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The Answer to Terrorism

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The war in Iraq is fueling Islamic radicalism and terrorism around the world, and now we have learned that all sixteen agencies in the U.S. intelligence community agree on this critical point The sad fact is that terrorism is spreading like a deadly cancer around the world and posing more and more danger to us.

If military force cannot defend us from terrorism, the obvious question
is, "Then what can we do? Can we not provide security for our people?" We can. But to understand what we can do we must first understand the true nature of the threat.

We must realize that in much of the world, our government is now seen as using its military power to serve the selfish interests of our powerful corporations. We are hated not because we enjoy democracy and freedom, but because our government has so often supported regimes that deny these very things to people in countries whose resources are coveted by our big multinational corporations. During World War II we were seen as liberators. Now we are seen as the world's military bully and the hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism.

The very concept of a "war" on terrorism is dangerously wrong. We are not engaged in a military battle with a particular nation. We are engaged in a struggle for the hearts and minds of people around the globe and we cannot win that struggle at the point of a gun. The more military force we use, the more resistance we will create. This is a contest of ideas and we have to prove that America stands for something more than violence. Trying to impose our ideas through force sends a clear message that we really don't believe that our ideas about democracy and freedom can stand on their own.

Once we understand the origins of terrorism, the solution becomes obvious. We must change our ways. We must once again become the America that used the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. The roots of terrorism are despair, hopelessness and anger. Military force is not the answer to terrorism. If the US became the biggest supplier of hope in the world instead of the world's biggest arms supplier, the wellsprings of terrorism would soon dry up and disappear.

Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill and be killed, we need to help poor nations feed their starving people, provide health care and clean water, and rebuild their infrastructures. Just imagine what we could do if we cut our $500 billion military budget in half and used those hundreds of billions of dollars for humanitarian work that gave people real hope for their future.Just think what we could have accomplished with the $370 billion that we have squandered in Iraq. All of our costly high-tech weaponry is useless against the low-tech threat of terrorism We need to be building bridges instead of bombs.We need to be making medicine to cure people instead of missiles to kill people.

If we replaced smart bombs with smart policies designed to help people, who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us? Those few extremists who want to harm us would soon be rendered ineffectual as anger is replaced by hope. If we really want to end terrorism, we need to end our reliance on the military as the answer to this threat. The American people must demand that our government stop pursuing policies that actually promote terrorism through its mistaken reliance on military power.
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Joe Parko is a retired college professor who taught in the School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. He is a founding member of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition.
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