America at a Crossroads

Muslim Americans are free to practice Islam in the United States whenever and however they choose. These are not just high-minded ideals. Freedom of religion is practiced in the United States precisely because it is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The PBS broadcast of America at a Crossroads demonstrated freedom of religion in the United States as it pertains to Islam. Unfortunately, some Americans who practice Islam here suggest that they have experienced cultural anxiety in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The legitimacy of that anxiety, however, was not altogether clear. The documentary showed normal searches of a non-Muslim woman in Muslim attire at an airport security checkpoint. To address that anxiety, it should be made absolutely clear to all Americans; standard security procedures if preformed in accordance to law should not be taken personally – no matter how many times those procedures are performed. America at a Crossroads developed the exact opposite impression. Instead it validated a sense of victimization that shouldn’t exist in that situation. Enhanced security should in fact, reduce anxiety because they increase safety.

Likewise, America at a Crossroads showed a Muslim woman who felt so insecure about her post 9-11 environment that she stopped attending services at her Mosque. She did so in favor of practicing her religion at home. Unlike her faith, or the practicing of it, her surrender to her insecurities represents un-American behavior. As an American, she should not only attend her Mosque, she should practice Islam in the United States openly and proudly, regardless of the perceived risk or insult.

Where the documentary truly excelled was with its clear demarcation between fanatics who want to hijack Islam and rational practitioners of the faith.

Unfortunately, the documentary’s presentation of Muslim Fanatics appeared awkwardly dramatized. America at a Crossroads asserted it was Osama Bin Ladin’s, AKA, OBL’s great plan to mire the United States in a ground war in the Middle East. The documentary implied the United States rushed into OBL’s 9-11 trap with unprecedented arrogance and cowboyish haste. Nothing could be further from the truth. OBL’s staged attacks were ignored by too many for too long. No amount of criminal genius should be assigned to OBL for his geopolitical arithmetic. OBL’s coffee house politics would have remained benign had they not been fertilized with petroleum wealth. What ever brilliance we all garner from hindsight; in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, impudent political responses from Middle Eastern leaders demanded a calculated and articulate response.

In all, I felt the topic of Islam was covered well. The whole exceeded the sum of its parts. I found it surprisingly hopeful and uplifting.

Inversely, the most destructive scenes to my morale were the blend of writers from America’s Vietnam War and America’s current War in Iraq. It was as if the narrative of Vietnam is interchangeable with Iraq’s narrative. It begs the question; is history repeating itself because we are being made to believe it should?

These scenes left me with the feeling that all wars are lost causes. Indeed, the juxtaposition of Vietnam and Iraq implied that any spirit to win at war must be sufficiently humiliated. Why? I don’t know exactly. The answer is probably less complex than I would like it to be. God must have forsaken those of us who believe that winning a justified war is good for mankind. Any hope one may have in war exists in what comes after victory. In the midst of it however, war is about punishment. Democracy, freedom, liberty are all concepts that may or may not live in that space and time after the two sides agree to stop killing each other.

Right now I’m at a loss. Maybe the message about America’s war in Iraq was; Iraqis have suffered enough. Maybe it was; Iraqis are more capable of punishing each other than the American military ever could. Either way… permutations of punishment are likely to foster OBL’s script. Democracy, freedom, liberty on the other hand, could lead to sustainable peace. Maybe that’s the real crossroads where Americans stand. Do we validate the Middle East’s coffee house political perceptions or do we stay the course until democracy, freedom and liberty are palpable in Baghdad and beyond?

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HUMINT: Khomeini’s Script

For the sake of this essay, liken Hezbollah’s operational doctrine to a geopolitical script. It was written as high drama by one of the most ambitious men of the 20th century. While most Westerners remain oblivious to this virulent Middle Eastern narrative, the author’s infamous name is highly recognizable. His name is Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

To his follower’s dismay, few scenes have lived up to Khomeini’s script. In hindsight, it’s clear his plot was intellectually corrupt and spiritually bankrupt. Oddly, when Khomeini’s actors took the world stage, performing their first dress rehearsal, their actions were not dramatic at all. Instead they were and remain grotesquely tragic actions. Khomeini’s script is in fact an amalgam of bad ideas uncomfortably organized to form a geopolitical tragedy. [Geopolitical TRAGEDY not STRATEGY]

Despite the fact that Khomeini’s script was a befuddled political mistake, some Middle Eastern actors still sign up to act it out. To find out why, I’ve spent hours discussing Khomeini’s ideas with anyone who does not deeply regret their resultant theatrics.

The villains in Khomeini’s script exist precisely because of the hatred they can invoke in any Middle Eastern crowd. Positive history and relevant facts are consciously dismissed as distractions, erroneous to any final solution. Indeed, progressive realities are a distractive to milking a crowd for all the hate it can produce.

Therefore, villains are relegated to cartoonish roles, given fewer lines than, for example, Arnold Schwarzenegger in his classic film, Commando. These villainous cartoons are always played by some combination of the following actors:

  1. American officials
  2. Israeli officials
  3. Their allies
  4. Any Middle Eastern official who could be accused of colluding with them.

Heroes in Khomeini’s script are particularly boring. One would think that their irrelevance contradicts the starring role Khomeini gives them, but apparently it does not. Khomeini’s heroes are almost always an archetypal youth; mostly male but occasionally female. They are given more lines than villains but even less substance. The scope of their commentary is always confined to grievances and the principles of social cohesion they are kidnapping, murdering or committing suicide for.

The obvious fact that their actions dissolve all manner of social cohesion is yet another distraction. In their scene, the heroes climax achieves little more than a pathetic mess. Counter to their purpose, acts of violence always harden the resolve of the innocent community or security services attacked. More relevant to the script, is the villain’s response. All reasoned responses result in perpetuating the tragedy, ad infinitum.

The real meat of Khomeini’s script exists in the interplay between leaders and martyrs. A leader wields real power in Khomeini’s script because he or she is both an actor and director. This character’s job security depends on a frenzied crowd fuming with hate. The high energy hatred of a crowd nurtures otherwise normal minds into performing martyrdom scenes in front of a global audience.

The real question should be, Q: how do Middle Eastern leaders develop a hate filled crowed in the first place? A1: One sermon at a time. A2: One family at a time. That’s how, over time, an entire society either becomes actors or willing audiences to a seemingly relentless pursuit of Khomeinist carnage.

To win back Middle Eastern society and pull the final curtain down on Khomeini’s tragedy, agents of the West will have to do as Hezbollah actors do. Disarming Middle Eastern crowds of their hate requires a vigorous -One sermon at a time, -One family at a time, approach.

IF my American friends believe the sermon should consist of a terrorist tip-line phone number, they are bound to mire Americans in a perpetual war. It doesn’t matter what the war is called; The Long War, The Global War on Terror, The Regional War. What then, would the –One sermon at a time, –One family at a time, approach look like? By my estimation, it would look like a census operating continuously on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan…

  1. Have you read our mission statement?
  2. Do you know why we’re here?
  3. We are here to help you…
  4. Are your children healthy?
  5. Can we help you get them the medicine they need?
  6. How many brothers, sisters, cousins… do you have?
  7. Are they all healthy, happy, in school?
  8. Are you working?
  9. Why not?

And so on… When this American message reaches every corner of both countries, over time it will replace Khomeini’s script. It will disarm the hate and eventually replace Al-Qaeda’s script. It will replace the Taliban’s script. And so on…

To burn down the empire Khomeini’s script and its malicious spin offs… Americans are going to have to take their old fashioned neighborliness with them to their unfinished wars. The United States Army, State Department and other agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan must be good neighbors before they can ever hope to win back the Middle East.

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POLICY: Sustainable Peace

HUMINT: America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hell on earth. All wars are. Every sane person in America wants to see them both come to an expedient end. Unfortunately, the quest for peace cannot and should not overshadow America’s relentless pursuit of sustainable peace. Sustainable peace throughout the world is not only a legitimate American foreign policy; it is the only legitimate foreign policy. Irrespective of the violence we are witnessing in Iraq and Afghanistan today, the pursuit of sustainable peace is the ultimate American foreign policy objective.

It is a fact that the United States Government is working hard to achieve sustainable peace around the world today. If you do not believe it, try seriously asking yourself what any person, organization or government might actually do in order to attain sustainable peace. When you’ve answered that question for yourself, consider all of the successful international programs the United States either operates or fosters around the globe.

To be sure, any organized effort to achieve sustainable peace around the world would be ambitious, dangerous and difficult. That fact exists regardless of how any one of us answers the question, what policy should a nation adopt to help achieve sustainable peace? This question is extremely hard to answer in today’s overheated political climate.

Set aside partisan political debates engineered to increase network ratings. Those arguments represent little more than background noise. It is imperative that we, as a nation, remain focused on helping our leaders find solutions to serious international problems, like America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Speaking generically, to find a solution to any problem requires a thorough understanding of the problem. Unfortunately, understanding complex problems is never easy. Nevertheless, the difficulty of a task is not a reason to abdicate America’s national and international responsibilities.

Now, take a moment to consider what America’s national responsibilities actually are. Americans are inundated almost every day with proclamations from President Bush and his Administration about national security. But how does America’s security relate to its foreign policy? In other words, how does an American foreign policy geared to achieve sustainable peace support national security? These two ideas are inextricably linked. U.S. national security is directly improved as the international community approaches sustainable peace. Inversely, national security is an unattainable objective without a citizenry that accepts its national and international responsibilities.

Therefore, it is the duty of American citizens to support an American foreign policy that fosters sustainable peace. Throughout American history, Americans have witnessed wars far more devastating than the Iraq and Afghanistan war, including the Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. However, the measure of violence in a given war is not indicative of the morality of its purpose. Once committed to a justified war, there can be no other purpose than victory. It is the duty of the President of the United States to engender the will to persevere toward victory throughout war. On this front, President George W. Bush and his staff are failing. Make no mistake, Americans cannot afford for him to fail on this front.

The seemingly unending waves of political attacks on this Administration are hurting its ability to perform duties. The role of Commander and Chief deserves a respect that is independent of the personality of the Commander. The legitimacy of America’s political chain of command is at stake. Certainly, every political, diplomatic and military situation is unique. Some situations afford greater room for dissenting opinions. In crisis however, a competent chain of command is essential.

Right now, American service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan represent the only competent chain of command in those two countries. President Bush and his Administration are leading both. Without their presence, without their perseverance, without American confidence in them or support for them – the inherent social fissures in both countries will combine with unscrupulous foreign influences to perpetuate horrific violence there.

Historically, American foreign policy in the Middle East has played an indirect role in regional crisis. History however is a reference from which to learn and grow. American history cannot explain America’s current or future intent. Evidence suggests the contrary. The current wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan represent a clear break from Soviet and American Cold War policies. Those policies exacerbated conflict in the Middle East.

Following events on the ground closely one can see that the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq represent new policy in the form of an appeal to regional leaders. The appeal; they should abandon despotism and religious zealotry as their primary instruments of government. Every word spoken by American officials on the subject of Middle Eastern crisis today implores Middle Eastern leaders to stop wasting their resources, stop bleeding each other to death and begin working in concert to achieve sustainable peace.

Unfortunately time is running out. If Americans, their President, their Congress and the foreign policy they simultaneously project cannot work in concert, they will fail. They will fail to sufficiently influence Middle Eastern leaders to achieve sustainable peace and eventually they will be faced with only alternative, sustained war.

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  • America at a Crossroads
  • HUMINT: Khomeini’s Script
  • POLICY: Sustainable Peace

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