Soft power to win war on terror
The USS Zumwalt guided missile destroyer, one of the U.S. Navy’s next-generation warships, was featured on the front page of the JoongAng Ilbo on Dec. 9. The 182.9 meter-long (600 foot-long) vessel with a displacement of 14,564 tons is seen as only a small fishing boat on enemy radar. All the latest technology imaginable is applied in this stealth ship. The ship can penetrate the heart of enemy territory secretly and perform precision strikes. It is designed to function with a smaller crew and be less expensive to operate than comparable warships
The United States is the only country in the world that can afford the $3.5 billion destroyer. And no country would recklessly challenge the U.S., which has 10 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers as well as the stealth destroyers. The United States has swayed unchallenged influence over the world for nearly a century because of its mighty military strength.
However, even the U.S. is now struggling in the war on terror. The war began with the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, and it is still in progress today. While it was easy to occupy Kabul in Afghanistan and Baghdad in Iraq, the war never came to an end. Instead, the battlefields are expanding globally, to a cafe, a concert hall and a stadium in Paris on Nov. 13 and a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2.
And the war is costly. According to the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, the U.S. is expected to spend a total of $4.7 trillion to $5.4 trillion in the war on terror from 2001 to 2020.
This sum includes actual military expenses, social costs such as veterans’ welfare, and the interest of treasury bonds.
Casualties continue to grow. In Iraq, the war, internal conflicts and retaliatory strikes resulted in at least 63,570 and as many as 1.12 million victims. In Afghanistan, the number of deaths is estimated to reach 249,000 at most. In Pakistan, as many as 2,300 people were killed in drone attacks. The casualties for the United States add up to 9,600, including 6,600 servicemen and more than 3,000 killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. It seems that we are living in the era of massacres.
Lately, the Syrian civil war was highlighted in the war on terror due to the involvement of the fundamentalist militant group, the Islamic State. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, up to October, 250,000 to 340,000 people have died, and more than 7.6 million people have lost their homes. Over four million Syrian refugees escaped the country. Considering that Syria’s population is 17 million, the entire nation is in a living hell. Not many believe that the involvement of France, the United Kingdom and Russia, firing a few more missiles and a few more bombs on this hell, will solve the problem.
Stanford University Prof. Francis Fukuyama said that terrorism is not an enemy but a tactic. What the U.S. is fighting against is not the tactic of terrorism but the idea of religious radicalism. Radicals like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda feed on hatred and grudge. They see the Western world as the enemy, and they must kill all Westerners, including civilian rescue workers.
But the problem is that the remarks of hatred are also uttered in the democratic society of the United States. Donald Trump, a leading Republican presidential candidate, shocked the world by arguing that Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S. The comment that effectively equated all Muslims as potential enemies, makes us doubt the values of democracy, human rights and logic that constitutes the United States. Some Middle Eastern and Islamic countries sarcastically say that it may as well be what the United States really wants.
The U.S. needs to make it clear that the war on terror is not a fight against Islam, but a struggle of values against extremism. The U.S. must also display the courage to internally address the politician uttering such extremely harsh words. Only then can we prepare the foundation to win the war on terror.
It is necessary to change the policy to allocate a tenth - or even a hundredth - of the money used on the battle against terror on humanitarian relief and support for people in the Middle Eastern nations and the Islamic world. We win hearts not with fists but with warm consideration. Soft power, not military might, is needed.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 10, Page 32
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chae In-taek