Tom Friedman hits the nail right on its head in his latest column for the New York Times. The liberal hawk summarizes recent events in the war on terrorism in the West – several wannabe terrorists were arrested recently at the moment they wanted to kill innocent citizens – after which he explains:
These incidents are worth reflecting on. They tell us some important things. First, we may be tired of this “war on terrorism,” but the bad guys are not. They are getting even more “creative.”
Second, in this war on terrorism, there is no “good war” or “bad war.” There is one war with many fronts, including Europe and our own backyard, requiring many different tactics. It is a war within Islam, between an often too-silent Muslim mainstream and a violent, motivated, often nihilistic jihadist minority…
Third, the newest and maybe most active front in this war is not Afghanistan, but the “virtual Afghanistan” — the loose network of thousands of jihadist Web sites, mosques and prayer groups that recruit, inspire and train young Muslims to kill without any formal orders from Al Qaeda…
Fourth, in the short run, winning this war requires effective police/intelligence action, to kill or capture the jihadists. I call that “the war on terrorists.” In the long run, though, winning requires partnering with Arab and Muslim societies to help them build thriving countries, integrated with the world economy, where young people don’t grow up in a soil poisoned by religious extremists and choked by petro-dictators so they can never realize their aspirations. I call this “the war on terrorism.” It takes a long time.
The war in Afghanistan, Friedman says, was about the “war on terrorists,” while the war in Iraq was a product of the war on terrorism.
So, what President Obama is actually considering in Afghanistan is shifting from a “war on terrorists” there to a “war on terrorism,” including nation-building. I still have serious doubts that we have a real Afghan government partner for that. But if Mr. Obama decides to send more troops, the most important thing is not the number. It is his commitment to see it through. If he seems ambivalent, no one there will stand with us and we’ll have no chance. If he seems committed, maybe — maybe — we’ll find enough allies. Remember, the bad guys are totally committed — and they are not tired.
And this column is why I consider to read the New York Times, regardless of the rather obvious bias of its editorial staff. As far as I’m concerned, Friedman is simply one of the best columnists in the States, perhaps even in the world – when he writes about the war on terrorism and the Middle East, at least.
There are many sides to this war. Unlike most, Friedman understands this and is able to communicate this to the public.
Let’s hope that Obama is willing to do what Friedman suggests.