the War of Ideologies
I think back to the horrific events of 9/11, and then look at
where we find ourselves in Iraq, I can scarcely believe the errors
in judgment that brought us where we are today.
We had to do something. We all agreed on
that. The threat had been brewing for many years, a threat we ignored
because it denied so many of the principles we thought everyone
agreed with. The hatred of al Qaeda seemed an aberration that would
eventually implode on itself.
It was wrong to believe that the values
we so cherish are equally cherished by others. We went to far as
to declare a holy war on terror while completely disregarding its
root cause. We thought all the world would be there with us, and
that those who did support terrorism would turn around. We thought,
mistakenly, that we could kill ideas that disagreed with ours as
easily as we can kill people, with bombs and guns. Unfortunately,
we ended up justifying the fears and resolve of our enemies.
History shows us, time and time again,
that the blood of martyrs only enflames the spirit
of resistance and revenge. Our enemies love the word martyr.
It is time to face the obvious: We cannot
win this War of Ideologies that has been thrust upon us without
first believing in our own ideals more than the enemy
believes in theirs. Not through political rhetoric, especially the
kind that sows division rather than unity; not through the smug
success of our economy, which our enemies point to as proof of our
decadence; not through the disdain for other cultures which we direct
even at our allies when they fail to support our obvious misadventures.
We begin to succeed when we open our eyes
and ears and unashamedly embrace the fundamental ideals we represent;
when we let those ideals inspire us again, with a new and passionate
belief in human decency; when we really do accept the mantle of
moral leadership, not through force but through example.
Only we, the people, can
bring success to this War of Ideologies. Not our military. Not shortsighted
politicians. Not economic pressures or sanctions or strategic alliances.
Not by pride, and never by arrogance.
Moral strength will be our
finest weapon, as it was not only for the likes of Gandhi and
Martin Luther King, but for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson
and Abraham Lincoln as well.
We cannot draw good will as the most powerful
nation in the world unless we are the most moral as
well. Not half-moral, or three quarters, or just better than most.
Our vision must be greater than that, more pure and inspirational.
This will only happen when we, the people, make it happen.
We did not lose the War in Iraq. The Iraqi
military surrendered to the onslaught of American forces. Saddam
Hussein was captured, tried and executed. We were victorious. That
we sowed chaos in our wake was predictable to anyone who cared to
think about it.
Now we need to win the hearts and minds
of the people, which we cannot do as aggressors who are blamed for
everything that is going wrong.
What is the answer?
What our leaders try hard not to admit.
There is no answer. There
is no strategy or magic bullet that will suddenly bring peace to
a culture long based on violence and revenge. Republicans couldn't
find it. Democrats won't either. It is up to the Iraqi people to
bring about change, and change has to begin in their hearts. Democracy
cannot work in a land of warlords and sectarian strife.
It is time to gradually withdraw from Iraq,
hope for the best, and be ready to act if necessary. No matter what
our military does, however, the War of Ideologies will continue.
In response we need to look to ourselves, fortify our ideals, and
make our way of life blameless in order to face the coming crisis.