One of the major issues separating left and right these days is how we should
deal with terrorism.
Generalizing terribly, people on the left side of the aisle believe that we
need to deal with the root causes of terrorism; that if the root causes
of terrorism are addressed and solved, then terrorism will no longer be as
important an issue for us, because terrorists will not hate us; therefore, they
will have no reason to attack us. To attach a label to this viewpoint, let me
call it “curing the disease.”
Continuing to generalize, those on the right believe that the fight against
terrorism requires that we bring the battles to the terrorists and their
supporters where they live. We cannot wait for the threat from terrorists
and their supporters to become imminent, because then it will be too late;
Americans or citizens of our allies will have died in another horrific attack.
Therefore, we may need to bring down governments of countries that support
terror (and by the way, free the citizens from the despotic leadership of those
countries). If I may, let me label this viewpoint “treating the symptoms.”
In my opinion, it is clear that to be effective in the long term requires
that both treating the symptoms and curing the disease.
If you don’t treat the symptoms, the patient may just die before you can cure
the disease. If you don’t ultimately cure the disease, the symptoms will
reappear at some later time, and you’ve got the same problem all over again.
Of course, the reality of terrorism is more complex than that, but for the
sake of this essay, the analogy suffices, so let me continue.
It’s pretty clear that the U.S. government and our allies are treating the
symptoms of terrorism, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We are using military
force to actively seek out and destroy terrorists and their supporters. People
disagree on whether or not it is the right thing to do, or on how effective the
military is at this mission, or whether or not the cost is too high, both in
lives and dollars. The fact remains, however, that we are at least trying
to treat the symptoms.
Likewise, I think the U.S. and our allies are attempting to cure the disease.
However, I believe our attempts in Iraq have not met with as much success, so
far. Curing the terrorism disease is a much more difficult problem than treating
the symptoms. It’s an imperfect analogy, but terrorism is like a cancer –
individual tumors can be removed, but the disease has metastasized, and new
tumors appear other places in the body. Curing the disease will take a long-term
commitment, and it will take a broad and deep approach.
Stretching the analogy even more, the most important part of finally curing
the disease is just starting, and that is to activate the immune system of Iraq,
and the rest of the Muslim world, to reject the cancer.
How do we do that?
We do it by winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, convincing them that
we’re on their side; that we want for them “life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness” just as for ourselves. We must convince them that we want
them to be free to determine their own futures, that we want them individually
and as a nation to prosper, and that they are safe from tyranny, both from
without and from within their country. We convince them by doing what it takes
to make those things a reality.
Certainly, I want this for the Iraqis. From a somewhat selfish viewpoint, I
believe that all Americans, and civilization in general, are safer with a free
and prosperous Iraq that no longer supports terrorism. But more importantly, it’s the right thing. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are
values for all people, everywhere, not just Americans.
The Coalition Provisional Authority and the military can do much to win
hearts and minds: rebuilding infrastructure, establishing law enforcement that
isn’t corrupt, re-opening schools, and so on. Much has been accomplished, but
much work remains, and the obstacles to success are significant.
Certainly, one obstacle being faced in Iraq is that for much of their lives,
adult Iraqis (and Muslims everywhere) have been indoctrinated by the former
regime and by extremist Muslim clerics that the U.S. and the western world is
evil, is oppressive to Muslims, and is seeking the destruction of Islam. Whether
or not you agree that it is true (I personally don’t think so), Muslims
everywhere believe it. Changing that mindset will be extremely difficult, if not
There is a group within Iraq, however, that hasn’t (yet) been (fully)
indoctrinated with suspicion, if not downright hatred, of the U.S. and western
civilization: the children. No other group within Iraq, as well, is as deserving
of our support, simply because it’s the right thing to do.
And you can help.
You may have heard of Chief Wiggles and the toy drive he started to benefit poor children in Iraq. Well, the effort has taken off, and it has it’s own web site, where you can donate
cash or toys, OperationGive.org. It’s a volunteer effort, started by a single U.S. soldier, on his own time, simply because he saw a need and felt he had to do something about it.
I can hardly think of a more worthy cause, whether you are politically left,
right or center. Donate because it’s the right thing to support poor and needy
children. Donate because you think it will help us “cure the disease” of terrorism. Donate just because it will make you feel a little better to make
some kids happy.
I did, for all of those reasons. I hope you will, too.
(Please note: I’m not interested in a debate about whether Bush
lied or not, or whether or not it’s all about oil and Halliburton, or suppression
of dissent, or patriotism, or anything else of that type. I am interested
helping the children of Iraq. Can we all agree that doing so would be a good
thing, and put aside the partisan issues just for a minute? Also, no one asked
me to do this. I’ve never spoken to or corresponded with Chief Wiggles or anyone associated with Operation Give. None of them knew about this article ahead of time. I just think it’s a great cause and want to support it. I hope you will agree.)