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!

guineapiglover said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 12:51 pm
To qoute Benjamin Franklin;
"For peace to prevail, war must ensue."
Mossberg702 replied...
Mar. 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm
yeessssss so true!
angelic_powers said...
Mar. 6, 2010 at 5:41 am
I loved your article. it is accurate as it is based on facts. And your suggestions does shows that humanity stands first and just because of few extremist the whole community shouldnt suffer. Helping these countries by aidiing educational help and international support can really make life a better living for them and will help lot of people in Iraq, Afghanistan from not becoming the part of terrorism due to poverty..
justin said...
Feb. 14, 2010 at 7:24 am
The reason why it is not working is because Iraq is not the one who was behind the attack of 9/11. The initial reason for invading Iraq was because Bush though they have WMD. A few years after the war and Bush changed the cause of this war to War on Terrorism because they couldn't find any WMD. The 19 hijackers and the mastermind from 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and United Arab Emirate. None from Iraq. Their headquarter or training camps were not even from Iraq. So how... (more »)
Skeezics said...
Jan. 29, 2010 at 4:07 pm
Ya i do know that thank you very much. Thing is though this is as much our war as it is yours.
MJBlack said...
Jan. 7, 2010 at 12:42 am
I was born in Israel, The Land of Zion as some people call it, and most people would think that I should be greatful that America is "helping" us out. But I think that America should keep it's nose in it's own business, we've been fighting the same war with the Arabs for two thousand years, what makes Americans think that they can walk on in, fix everything, and then walk back out the heros? I'm not saying that I'm unfeeling towards those who are serving overse... (more »)
Skeezics replied...
Jan. 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm
Did you happen to forget that it was them who flew THEIR jet into OUR towers killing all of those people?
Sciencefreak replied...
Jan. 28, 2010 at 9:50 pm
I agree with skeezics. It was them who bombarded our towers with their jet and we are just trying to nail the idiots that nailed us first.
MJBlack replied...
Jan. 29, 2010 at 11:45 am
you seem to forget that you were at war with them before 9/11
MJBlack replied...
Jan. 29, 2010 at 11:46 am
you both seem to forget that America was at war with them before 9/11
HistoryCounts replied...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 9:09 am
MJBlack, How long has Israel been a nation? who created the borders in the Middle East, and when were they created? Did Britain and the other members of the treaty of Paris actually consult with the existing leaders in the Arab world when they made their decisions or did the western nations arbitrarily create this area without the input from these "incapable children" ?
when you look at the real history of the region you can trace events of today back to the decisions made witho... (more »)
MJBlack replied...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 3:54 pm
The land that is called Israel was promised to the Jews by God, are you telling me that what mere men have to say about "borders" is more important then what God does?
Sara! replied...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 7:13 am
I agree with MJBlack
MJBlack replied...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 10:23 am
thank you, you are so kind
june replied...
Feb. 14, 2010 at 7:01 am
you guys have it all wrong of who attacked and who is attacking who in history and the present. First of all, it is the Palestinians that have conflicts with the Israelis. As for 9/11, there were a total of 19 hijackers. 15 of those hijackers were Saudi Arabian, 2 hijackers were United Arab Emirates, 1 hijacker was Egyptian and 1 hijacker was Lebanese. The mastermind of 9/11, Osama bin Ladin is Saudi Arabian. Please do not mix people up just because they are from around the same or surround... (more »)
JacobMeeks replied...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm
There was not a single Iraqi on the plane on 9/11
Jakethesnake replied...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm
No, but don't you dare say that there wasn't a single Al Quid a member on those planes. 
JacobMeeks replied...
Nov. 11, 2010 at 6:46 am
I said IRAQI, not Al Qaida member. They're not one in the same.
Jakethesnake replied...
Nov. 11, 2010 at 8:11 am
I know. I just thought you were going to say that there wasn't any Al Qaeda member on there.
TheInnocentOne replied...
Jul. 28, 2011 at 12:09 am
We should keep religion and politics separate. Things would be so much better.
tomtamtimmy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 6, 2010 at 4:20 am
i agree with you. not to long ago there was a foiled terror attack on an army base that helps distribute supplies at glenfield which is very close to where my grandmother lives. terrorists manipulate people. they give hope to those that dont have any. then they turn them into a fighting force. other countries can do their best to help Iraq. but they cant seem to be manipulating them either. my article coming out is called is war necessary under any circumstance?. check it out when it comes out. ... (more »)
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