Friday, November 21, 2003

War of Ideologies II: The Weapons of War 
The problem with using 2,000 pound bombs to 'send a message' to insurgents and the communities in which they thrive is that the message you intend to send is not necessarily the message the recipient perceives.

For example, check out Riverbend's Baghdad Burning for her perception of the message of the recent escalation of airstrikes.

Now, I'm all for going after terrorists and their bases of operation with everything we've got. But...

The most effective way to 'send a message' to the people of Iraq, in my view, is to translate the Bill of Rights and key passages of Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man," with any Christian references removed, into Arabic, print about a gazillion copies, and take them to the streets.

I've written that the war on terrorism is fundamentally a war to defeat an ideology. There is no militarily decisive point on the ground. Decisive victory cannot be achieved with the capture or killing of Saddam or Bin Laden or anyone else.

Rather, decisive victory will only be achieved when the violent, radical expression of Muslim ideology is thoroughly discredited on its home turf.

The military arm is important, but it's only one leg on a many-legged stool.

Ideas like natural, God-given rights, the rule of law, the freedom of expression, the social contract, a government by and for the people, the protection of minorities, the redress of grievances, separation of powers, and the peaceable transfer of executive power are our most powerful weapons.

In the long run, every successful municipal election, every public official who, in the service of the people, resists the lure of corruption or the threat of terrorism, and every new independent newspaper, will be worth dozens of airstrikes.

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