Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fighting for Hearts, Minds, and Souls

Clifford D. May on Iraq on National Review Online:

The first concept to grasp is that the global conflict now underway involves both a clash of arms and a clash of ideas. To succeed in this war will require effective combat on both fronts.

The second concept is this: The clash of arms and the clash of ideas influence one other, often in peculiar and even counterintuitive ways.

One example: Al Qaeda in Iraq could not challenge American troops directly. Their solution has been to target innocent Iraqis instead, to slaughter innocent Muslim men, women, and children by the hundreds.

Former New York Times Correspondent Clifford May writes about how the conflict in Iraq is changing how the "Arab street" views Americans. Defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq required alliances between Muslims and Infidels against other Muslims. Many thought such ideas preposterous. But careful analysis of Iraqi sermons, blogs, websites and media shows that such tactical alliances are acceptable under Islamic teaching.

As a nation, we have much to learn about Arab culture. Radical fringes get lots of press, while ordinary Jamils and Youssefs are just trying to raise their families and go about their daily lives in peace.

May doesn't note this, but it is worth mentioning: Arabs are astute businessmen. They know how to make a deal (and no, it's not oil we're dealing with). They are perfectly capable of establishing relationships that serve common interests, even when the partnership between Muslim and Infidel puzzles outside observers. When Anbar had been written off as lost, Petraeus stepped in and offered the traditional leaders a deal: Help us rid this place of Al Qaeda, and we will help you rebuild your villages while we teach your sons how to keep Al Qaeda from ever coming back.