War against terror needs more than guns

The Bush Administration is learning from experience that guns and bombs alone will not win the war against terrorism.

In Afghanistan, the military campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda has been brilliantly executed. Smart bombs and small special operations are a new form of warfare inflicting relatively few civilian casualties.

Now comes the longer, multipronged campaign. While it will continue to have a military emphasis, it requires three other significant initiatives: (1) Tough, behind-the-scenes diplomacy, (2) An international campaign to eliminate, or at least substantially curb, the poverty that is terrorism's breeding ground, and (3) a vigorous information campaign to dissipate the misunderstanding and sometimes mindless hatred abroad about America.

As far as diplomacy is concerned, the Bush administration has clearly used it expertly to install a new government in Afghanistan, raise an Afghan army, put peacekeepers there, and hold the international antiterrorist alliance in position.

On his recent international travels, Vice-President Cheney was obliged to depart from his antiterrorism agenda because of the rapidly deteriorating conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The administration had hoped to keep terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis on two separate tracks. But they are inevitably intertwined.

As the violence between Israelis and Palestinians has murderously escalated, it has agitated anti-American, as well as anti-Israeli, opinion in some of the very Islamic lands the United States is seeking to rally to its side in the war against terrorism.

Thus, ready or not to reenter the Middle Eastern diplomatic fray, the US has been pitched headlong into it. Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis has become an integral part of the anti-terrorist campaign.

Now to the second needed initiative, the campaign against world poverty. Though there are exceptions in history, prospering and democratic nations are not usually among the world's troublemakers. Therefore, it is not only morally right, but prudent, for rich nations to help the poor.

President Bush took the United States on a major new step down this road at the Monterrey conference in Mexico last week when he pledged a 50 percent increase in US foreign aid over the next three years. This is positive, because the US has traditionally been among the more parsimonious of aid donors, contributing about 0.1 percent of its national income to foreign aid compared with the Europeans' 0.3 percent.

But there were some important caveats. The president insisted that aid to poor nations should go to those carrying out a broad range of political, legal, and economic reforms.

This is an eminently reasonable requirement. When an individual goes to his banker for a loan – let alone a grant – the banker satisfies himself that the borrower is a person of probity and good standing. It's not unreasonable that a country getting an outright grant from American taxpayers should similarly qualify as one expected to become a stable member of the international community.

Economic and political stability attracts international investors and trade, and development of the private sector is in the long run much more significant than governmental aid. But government funding can help prime the pumps.

And in combating poverty, the poor nations of the world should not depend on Western nations alone. South Africa is highly industrialized and rich in minerals. It can play a significant role in the political and economic development of the rest of Africa.

Saudi Arabia is rich in oil and could be a catalyst for development in those Islamic lands that have turned inward for centuries, shunning, and missing, the development of the modern world. Japan could be a constructive force in Asian lands whose economies have lagged behind the dynamism of such powerhouses as Singapore and Hong Kong.

THUS THERE ARE many facets to the challenge of global economic development. Though governmental aid is not the only solution, it is currently imperative, especially if the world is to achieve the United Nations' goal of halving world poverty by 2015.

A strong military response, a strong diplomatic offense, and a vigorous foreign-aid program to help combat world poverty are all requisite in a war against terrorism that Bush consistently warns could take many years. So, too, is the educational and informational campaign to clarify misapprehensions about the US among America's friends, and to eliminate the hatred deliberately fostered by America's enemies.

A nation that is a powerful world leader may never be universally loved. We can work to ensure that it is better understood. More of this in a successive column.

• John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, is currently editor and chief operating officer of the Deseret News.

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