Winning The Peace: The Lessons of Hamas and Hezbollah
An often-voiced media and political mantra is that the real fight in the war on terrorism is for the minds and hearts of the people.
So how are we doing?
We have spent 300 billion dollars to turn a society upside down, kill thousands of insurgents and civilians alike, perform atrocities from rape to murder to torture, and have likely triggered the first of who knows how many civil wars in the region.
Our focus is on the terrorists, now characterized as "Islamic Fascists," a strange term for anarchists who abhor the power of any state. We forget that for every violence-prone fanatic in Teheran or Damascus or Kabul, there are thousands more who just want to survive, take care of their families, and lead productive lives. These are the souls who are the only candidates for building a democratic nucleus that could lead to eventual peace. Are they supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah? As each month passes, the support for both groups skyrockets. Why?
It is generally, but quietly, conceded that Hamas won the Palestinian elections because of their community involvement. It was Hamas, not the western-sanctioned PLO, who picked up the garbage, set up schools, and listened to the needs of their people.
In devastated southern Lebanon, it is Hezbollah who swiftly moved in to clear away the debris, find shelter for the homeless, create jobs for the displaced, and give money to the penniless to start rebuilding their lives.
Where is the United States, or Europe, or the United Nations? They are sitting in offices in New York, Washington, London, or Geneva. If the U.S. has become the face of the enemy, then Hamas and Hezbhollah have become the friend, even if their politics of hatred are not always welcome.
Imagine the profile of the western world in the Middle East if that 300 billion had been spent on an army of Peace Corps volunteers, working among the populace, building schools and roads and bridges, or providing food, housing, electrical powers and essential services - not as the backfill to invasion but as proactive colleagues helping out fellow human beings.
"A gift from the American people," like those tremendously appreciated World War II boxes, should be associated with objects that sustain and enhance life, not with weapons and tanks and martial law.
For more than 40 years, the Cold War experts called for battles in every country that threatened to fall into Communism in the dreaded and, reportedly, inevitable "domino effect." The reality, that home-grown communism in small third world countries was merely hunger becoming articulate, was ignored.
We have no learning curve. We are reliving history, repeating the same mistakes, and wondering why we are encountering the same failures.
We can stand back, wring our hands, and hide behind political rhetoric, or we can take the fight for hearts and minds to the streets where the succor provided by Hamas and Hezbollah are drawing thousands of peaceful and apolitical citizens further and further away from the western dream of democracy and stability.