As I think further about my item the other day about differentiating extremism from the religious, national, or cultural backgrounds of the extremists, I'm moved to connect that with other thoughts I have on the War on Terror™. I want to follow up on this quote from the Washington Post:
Conservative and liberal experts said Americans' attitudes about Islam are fueled in part by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the actions of Muslim extremists....and specifically on the "political statements" part.
It's a large part of the Bush administration's rhetoric to say that "They hate peace," but it's not as simple as that, and it's dangerous to think that it is. Probably there are a few of those practicing terrorism who really are crazy people who simply want to kill. But for the most part, that isn't what's going on. The terrorists have goals, and the killing is not itself a goal, but a means to achieve the goals.
If we have any hope of dealing successfully with the problem, we must address the real issues. We must understand their goals and work with that information. Reducing it all to a sound bite such as, "They hate peace," puts blinders on us by eliminating the need for further investigation. Worse, it makes it easy to adopt the approach, which the Bush administration has put to us more than once, that the answer is to destroy them before they destroy us. That won't work; rather, attempting it will only make the problem worse, and will further alienate us from the rest of the world.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu advised that one understand the enemy. Never has that ben more important than now. We need leaders who will think before they act or speak.