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The War On Terrorism

By Oscar Stilley

To win the war on terrorism we must understand and deal with the cultural differences between western culture and Islamic culture. Both cultures present major hurdles that must be overcome.

Start with Islam. It is as much a social and governmental structure as it is a religion. The Taliban may be extreme, but the religion itself embraces numerous ideas that virtually guarantee than no Islamic country or people will ever achieve broad based and generally continuous economic advancement.

For example, in Afghanistan a midwife may, without bringing shame upon herself, simply walk out of a birth, if the child is partially born and it is determined that the child is a girl. Women usually have no access to a doctor, since it would be taboo for a male doctor to examine a female. Women and children are treated as property. Girls are sold for wives, often at ages as young as 10 or 12. Women bear large numbers of children with scant resources. A staggering percentage die in childbirth.

Islam has always propagated by the sword, and is highly intolerant of any other religion. Conversion to another religion, is often punishable by death. Armed conflict is glorified in their culture.

Under these conditions, it is almost impossible for the people to accumulate enough capital to feed themselves, much less improve their lives in the future. The west is a convenient scapegoat for political/religious leaders, who cannot well admit the almost universal failure of Islam to bring a better life for its people.

The western world, and the United States in particular, presents a different set of challenges. We are generally well educated and wealthy but often lack courage and tenacity. Wars are fought with the certain knowledge that a fickle public will only tolerate so much, together with a press that loves the lurid, the graphic, the stories that fire the emotions. We don't very well understand that our legal system is wholly unsuited for the government of people who aren't generally honest and law abiding. The public may not support the best long range strategy, or the brute force necessary to maintain law and order among third world peoples.

We declare that procreation is a "fundamental right" more precious than the right to keep our own productivity. Drug addicts, mental cases, and those on the public dole are all entitled to public money to raise as many children as they want. The flip side of this equation is that children are not entitled to two competent parents. Some are lucky, some aren't.

We force these moral judgments on others. Quinacrine tablets provide an inexpensive, effective agent for the sterilization of women, generally with less risk and side effects than more expensive surgical procedures. Yet when two American doctors volunteered the drug and services to third world women who sought the procedure, the US Food & Drug Administration harassed them and sent them cease and desist orders, even as to drugs kept in the US for use in foreign countries.

Faced with a choice of starving children or widespread voluntary sterilization of women in the third world, we close our minds to the suffering of poor women who may already have 5 of 6 children, yet without an inexpensive method of chemical sterilization, must face the prospect of having more, even if further pregnancies are life threatening. It's not our problem, it's not our pain.

We see the vast waste of human capital in Islamic countries as merely "their culture." Huge families, repressive governments, fragile environments, lack of respect for property and personal rights, all simply add up to a culture alien to ours. Sure, we wouldn't want to be born to any of the bottom 95 or 99% of the families of such a country. But it's not our problem.

The mix of the two cultures creates a situation similar to that in Germany between the world wars. A vast reservoir of discontent awaits the demagogue capable of tapping it and using it for his own purposes.

Today we cringe at the thought of offending Islam. Yet if we allow the establishment of an Islamic government in Afghanistan, we ensure the persecution of the adherents of every other religion. We also virtually guarantee that our problems, at most, are delayed until the mix of population pressure, factious ethnic leaders, and government repressions build the misery index to explosive levels.

Truly winning the war on terrorism only starts with killing or incarcerating the troublemakers of the day. It will be finished, if at all, by a methodical replacement of irrational regimes with governments committed to individual rights, stable populations, and capital formation. In some places that will require a steady hand for a generation or more. The job presents itself in many countries around the globe.