The Best Way to Fight Terrorism: Education

The war in Afghanistan–which is quickly spreading to neighboring Pakistan–will fail without enough social welfare programs. If we continue to bomb civilians in this part of the globe, we won’t score any points with the populace. We will only continue to keep them fearful of a U.S. presence and keep them on friendly terms with groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. War can never be the long term answer, unless we plan to decimate large portions of the populace, which is, of course, morally reprehensible. And by being there, we are recruiting terrorists in the same way that we’ve been recruiting them in Iraq. I think one of the main strategies in South Asia must be education and other programs that raise the quality of life. These countries are some of the poorest in the world. I don’t really have to tell you that Afghanistan has been in a constant state of war for the past 25 years, but think about that for a minute. Reporters in the region say there is no sense of a stable government outside of Kabul, and there hasn’t been one for years. One way to make it less hospitable to terrorists would be to help the country function (and eventually modernize). And I’m not just talking about setting up a puppet government that has ties to the poppy trade (as does the Karzai government). I’m talking about a functioning democracy and a functioning infrastructure. A downtrodden citizenry is always ripe for extremist elements because they have nothing else to cling to. So I would argue that the best way to fight terrorism in South Asia is to educate the poor folks and raise their standard of living. We need to fund secular schools as much as–or probably much more than–Saudi oil money is funding the madrassas. The Obama administration knows the logic behind this argument, and so Obama has pledged to increase aid in these regions.

Here’s what he said in his speech in Cairo:

“We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.”

To continue with this point in another part of the world: Why did Hamas win the election in Palestine in 2006? Two reasons: they were perceived to have a moral authority because of their religious character and because they engaged in quite a bit of charity work. Of course, Afghanistan and Pakistan are structurally (and ethnically) very different from Palestine, but religious fervor and social welfare have an effect on people who have little to hope for. Any casual observer would have to admit that the Palestinians are fairly downtrodden. When Israel creates more settlements, in effect further “invading” Palestine, they increase the sense of hopelessness in the populace. Unfortunately, this leads to more violence. In a nutshell, hopelessness, abject poverty, a lack of basic rights all create a populace that is eager to change–and willing to do anything to make that change happen. The peoples of these regions are put into such abject situations that extremism and violence seem like the only options.

I don’t want to sound Pollyanna-ish about the situation. Charity work is not the only solution, but it must be part of any lasting solution. Real aid needs to happen soon. Corruption from the Karzai government has to stop. The standard of living must go up. If it doesn’t, and we continue to add more troops without more aid, we may risk lengthening our stay indefinitely.

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One Response to “The Best Way to Fight Terrorism: Education”

  1. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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