The First Rule of Warfare is to “Know Your Enemy!” But, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, George W. Bush declared a Global War on Terror. So, what does that mean? Have we been fighting a tactic: Terrorism? Are we fighting for Good, versus Evil? What exactly is IT? Also, is the fight, against this uncertain opponent, limited to the Middle East, or might it be global in scope? Unfortunately, as the “Coalition” was gearing-up to invade, George Bush waved the red flag—citing the Crusades. How damn ignorant can one man have been?
Ever since those terrorist attacks, many in Washington have attempted to assign the role of our new invisible adversary to Islam. Why didn’t Bush confront the Saudis, since 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi nationals? By falsely accusing Global Islam to be our new Enemy, the Administration had enabled our real enemy to gain more strength, while America tilted at windmills!
Many of us in the more secular West have trouble understanding the role of Religion in other cultures. Until approximately 1500 AD, Western Europe was considered to be somewhat of a cultural backwater, as compared go the Great Empires of the world. The source of all power was universally thought to be the King, Caliph, Bishop, etc, who was believed to have received it from God.
Eventually, however, Europeans began to question the role of the Kings, as well as the Pope, as they also began to doubt that the Earth was the center of the universe. As people began to think for themselves, an Intelligentsia evolved, which explored science, philosophy, geography, economics, etc.
As that transition occurred, Western Europe jumped ahead of the rest of the world in knowledge, in adventure, and in understanding how things worked. So, while Europe had become more secular, the importance of Religion, however, had not changed among the other great civilizations of the world!
Muslims seem to have maintained a feeling of commonality with one another, around the world. For instance, many of those who fought in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Croatia, toward the end of the Twentieth Century, have answered the call to Jihad in the Middle East. Similarly, Muslims from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, joined-in as well. Accordingly, how do we fight something that we cannot define, nor do we even understand?
We hoist our arrogance on our Military; but, two major powers have not faced-off in battle since the middle of the last century. Frankly, American GI’s are: too weighed-down by all of the high-tech firepower that they carry on their backs; the sometimes unreliable air cover; conflicting command structures; and the lack of loyalty, by local soldiers, for the general that we propped-up to head the country. Meanwhile, the enemy can travel light, knows he has little that can disappoint him, and he can blend in with the populace; BUT…he is also fighting for a cause!
Rather than funding a large invading army, with firepower out the gazoo, we should focus a sizable portion of the State Department budget on devising vital parts of the cultural infrastructure, which is so lacking. By helping build that missing support structure, out in the villages, America can eliminate the environment in which terrorist groups and religious extremists thrive.
For instance, three or four decades ago, much of South and Southeast Asia had been in a situation similar to that of the current Middle East. Poverty and illiteracy were rampant! Also, that part of Asia has considerably more Muslims than does the Middle East. Through the transformation, perhaps following Japan’s lead, the local infrastructures began to change. Education, industry, viable health care, a functioning economy, and the standard of living began to rise. A better lifestyle goes a long way in combatting terrorism and extremism. Also, preventing war is more cost-effective than waging it, and it saves lives!
NOTE: For a much more in-depth explanation of how western Europe transformed, here is the comment on my Books That I Recommend tab: A great historical and scientific explanation of Who we are, Where we came from, and How we got here. The obvious idea is to understand our past in order to contemplate our future. Namely, what We, as a Species, will become in the future?