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Winning the War of Ideologies

When 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.


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