Thursday, June 21, 2007

Military Prescription- The Wrong Medication

Interesting editorial from the LA Times that argues, in part:

THE CHALLENGE confronting those aspiring to the presidency, therefore, is to devise an alternative to Bush's failed strategy. To pass muster, any such strategy will have to recognize the limits of American power, military and otherwise. It must acknowledge that because the United States cannot change Islam, we have no alternative but to coexist with it.

Yet coexistence should not imply appeasement or passivity. Any plausible strategy will prescribe concrete and sustainable policies designed to contain the virulent strain of radicalism currently flourishing in parts of the Islamic world. The alternative to transformation is not surrender but quarantine.

Over time, of course, Islam will become something other than what it is today. But as with our own post-Christian West, that evolution will be determined primarily by forces within. Our interest lies in nudging that evolution along a path that alleviates rather than perpetuates conflict between Islam and the West. In that regard, the requirement is not for a bigger Army but for fresh ideas, informed by modesty and a sense of realism.

The candidate who can articulate such ideas might well merit respect and popular support. Those who in the absence of serious strategic analysis reflexively posture about the need for more troops deserve only contempt.

We need to move beyond our "war on..." analogies. We declare "war" on everything, it seems, here in the US: drugs, poverty, etc. We cannot simply kill or destroy everything we don't like about our world.

Part of our failure in this area, and it seems to me that this is a direct outgrowth of our "war on..." approach, is our inability to recognize the role we play in creating the root causes in some of our problems. While the US is not responsible for the twisting of Islam into a fundamentalist, violent religion by some of its practitioners, we are responsible for policies that directed much of their anger at us. But we cannot say that here in the US (the Pilgrim can get away with such heresy due to his political irrelevance). Witness what happened to Ron Paul when he dared to think this way- and say so- during the Republican debate. It was so easy to spin his argument into a "straw man" ("Ron Paul blames the US for 9/11"), and his opponents didn't resist doing so.

In war, both sides always thing themselves on the side of the right. That is why so many Americans are willing to tolerate torture- of both detainees and the Constitution- right now.

Outside of the "war on..." approach is found greater possibility for self-criticism, and, thus, greater chances for growth and actual achievement of goals. There is no "modesty," as the author quoted above calls for, in a militaristic approach.

Flawed thinking puts us on the wrong path. If we are on the wrong path, how can one argue that we will get to the desired destination?

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