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Ending the War on Terrorism This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


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Since 9/11, fighting terrorism has become a top priority in our nation. Each year, the U.S. spends billions of dollars on the war in Iraq, attempting to dismantle the extremist groups that threaten us. However, we have had troops in Iraq for eight years and still terrorist groups continue to operate.

People in 22 of the 23 countries ­surveyed believe that the war in Iraq hasn't weakened the terrorist group al-Qaeda, according to a global poll by the BBC World Service. If eight years of war have had little effect on terrorism, it's obvious that America needs a new approach. To truly work toward a solution, we must help stabilize Muslim countries associated with terrorist networks. The most effective way to fight terrorism in the Middle East is to help these countries create a thriving economy, a functional government, and a successful educational system.

The war in Iraq is a temporary attempt at solving the problem of terrorism. Even if troops disable certain terrorist groups, they can't prevent new ones from forming. In fact, military suppression of a country tends to lead to more support for extremist groups. “Building a gauntlet of security around the U.S. and pounding Muslims into submission isn't going to make the world any safer,” wrote journalist Todd Wilkinson in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

To truly work through the issue of terrorism, America must look at its roots. Extremist groups exist in every religion. It is only when these groups gain power that they become dangerous. This tends to occur when a country is unstable. For example, after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Taliban took control of the region. If America provides support to countries experiencing instability, we will help prevent terrorist groups from taking power.

According to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's former prime minister who was assassinated in 2007, “Extremism, militancy, terrorism and dictatorship feed off one another in an environment of poverty, hopelessness and economic disparity among social classes.” Therefore, in order to disarm terrorism, we must combat these factors.

The first step to accomplishing this is to support the creation of educational systems that allow children to rise above the social and economic situation of their parents. Today, ­Pakistan spends 1,400 percent more on its military budget than on education, according to Bhutto in her book, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West. As a result, poor communities that don't have access to schools either go uneducated or turn to militant schools, known as madrassas. In the words of Bhutto, “From illiteracy and poverty stem hopelessness and from hopelessness come desperation and extremism.”

Some militant madrassas are seen as breeding grounds for terrorists because rather than focusing on education, they “manipulate religion to brainwash children” into soldiers, according to Bhutto. The U.S. needs to take the first step in providing international support to help Pakistan and other Islamic governments prioritize spending on education. In doing so, it would begin to prevent extremism. “There's nothing which disarms hatred more thoroughly than the promise of attaining a better life through peace,” according to Wilkinson.

Strengthening education in the Middle East will also boost local economies. When educated children surpass the economic status of their parents, a middle class is created. Micro loan programs can also aid the creation of a middle class, which is ­essential to a strong workforce and a stable country.

A strong middle class is also essential for a successful democracy. While the U.S. should not force democracy on any country, by supporting stable, civil governments, we can keep terrorist networks from moving into power. In Saudi Arabia in 2007, a woman who had been gang raped was ­sentenced by the government to 60 lashes and six months in jail. Stability cannot exist in this type of unjust government. As the book Enhancing Peace insightfully articulates, “Letting social inequities and injustices fester provides a rich breeding ground for terrorists.”

There is currently a strong sense in the Muslim world that the West wishes to impose its values on other societies and undermine Islamic culture. Many moderate Muslims see the global war on terror as a war on Islam, according to Bhutto. This is not the image that will help the U.S. build allies.

America needs to build a strong relationship with the Middle East to combat terrorism. When we earn the trust of moderate Muslims, we can join with them to overthrow extremist groups. This method aided the U.S. immensely during the war in Afghan­istan when we sided with the Northern Alliance (the anti-Taliban coalition made up of several Islamic ethnic groups) to overthrow the Taliban.

How can we create the type of dramatic change in perception that's needed? The answer is to invest against terrorism by stabilizing the Middle East. As Bhutto wrote, “When ordinary people identify assistance improving their lives and the lives of their children, they bond with the source of that aid.” This type of connection could bring a dramatic turnaround in perceptions of America. In fact, substantial evidence supports this. After the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan that killed 90,000 people, the U.S. donated half a billion dollars for reconstruction, and American soldiers delivered assistance to freezing and starving survivors. A poll conducted by ACNielsen immediately afterward showed that favorable views of the U.S. increased by over 50 percent. The same poll indicated “a precipitous drop in support for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda,” according to Bhutto. Direct and visible support from the U.S. creates dramatic changes in perceptions over a short period of time.

Creating and supporting organizations that stabilize the Middle East should be regarded by the U.S. as long-term investments against terrorism. Through the Marshall Plan, implemented in Europe after World War II, the U.S. spent about $13 billion to aid the recovery of European countries. The modern-day equivalent of that amount is about $185 billion. This money could be spent on rebuilding the Middle East, and if this cost were shared by North America, the European Union, Japan and China, the U.S. would contribute just $37 billion, compared to the estimated $2 trillion for the war in Iraq by the time it has ended.

But a solution shouldn't just be about writing checks. It should be about Americans working with Iraqi citizens to support visible, clear, and direct programs that give people what they need. This type of solution not only makes sense for the U.S. but is morally right. To paraphrase Greg Mortenson – who has spent the last decade building schools in Afghan­istan and Pakistan – money can fund wars; it can also prevent them.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the January 2010 Teen Ink EBSCO POV Contest.




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This article has 83 comments. Post your own!

jasso said...
Aug. 20, 2012 at 6:30 am:
living in syria , USA goverment claimes that our goverment is not not good,  who are you to say what is good for as and whats not  try writing about this
 
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TheGreatHillOfTara said...
Jul. 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm:
You got part of this correct, the Western nations should work to give the Middle East nations education so they can improve their quality of life, but at the same time we need to continue our military actions against terrorism. We need to make it known that we will not tolerate any country, organization or individual supporting terrorists and make sure it's well known that we will ruthlessly cut down any who support terrorists.
 
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SElahi said...
Apr. 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm:
Very powerful; keep up the good work!
 
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Mossberg702This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Mar. 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm:
so when womens' fingers are cut off and then shot through the head because they took off their burka, that doesn't bother you? 
 
iam_talha_98 replied...
Oct. 8, 2013 at 5:23 pm :
look i totaly agree with your opinion and also respect it, the Muslims who do this are on the wrong path. the real Islam teaches us to be good citizens and also teaches us to respect woman, many people have a wrong perspective of Islam. islam does not teach muslims to cut off the fingers of women who take off their burka. 
 
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bookthief This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 19, 2012 at 8:43 am:
Accurately, intelligently, and logically written. Not only do I agree, but I feel that your writing is lucid and agreeable -- thank you!
 
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Breece6This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm:
Unfortunately, if this government is directed at the government/military, you're preaching to the choir.  Through my own family, as well as my friend's families, I know tons of soldiers who have been in, are currently in, and are going to Iraq and other Middle East countries.  They do pretty much everything you suggested in this article.  There are tons of soldiers who's main job isn't to fight but to act as workers building schools and hospitals and public facilities like ... (more »)
 
Breece6This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm :

In my first line where I said "if this government is directed at the government/military..."

please replace the first "government" that doesn't make sense with the word "article"  Sorry for the mistake.

 
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Shiny-duck said...
Nov. 21, 2011 at 10:58 pm:
This is very deatailed and really shows your interest in this! keep it up!
 
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Jakethesnake said...
Nov. 10, 2011 at 9:28 am:

I actually agree with you 110%. I used to be a huge conservative and say "blast em to bits! who cares about people?!" But now, thankfully, I am a more sensible person and think differently. I do believe that we, of all countries, don't need to continue this as a war anymore, but as a police action. Our main objective should not be to kill the taliban, but to build schools and help stabalize the region. More peace groups should be let in to do this, not armed soldiers. While the Afgan military... (more »)

 
joeystalin replied...
May 22 at 12:12 am :
Really, a policy action?  Sounds reasonable, since that worked to well in Korea. I'm a conservative, and care about people.  Nothing would please me more than to never have another military action.  However, you cannot reason with people who want you dead.  Obviously you have never heard or read any of the trash that has come out of the leader of Iran.  He has said, in no uncertain terms, that his goal is the complete destruction of Israel.  Does that sound li... (more »)
 
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callie15 said...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm:
Sorry, everyone ignore what I just wrote :)
 
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callie15 said...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm:
While wasting money in a failing economy?
 
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Lola_Black said...
Aug. 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm:
Not only was this brilliantly put and well researched, but I totally agree with you. The world needs more people like you; level-headed people who solve problems. Five stars!
 
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booksmaya This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 13, 2011 at 5:58 pm:
To put it simply, your article is very well written, but very unrealistic. Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, is a fraud. I along with many readers believed his story on the idea of focusing on the education of children to end the recruitment of the Taliban and, yet that was found to be a complete lie. He not only took the money that was fundraised for his 'supposed' humanitarian work, but he also did not build the schools he said he did. The war on terror is not likely to end soon bec... (more »)
 
savetheplanet replied...
Aug. 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm :
Maybe he is a fraud and he used the money for his own ends, but that does not mean that education is a fraud.  The ideas are still there and they work, we just need to find someone else to fulfill them.
 
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Hejlna said...
May 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm:
I just read three cups of tea. After reading that and your article I agree with the entire thing.
 
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Bu...Bu...Be said...
May 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm:
No offense but i disagree with basically the whole letter.
 
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AthenaBook said...
Apr. 30, 2011 at 7:34 pm:
This is a very well researched and very passonite article. You have done really well at diplomatically presenting very convincing points. A job well done!
 
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ConsEcon said...
Apr. 8, 2011 at 11:26 am:
This is both hypocritical and idealistic. I agree that a reformed education system could combat terrorism, but it's these terrorist groups themselves that create this propoganda. Let's use your example of Pakistan. You say we must combat these forces of terrorism...but these terrorist groups take refuge in these countries and are actually funded by them. Want stability? Take out the terrorist groups-with force. You mention Afghanistan and correctly point out that we removed al Qaeda and the... (more »)
 
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