Today’s Joplin Globe editorial (11/12/10) on “National Security” opines that in combating Islamic jihad, military power in the form of a “war on terror” has “. . . not worked to the degree necessary.” Instead, the editorialist suggests that, “If a country supports its own jihadists or foreigners on its sovereign soil promoting such ideas, those countries must be held accountable in some way.” He adds that Islamic countries differ greatly, thus necessitating different treatments economically and diplomatically.
This analysis is correct in my opinion, in that military power is an inefficient way to combat religious fanaticism and nation-building is a bottomless morass, but it does not go far enough. Since the 9/11 attack the U.S. and its NATO allies have tried both economic and diplomatic methods of dealing with the extremists with no better results than from military force, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore the editorial offers
nothing new except for recognizing that military force is ineffective for nation-building.
The editorial, necessarily limited for space, does not mention the source of power for Islamic jehadism, but if we are to deal with it, this critical factor must be recognized. It is money. More specifically, it is oil money. Wikipedia has a list of Muslim-majority countries that also lists the GDP per capita income for each. It is instructive to note how enormously oil has boosted the income of some above the others.
In reading Woodward’s books, “Obama’s Wars” and “State of Denial” (⅔ through the latter) I have concluded several things. One is that recourse to military force is an all too easy option for the executive branch. Public outrage over 9/11 enabled the Iraq war. (As the Globe editorialist notes, another major strike would engender similar possibilities.) Woodward, through a preponderance of records and interviews, makes it clear that George W. Bush wanted the war. He saw it as an opportunity to relieve the public pressure for revenge, and that is not too strong a word. At the same time he believed he could create a peaceful and stable Iraq that stabilize the Middle East, blunt criticism of his father’s limited Persian Gulf war, and would be a shining presidential legacy. President Bush steadfastly allowed no facts or events to deter him from his goal and in fact felt he had a mandate from the Almighty to pursue it.
“State of Denial” shows strongly that the president’s pursuit of the war was an exercise in wishful thinking and it had a critical flaw. Plans for the aftermath of the war were based on rosy assumptions that the populace would greet us as saviors from Saddam’s despotism and would be cooperative in forming a democratic government. Because of this and the lack of proper homework on Iraq’s sociology and religious divisions, there was no viable exit plan. The religious hatreds ran deep, and still do. Both Shi’a and Sunni’s still want to dominate the country and the Kurds still want to be independent. There is absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t have been foreseen if the president had been receptive.
President Obama has shown some political courage in striving to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He seems to recognize that nation-building is fraught with peril. Iraq even now trembles on the edge between success and failure, with a very real possibility of its becoming another Shi’a theocracy in the image of Iran. But with the more bellicose party now in power in the House it appears that he will have diminishing support in ending the Afghan war. The shrill rhetoric of the opposition, playing to public sensibilities, will be poised to criticize any moves seen to be less than aggressive and positive.
So, are there other viable options? I say yes, there is an Occam’s Razor solution that will deal with terrorism and pave the way to a peaceful world. It is not an easy one. It has already been voiced, too timidly in my opinion, by the bi-partisan Debt Commission: Raise the gasoline tax and deny income to the enemy. It’s just that simple. Raise the gasoline tax. The Commission says 15 cents. Not enough. I say, raise it
incrementally until OPEC can no longer dominate us economically, until oil-rich third-world countries are denied the income that supports weapons and terrorist schools. Subsidize the needs of the poor to accommodate transportation as needed. Raise the gasoline tax and we will then have an economic war in which all citizens can participate, in which we can share the pain and the victory together. This is the challenge. Are we up to it?
P.S. Thanks to Duane Graham in the first comment to this post, here is a LINK to a lucid, carefully thought-out plan devised by a bi-partisan commission (NSTIFC) to increase desperately-needed funding for the nation’s transportation infrastructure. It was devised without thinking of the added benefit of thwarting our terrorist enemies, but it fits the bill. The plan is there – all we need is the will.