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.

July 28, 2009
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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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 86 comments. Post your own now!

Macx14 said...
Aug. 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm
Fantastic writing! My eight year-old brother and I were watching a documentary on 9/11 and he said, "Why does there have to be war? Why don't people like each other?"
Macx14 replied...
Aug. 31, 2010 at 8:27 pm
You bet, haha!!
MairGwyn replied...
Aug. 31, 2010 at 8:29 pm
yupp, they have a book out with a good answer to that, and that's it lol. Lavinia by Ursula leguin
frnkplss55 said...
Aug. 31, 2010 at 3:12 pm
I really like your article and I hope that you keep writing!
C_B_Mia said...
Aug. 9, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Great article!

I was nearly killed twice as a baby because of suicide attacks. This was when I was in my mom's stomach. If my mom has been in those two situations.... which she so easily could have been... my whole family would not be alive right now.

Threefiddy said...
Jul. 15, 2010 at 10:31 pm
Violence is down in Iraq roughly 80-90 percent.
Jakethesnake replied...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 11:15 pm
But every day young Americans die to simply be a police officer. Let them come home and see their families. The time for fighting is over, let her solution take its course and you will see just how effective it could be.
John said...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 3:18 pm
 Well written article but I disagree with the practicality of such matters. The author states that the war on terrorism should be replaced with an effort to stabilize the Muslim countries in the Middle East by creating “a thriving economy, a functional government, and a successful educational system.” While this would be good, this is very unpractical and is, in essence, what the soldiers in Iraq right now are doing. The problem is that these countries are very unstabl... (more »)
jdeluca said...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 12:39 am
Israel and Pakistan have been in a fight for hundreds of years over a piece of crappy land, the gaza strip. I don't understand why they want to have that land. I'm a little unclear on the topic can someone explain to me why each country wants the land? I know it has to do a bit with religion but I still need more information...
starlight26:) replied...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm
They are using religion as an excuse. Islam,(the muslim religion) does not teach anything that has to do with war and terrorism. It teaches the absolute  opposite. Peace and love~
gymbabe This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 18, 2010 at 12:54 am
Umm, hate to burst your bubble, but no, it doesn't.  And they fight over the land of Israel because both believe it is their rightful homeland, although the one has a much more legitimate claim.
C_B_Mia replied...
Aug. 9, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Israel and Palestine are fighting because of unresolved issues, that go back way before Israel was a nation. It is exteremly complicated, but the war is more than over a small plot of land. The problem is that places such as the Gaza Strip and Lebanon have good people--- but they are run by terrorist organizations called Hamas and Hezbollah. These organizations hate Israel more that they love thier own people. They send bombs and suicide bombers to Israel. Israel fights back in their own defe... (more »)

skittz124 replied...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 3:20 pm
WOWWWW its not ISRAEL and PAKISTAN fighting over the land, its israel and palstine!!! Pakistan and india are fighting over KASHMIR if thts what u mean, get ur facts right
wiggyiiees replied...
Apr. 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm
Starlight your a moron some Muslims may practice love and peace but Muhammad and the early Muslims spread there religion by violence and terror. 
callie15 replied...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Terrorists that are Muslim are not Muslim at all.
kandyraye said...
May 29, 2010 at 6:46 am
I am currently serving on my 2nd tour to Iraq.... and I can most certainly say that we are waisting our time there. We rebuild schools and try to build relations with the local mayors of each province... but it does no good. You can't help a nation that wants no help. What America and our government is failing to realize is that all we are doing is delaying a civil war. The shiates and the sunnies are going to have their civil war. Other than the americans being nosey we had no grounds to invaid... (more »)
beautifuldisaster18 replied...
Aug. 9, 2010 at 10:15 am
If you are so against this, than why did you join the military! I'm thankful that we have people that fight for our country, but if all you're going to do is complain, why should I be thankful. I mean, don't get me wrong, I still am. Even if you are going to complain I'm still thankful that you risk your life for our country. That's courage. But it just bugs me when you complain. Please remember, it was your choice to join...
Jakethesnake replied...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 11:17 pm
Beautiful, I cna assure you that every soldier would tell you the same thing. They see the culture down there and have a right to complain when they are, in fact, not just soldiers, but citizens. They ahve the right to say that they should not be dieing for the people in that country. They did it in Vietnam, why not now?
JacobMeeks said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm
Here is how to end the war in the Middle East, the United States needs to stop invading countries and doing so for no grounds other than the desire for resources and to create an Imperialist Monarchy over limited supplies of oil etc.
guineapiglover said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 12:51 pm
To qoute Benjamin Franklin;
"For peace to prevail, war must ensue."
jdeluca replied...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 12:35 am
"For peace to prevail, war must ensue." wise words from a great founding father
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