The US as global sheriff for every Dodge City

America's war on terrorism has achieved some remarkable successes. It has changed the balance of forces in Central and South Asia and placed terror networks on the defensive. No assault on American people or interests has been carried out since Sept. 11, 2001.

But these successes will be short-lived without a commitment to follow them with diplomacy, peacekeeping, reconstruction, nation-building, promotion of human rights and democracy, curbs on weapons proliferation, and a campaign to improve the impact and depth of American interaction with the Muslim world.

A daunting task, yes. But not as daunting as an effort to shape a more peaceful world through short-term military action alone. Coercive power is a blunt instrument. It can defeat enemy forces, topple narrowly based regimes, seize and hold territory, and deter or intimidate immediate challenges.

As professional soldiers are the first to recognize, however, successful military actions create but brief windows of opportunity, not lasting political results. In order to have enduring strategic impact, a successful military campaign should be viewed as buying time for creating political responses to challenges and threats. This is how the cold war was won.

What is required is an integrated use of America's security-related tools: our alliances and military aid programs to bolster friends and train local forces; our lead role in the UN, NATO, and other international organizations to build workable restraints on weapons proliferation and to share the burdens of peace operations and conflict management; our negotiation resources; and our public diplomacy tools and media and educational resources.

Long-term stability requires breaking down the isolation of distant lands and linking local leaders to global networks committed to economic reform and development, democracy and the rule of law, free press, religious tolerance, and women's rights.

This broadly conceived approach can be led by the US, but it must be developed and implemented in concert with other nations that share our risks and values and that can help to export security to disorderly and troubled parts of the world.

The target countries for this strategy are much broader than many Americans realize. To be effective, we and our closest partners must address the security challenges of a huge zone of turbulence stretching from West Africa to Southeast Asia – a zone in which Western values and the principles of the international system are on trial.

Afghanistan is not the only failed state that may host criminal businesses linked to religious fundamentalism and terrorist networks. Iraq is not the only adversary acquiring weapons of mass destruction and threatening regional stability.

Within this zone lie some outlaws who rule by terror and may not be reachable by anyone but a world-class sheriff and able-bodied posse. Military interventions can create the space for moderate reformist leaders to take charge and promote development and democracy. But it takes a lot more than one-shot military action to secure the global equivalent of Dodge City.

Myriad challenges confront the US and its allies. Can we develop the ideas and instruments for a long-term conversation about modernization and democracy with the societies of the Islamic world? How do we best engage the Pakistans, Indonesias, Irans, and Nigerias out there, societies with their own mega-problems?

How can we mobilize the Europeans, the Russians and Chinese, the Japanese, and civil society groups in this effort? In how many situations, apart from the Middle East, should the US play a lead peacemaking role? In Sudan (a former host to Osama bin Laden where embryonic peace efforts are struggling to gain some traction)? In Kashmir, where a nuclear standoff commands the attention of the West? In Nigeria and Indonesia, where challenges to weak institutions and uncertain leaders could lead to more state failures?

There is no quick and dirty military solution to the terrorism and turmoil in the Islamic world so violently brought home last Sept. 11.

More than a half century ago, the US responded to an attack on its territory by mobilizing for a long-term struggle. We created a comprehensive national strategy for engaging enemies and sustaining friends abroad and promoting economic and social progress – and we organized institutions and coalitions to implement that strategy.

Today, in a very different world, we have a similar opportunity – indeed, a national requirement – to build upon our recent military success by developing a comprehensive, long-term strategy for mobilizing domestic resources and a global coalition in support of a more stable international system.

• Chester A. Crocker is chairman of the board and Richard H. Solomon is president of the US Institute of Peace. Both are former assistant secretaries of state.

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