they are focused on the trees (Iraq, and sometimes Afghanistan). The war, and I do believe, we are in the midst of "the third world war" is much broader than just the conflicts in these 2 countries….and I fear "pulling out" of Iraq, may reflect a broader pull back on any sustained attack or defence against the root cause of the war….which I believe is largely, if not fully, unaddressed today (more than 5 years after 9/11).
2. The real war we have is not a physical war at all. It is a virtual or mental war….a war of beliefs and values (largely Islamic beliefs and values on key issues, but broadly religious fundamentalism and the violation of basic human rights using religious beliefs/edicts as a justification).
This real war is the ultimate untraditional war. Yet, the world has largely responded to it with traditional tactics….i.e., physical attack and defence. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent already, on physical conflicts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Imagine what this money could achieve if appropriately redirected into fighting the real war….the war of beliefs.
I think it’s time to take a step back, somehow firmly but fairly extricate ourselves out of Iraq over time (I know this in itself is a huge issue, but I’ll leave my thoughts on Iraq specifically for a separate discussion. I will say I think it’s key despite all the past mistakes….to leave Iraq a much better and more peaceful place than it was and is), redefine and understand the real war against terror, and get cracking using more "untraditional" means such as economic policy, incentives, education, TV and the internet, opportunity and basic common sense and logic….to help the muslim world adopt a more moderate version of their religion (as has happened with other religions, including Christianity over the past few hundred years).
It won’t be easy for people to ignore the actual words from the Quran that are used by some to justify killing, discrimination against women, and other inhumane and backward practises….but this is religion….and muslims must adopt moderating changes themselves after debate and discussion….if they are to retain their pride….which is paramount when you are talking about religion and culture.