A Global Counterinsurgency

[Foreign Affairs ] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - The first challenge is the global ideology of violent Islamist extremism, as embodied by groups such as al-Qaeda, that thoroughly reject the basic tenets of modern politics, seeking instead to topple sovereign states, erase national borders, and restore the imperial structure of the ancient caliphate. Ultimately, this is more than just a struggle of arms; it is a contest of ideas. Al-Qaeda's theory of victory is to hijack the legitimate local and national grievances of Muslim societies and twist them into an ideological narrative of endless struggle against Western, especially U.S., oppression. The good news is that al-Qaeda's intolerant ideology can be enforced only through brutality and violence. When people are free to choose, as we have seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq's Anbar Province, they reject al-Qaeda's ideology and rebel against its control. Our theory of victory, therefore, must be to offer people a democratic path to advance their interests peacefully. In this sense, the fight against terrorism is a kind of global counterinsurgency: the center of gravity is not the enemies we fight but the societies they are trying to radicalize. A second challenge to the emergence of a better Middle East is posed by aggressive states that seek not to peacefully reform the present regional order but to alter it using any form of violence - assassination, intimidation, terrorism - whether it is Syria's undermining of Lebanon's sovereignty, Iran's pursuit of a nuclear capability, or both states' support for terrorism. The Israelis will not achieve the security they deserve in their Jewish state and the Palestinians will not achieve the better life they deserve in a state of their own until there is a Palestinian government capable of exercising its sovereign responsibilities, both to its citizens and to its neighbors. Ultimately, a Palestinian state must be created that can live side by side with Israel in peace and security. This state will be born not just through negotiations to resolve hard issues related to borders, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem, but also through the difficult effort to build effective democratic institutions that can fight terrorism and extremism, enforce the rule of law, combat corruption, and create opportunities for the Palestinians to improve their lives. One more challenge that must be resolved if democratic and modern states are to emerge in the broader Middle East involves how to deal with nonstate groups whose commitment to democracy, nonviolence, and the rule of law is suspect. Because of the long history of authoritarianism in the region, many of the best-organized political parties are Islamist, and some of them have not renounced violence used in the service of political goals. Will they take power democratically only to subvert the very process that brought them victory? Are elections in the broader Middle East therefore dangerous? Although the Hamas election victory most certainly complicated affairs, in another way it helped to clarify matters. Through its continued unwillingness to behave like a responsible regime rather than a violent movement, Hamas has demonstrated that it is wholly incapable of governing.

2008-06-11 01:00:00

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