Mark Jurgensmeyer is top-notched, credible scholar on terrorism, and he has spent years in the field interviewing notorious religious extremists. So, I was excited and intrigued when I saw this article yesterday about our current War on Terror. The article is definitely worth the read. With the incoming Obama administration, Jurgensmeyer offers five ways in which we could drastically reduce the spiral of violence done in the name of the "War on Terror." Each of his five points of advice have a thorough rationale, which I have perhaps oversimplified - in a teasing manner - for you here.
1.) We must recognize that we are not confronting war but a war mindset. - The us/them - good/evil mentality forces everybody to take sides (i.e., poor teenagers predisposed to anti-Americanism) and treats potential allies like enemies.
2.) Accept that America is the enemy [in the eyes of extremists] because of what it does, not what it is. - Terrorists still have an idealized understanding and appreciation of American principles, but our military actions abroad, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, breed agitation.
3.) Stop acting like an enemy. - Our military presence fosters discontent, and a quick end to military action - especially in Iraq and Afghanistan - would neutralize most anti-American and jihadi logic.
4.) Become a problem solver not a problem maker. - Our one-sided relationship with Israel colors Islamic perceptions of American interaction in the Middle East. Our strong support of Israel should not come at the expense of security and autonomy for Palestinians, and helping to broker a fair-minded peace negotiation between Israel and Palestine would assist in our efforts overseas.
5.) Take the moral high ground and adhere to international standards of justice. - We must restore our moral standing in the world by repealing the most "pernicious" anti-terrorism legislation (i.e., torture, Guantanamo).
Jurgensmeyer admits that this likely won't eradicate all terrorist activities, as there will always be a small group of people disaffected with authority somewhere. This advice, however, would go a long way in reducing the spiral of violence in this war. Some of this advice would be difficult to achieve, but other parts, could be relatively easy.