Democrats & Liberals Archives

There Is No Exit

The Democrats, including myself, have been agitating for an exit strategy from Iraq. Bush claims that Iraq is the “focal point” in the “war on terror” and we we will exit when we achieve “victory.” Maybe our troops will exit when military action will no longer be needed. But there is no way we would then be able to declare “victory.” The “war on terror” is not a war in the conventional sense and it does not have a “focal point.” We are fighting a worldwide movement that promotes religious intolerance and worships death. To fight this movement we need a worldwide counter-movement that promotes religious empathy and celebrates life.

President Bush, in his "victory" speech, said:

"Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity, and so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror."

I have no idea where Bush gets the idea that Iraq is a "focal point." Al Qaeda and similar groups have attacked cities in America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. They are everywhere. They want to change the whole world, not merely Iraq. There are no focal points nor can there be victory because this is not a conventional war.

Al Qaeda and associated groups represent a movement. The jihadists want to establish an extremist version of Islam throughout the world. This version is intolerant of all other religions. "Intolerant" may be too mild a word. They want to kill all heretics, that is, people who practice other faiths or have no faith. They plan to achieve their goal by praising death, by promising paradise to those who would kill nonbelievers by becoming suicide bombers.

The Al Qaeda movement promotes religious intolerance and worships death.

Our primary job is to halt the growth of this movement. If Al Qaeda is for religious intolerance, we should promote religious empathy. Not tolerance, which implies we don't care what others do, but empathy, where we are concerned with others. If Al Qaeda promotes paradise through death, we should promote a paradise while living on earth.

Now, about Iraq. Yes, our troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible. But this is not an exit strategy. We should exit militarily, but should not exit diplomatically - just as we should not exit diplomatically from any country.

The diplomacy should take a different turn from the usual stuff. Our diplomacy should build a strong world movement promoting religious empathy and positive living. Religious empathy may be promoted via discussions, meetings, world conferences, exchanges of professors and experts, and exchanges of students - by cooperative interaction. Positive living may be promoted by helping other countries with education, health, social and economic problems. This should be done not through top-down globalization approaches we use now, but by encouraging the development of local businesses in foreign countries. What Wolfensohn, previously head of the World Bank, is doing for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is a good example to emulate.

Once our movement takes hold, it will grow and grow and eventually discourage people from becoming terrorists. Why take a chance on paradise after death when you can have paradise while alive?

But you may I ask, Where do we get the money for all this? From the Defense Department, I answer. We're wasting hundreds of billions of dollars killing people when we could use the money to help people. In the process, we stand a much greater chance of reducing terrorism. Isn't this what the "war on terror" is supposed to be about?

Do not talk about an exit strategy unless you mean exiting the primarily-military strategy and starting a world movement to build religious empathy and a healthy respect for life.

Posted by Paul Siegel at December 1, 2005 6:20 PM