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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Why The 'War on Terror' is Failing

(Keywords & tags: , , , , , , the face of isn't the face of George W. )

Holy crap, I'm an expert! Ok, not so much. But foreign policy experts agree with me. In a Toronto Star article, titled War on terror called failure; Another 9/11 `inevitable,' experts conclude Washington's diplomatic efforts rated 1.8 out of 10, feature writer Lynda Hurst reports:

Washington is failing to make progress in the global war on terror and the next 9/11-style attack is not a question of if, but when. That is the scathing conclusion of a survey of 100 leading American foreign-policy analysts.

In its first "Terrorism Index," released yesterday, the influential journal Foreign Affairs found surprising consensus among the bipartisan experts.

Some 86 per cent of them said the world has grown more, not less, dangerous, despite President George W. Bush's claims that the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

The main reasons for the decline in security, they said, were the war in Iraq, the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, U.S. policy towards Iran and U.S. energy policy.

The survey's participants included an ex-secretary of state and former heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, along with prominent members of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment.

The majority served in previous administrations or in senior military ranks.

Other reasons I'd add to the list of reasons for the decline in security would be globalization, the exportation of western pop culture, and american hegemony. This whole thing can be boiled down to one sentence; if you don't want to have to deal with pissed off muslim extremists, stop doing things that piss muslim extremists off.

They see democracy and human rights as white guy values. In their minds, democracy comes with westernization - you let people vote and, sooner or later, you've got a local version of MTV and kids move away from the faith. Take lebanese pop singer Nicole Saba (see photo). She's hardly the taliban pinup girl. In relatively liberal Lebanon, Saba is allowed, but is still controversial. In more strict societies, her work is banned.

I'm not saying that we should support the suppression of women or free expression, but we do have to recognize that it exists. When the US steps up to the negotiating table with conservative muslims, they don't see democracy as liberty, justice, and protection of rights, they see Madonna, Spring Break, and American Idol. From their perspective, democracy looks like moral anarchy.

When dealing with conservative cultures, western nations should never go alone. Democracy isn't a western thing - roughly half the nations in the world are democratic. If we go to the table with other democracies - India, Ghana, or Bangladesh, for example - they'll see that democracy doesn't mean cultural death.

Sure, the concern that someone might see a woman's ankle is crazy. But it's just as crazy to dismiss those concerns because of their craziness. You can't strong arm a nation into democracy or progress, it puts the conservatives suspicious of democracy in a defensive position and their ideology only becomes more deeply entrenched. Our current policies have actually set back nations who were making slow progress toward democratic reforms. Iran, for example, had a burgeoning democratic movement. Now they have a conservative president who, unfortunately, is pretty popular because he's seen as defending Iran from the west.

Democracy has many faces. But as long as we only present one and try to force democracy on the world (a logical oxymoron), we'll only move the undemocratic half of the world backward.


(photo courtesy of