Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Surge on Afghanistan? It's 30,000:1.5 Billion


As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rage on, President Obama has declared that an end to our efforts in the latter conflict will come in 2011. By then, an additional 30,000 troops will have been deployed to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, on top of the 55,000 soldiers who have already served in the region. You have to wonder if 85,000 or so soldiers can topple an army of one billion. That figurative army of one billion refers to recent statistics which found that one out of every four people, or 1.5 billion men, women and children, are Muslim.

Is it gauche and irresponsible, almost ten years into the war on terror, to think of the conflict as a war on fundamentalist Islam? Or on Islam altogether? Is it unpatriotic to think that this is a battle that we can't win because there are too many religious zealots out there who aim to lay waste to western civilization? Or the whole world for that matter seeing as jihadists are apt to kill anyone, even their own people (just look at today's car bomb attacks in Baghdad that have killed over 100 people).

At this point in the war, I do believe that the Muslim world's reaction to the events of the past decade has been tepid and, quite frankly, I've gone from not having an opinion either way on Islam to thinking that it is, in fact, a dangerous religion. If the corner mosque can be a hotbed for fanatical thought, as we have seen at Fort Hood in Texas or here in Brooklyn, then there is no place for this faith in the modern, civilized world. At least not in the west.

Our leaders never sold the war as a quick fix for the epidemic that is fanatical thought, but this war seems to have no end - and while our troop levels may be depleting - a terrorist seems to be born every minute. Some people would argue that aid, education and understanding are needed to win hearts and minds, but as we all know by now the world's biggest terrorist comes from one of the world's wealthiest families and the 9-11 jihadists had enough education to know how to fly planes into skyscrapers. And while the response to these attacks back in 2001 was rightfully careful to not condemn of all Islam, our overtures to this faith have gotten us nowhere. Our own president has traveled to the Muslim world, he's tried to strike a conciliatory tone in his speeches about the war and the role of the faith in this country, but to no avail.

It's no wonder, then, that even ever-neutral Switzerland has had to take a stand on the issue of Islam by banning the construction of minarets in the country. A lot of people are in a pique about this but I'm of the belief that we can no longer play host to a faith who seems fixated on the destruction of so-called infidels. I compare the minaret ban to the closing of bathhouses in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic here in the U.S. - when increasing numbers of gay men were coming down with the disease, public health officials saw a connection between the activities at the baths and the spike in AIDS infections. I don't think that was homophobia, that was a response to a plague. I would offer that fanatical Islam is a plague we've been fighting for quite some time as well.

So, fine, we can send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and sure, we can say that we "almost" found Osama, but the real problem, that seed which germinates and turns into terrorism and turns into a financial and spiritual drain on the west, still exists. So what do we do about that?