The war on terror and the U.S. military confrontation with al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the longest war in modern history.
It has actually surpassed World War II in duration. Terrorism has not been defeated; home-grown radicalism in the U.S. is increasing; and the Taliban is regaining power and killing more U.S. troops.
This state of affairs should lead us to think that the U.S. may be fighting the correct war but in the wrong locations.
Traditionally, military confrontations occurred in a physical territory and ended with military control over that territory. The global nature of the jihadist phenomenon — from Indonesia to Spain and from Russia to the U.S. — makes it very difficult, if not virtually impossible, to confront at a territorial level.
Furthermore, the use of the Internet to transmit radical teachings by someone like Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen to influence Maj. Nidal Hasan to commit the Fort Hood massacre in Texas and Faisal Shahzad, who recently attempted to explode a car bomb in Times Square in New York, add another dimension to the problem and further support the idea that we need to think outside traditional warfare tactics when we deal with the phenomenon of Islamist radicalism and terrorism.
When we look deeper into the phenomenon of terrorism we need to ask ourselves, What makes a person decide to go get a bomb or a weapon just to kill some innocent people without achieving any materialistic gain for themselves?
In other words, what makes a person take such a destructive, frequently self-destructive, decision?
Studies in physiology tell us that an impulse has to originate in the mind of these individuals that will ultimately make them make such a decision and take such an action. This impulse could represent an impulse of hatred, revenge, animosity, or other forms of negative feelings toward others.
Hence, the real territory in the war on terror is actually the brain. Our real challenge is to fight this impulse in the minds of these individuals and to replace it with an impulse of love, forgiveness, and humility.
The path of peace can be either nourished or inhibited via education, ideology, cultural behaviors, and other factors that affect the psychology of a human being.
Humans are born equal. One of the main differences between us is the way and the quality of the education we receive.
If we acquired an education that promotes love and harmony it is likely that we will become good human beings.
On the contrary, if our education and upbringing create hatred toward others and created a feeling of superiority above others, the outcome can be completely different.
The tool for winning the war on terror is education that encourages critical thinking, upholds the use of our human conscience, and ultimately teaches us how to be able to love others irrespective of their religious backgrounds and views.
This does not in any way mean that we ignore or underestimate the physical nature of the threat posed by the terrorists, but mainly points out that our confrontation in this war has to be extended beyond the physical territory in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
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