Sunday, July 27, 2008

A new U.S. strategy?

The authors, serving officers respectively in the navy and the marines, as well as combat vets, have written a gutsy piece proposing a containment policy to counter al-Qaeda:

"Without a coherent strategy, America's "war on terror" has been tragically inconsistent. We say that our mandate is to spread freedom and democracy, yet we try to do so at the point of a gun. We say that our battle must be fought by a coalition of like-minded allies, but we eschew diplomacy and browbeat our friends when they disagree with us. We say that we stand for the highest human ideals, but the world harbors deep suspicions of our indefinite detentions at Guantanamo.

"Our contradictory words and actions have alienated virtually the entire Arab world. NATO remains fractured and largely ineffectual against the resurgent Taliban, and the Washington clock has run out on the Iraq war. We have elevated Al Qaeda's importance to nearly our own, and we are moving into a deadly no-man's-land where America is neither respected nor feared. It is almost inconceivable, and yet it has come to this: We are losing the global influence war to people who blow up women and children at kebab stands."

They propose a patient U.S. policy--not a two-aspirins-at bedtime approach--that puts enormous effort into the political reform of Muslim societies. Implicitly, they are promoting a project of liberalization rather than democratization, which is to say reducing corruption, curtailing human rights abuses and opening up economic opportunities.

This suggested strategy by two experienced officers who have had their boots on the ground is underdeveloped and incomplete, but it underlines the fact that the military "hammer" is not the right tool to solve the problems facing the U.S. in the Muslim world.

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