Somewhere on A1A...

Friday, September 06, 2002

Shlomo Ben-Ami argues that Force Won't Work in the war against Islamists. He's absolutely right that force, alone, will not solve the problem. He's also right in saying that the "war" is a long-term problem that will take years to realize a modern Islamic society. My fear is that Americans will not be patient enough to follow through with the required effort. While Ben-Ami says:

THE SOLUTION does not lie in vying for supremacy over the rival bloc, or in the kind of arms race that broke the USSR's neck. We are dealing with Islamic civilization which for centuries has failed in finding its way to socioeconomic modernity or democracy; a civilization that has not been able to develop a civic society and freedom of speech, and which is rebelling now against globalization perceived as the reflection of American cultural hegemony. No force of any kind will solve the complex problems of Islam and Muslim societies. This was as true before September 11 as it is now: the solution has to be a long-term one, rooted in a historical perspective of changes of regime, economic development, the emergence of a middle class, and gradual adaptation to a culture founded on trust, transparency, and a civic society.

It will take years.

The emphasis placed by the Bush administration on the need for democracy in the Arab world is, in principle, the correct approach. But in practice, it becomes apparent that there is very little maneuvering room for change; moreover, American policy is woefully inconsistent. Democracy is not a matter to be decided by presidential decree. Democracy emerges from depth processes. In the Arab and Muslim world, the alternative, unfortunately, does not lie between democracy and dictatorship. The only alternatives are secular dictatorship such as those of Hosni Mubarak, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Mohammad VI, Muammar Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, and Saddam Hussein - or Islamic democracy, i.e., a fundamentalist regime.
Ben-Ami seems to assume that those of us who support the application of force to the problem are looking for a quick fix. He is wrong.

My fear is that, in the end, Americans will lose their patience because they want instant gratification. Our clash with Islamism is not a short term problem, we will not see a quick resolution. A decisive application of overwhelming force will only be the first step in a process that will take years, even a generation. Without application of force the Arabs continue their attempts to recapture some sort of nebulous lost honor. Without that application of military strength, nothing changes.

Force is not the solution, it will not solve the centuries old problems in the Middle East. However, force is necessary to change the circumstances and to produce conditions that will allow the changes to take place. We must be steadfast in our determination to follow through on the change.... It will take years.


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