My question to the presidential candidates would have been as follows: A civil war is raging in the Muslim war between so-called moderate and fanatical Muslims. How would you help the "moderate" side prevail and why would your policies be more successful than your opponent's?
Nicolas Kritof is wrong to suggest bin Laden would prefer a Bush victory. (or if he does, if he's alive, it's a mistake, just as 9/11 was a colossal mistake for the jihadists. If it wasn't for 9/11, they'd have Pakistan's nukes by now.) Over the short term, the liberation of Iraq has antagonized the Muslim world. Many "moderates" don't want to be associated with the U.S. But, a stable, pro-West, somewhat democratic Iraq will be of essential help to the moderate side in the civil war. Likewise, a destabilizing, rogue regime run by Saddam or his sons would have thrown the region into worse turmoil than it's experiencing now. And turmoil is a boon to the fanatics' recruitment.
Bush has said the Cold War policy of turning a blind eye towards dictorships that were aligned with us against the Soviets was a mistake. Encouraging democracy, preferrably with UN help, is the new policy. It's a post-Cold War, post- 9/11 world. Leaving aside Israel, the only nation in the wider region, besides Iraq and Afghanistan now, to have elections, our allies, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, are on notice. The fudamentalist side, as Iran demonstrates and as the Taliban showed, aren't interested in democracy at all. Democracy and "peace" hurts recruitment.
Kerry gives the impression that he would withdraw from the region by engaging in a "status quo" policy, leaving the moderates to fend for themselves.
Whomever's elected, the jihadists appear to be losing the conflict at the moment according to French Arabist Gilles Kepel (via Peter Maass). Kepel has a new book out which was reviewed by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius:
"The principal goal of terrorism -- to seize power in Muslim countries through mobilization of populations galvanized by jihad's sheer audacity -- has not been realized," Kepel writes. In fact, bin Laden's followers are losing ground: The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been toppled; the fence-sitting semi-Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia has taken sides more strongly with the West; Islamists in Sudan and Libya are in retreat; and the plight of the Palestinians has never been more dire. And Baghdad, the traditional seat of the Muslim caliphs, is under foreign occupation. Not what you would call a successful jihad.Kepel believes Bush has stumbled in Iraq, but the jihadists' means are alienating the very Muslims they are trying to recruit. "No sensible Muslim would want to live in Fallujah, which is now controlled by Taliban-style fanatics. Similarly, the Muslim masses can see that most of the dead from post-Sept. 11 al Qaeda bombings in Turkey and Morocco were fellow Muslims."
The rate of bombings have increased, no doubt. One just occurred near the Indonesian embassy in Paris. But they are not all having the same effect as the one in Spain had. This summer a bombing occurred near the Australian embassy in Indonesia, and yet the Australians re-elected John Howard. His oppenent would have cut-and-run from Iraq.
Kerry's description of the "coalition of the willing" as the "coalition of the coerced and bribed" does not bode well for his leadership in ensuring the moderate Muslims prevail.
Would Kerry argue that Turkey is being bribed and coerced to clean up its act by being offered to join the European Union? The fact that the EU found Turkey met the bloc's political criteria to begin formal entry talks is another milestone in the Muslim civil war. It's yet another loss for the Jihadists who desire a Islamic Empire. The main obsticle to Turkey's entry is the Jihadists' mirror image in the EU, as a New York Times editorial puts it: "Anti-Muslim and anti-immigration forces, notably in Austria, France and the Netherlands, are hostile to Turkish accession. European leaders have no greater challenge over the next decade than converting, or at least neutralizing, that opposition."
"Don't engage with the Muslim world," these European isolationists argue. They're too "different." You can't force Western-style democracy on them. Sound familiar? It's the same argument "anti-war" Western leftists make. It's the argument a pandering Kerry is making in his bid for the Dean vote.
One steadfast foe of Austrian anti-Muslim and anti-immigration forces recently won the Noble Prize for Literature. The Austrian Marxist-feminist Elfriede Jelinek "was shunned by some Austrian political leaders, partly because of her vehement opposition to the rise of the rightist Freedom Party led by Joerg Haider, which became part of the ruling coalition in 2000 on a platform criticized as anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner. In 2000, she instructed her publishers to withhold the performance rights of her plays from all Austrian theaters as long as Haider's party was part of the government."
The difficult trick for Western governments and NGOs to manage in the Muslim civil war will be "constructive engagement" with repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and, to a lesser extent, Turkey. Constructive engagment was the term used by Reagan to describe his concilliatory policy towards South Africa during the Cold War. Bush has said his predecessors' constructive engagement with Muslim dictatorships during the Cold War was a mistake, as 9/11 demonstrated. Disengagement from Afghanistan after the Soviets left was likewise a mistake. The different degrees of engagement, coercion, and "bribery" employed by the next president towards nations in the midst of the Muslim civil war will determine the success of his foreign policy. Kerry's views on Iraq, which seem to demonstrate his unwillingness to lead the West in this conflict, don't bode well. He'd probably defer too much to status quo forces and leave the two sides in the Muslim civil war to duke it out.