Today the Middle East has become an arc of chaos, instability, war, danger, anger, and rage from Afghanistan through Iraq to the Israeli and Lebanon border. There are radioactive and deadly dangers in places such as Somalia that are not even on the policy radar with enormous impact on our battles against terrorism
There is a dangerous level of degeneration; an urgent need for new thinking and new policy; and based on my real life experience which involved countless conflicts and wars, let me suggest some hard, real and actionable ways America and the free world can proceed.
First, the President should appoint a highest level delegation to travel from Europe down to the Middle East on what I would call a listening tour. It should be led by names similar to these two: former President Clinton, a Democrat and former commander in chief with good relations of credibility and trust with many parties; and former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, who has credibility and contacts with expertise in the military and diplomatic arenas.
I do not propose they negotiate directly with anyone; I do propose they visit with our major democratic allies and parties throughout the Middle East, listen carefully to what these parties want, and what they offer, and report back to the President, Secretary of State and bipartisan leaders of Congress with information and recommendations.
This will re-initiate bipartisanship in America; bring players with global credibility to the table; attract dramatic support throughout the free world; and plant seeds of a potential major diplomatic initiative that would follow if the conflicting players use this opportunity to offer flexibility.
They should absolutely include Iran and Syria in these "listening tours" and, if there is any flexibility from them, seriously consider meeting with Hezbollah if Hezbollah would agree to turn over the Israelis they hold and discuss, in principle a possible zone of safety that would end, as part of a larger agreement, rocket attacks on Israel
Second, the United States, our NATO allies and the Gulf States should develop a dramatic and far reaching plan based on the actions of post- WWW II leaders to bring stability, security, hope and support for democracy to Lebanon and her people.
I am not merely referring to humanitarian aid in which every week more people die, then the next week we feed the survivors, though the humanitarian aid is essential.
I am referring to a powerful, sustained and dramatic short and long term commitment for major economic assistance to Lebanon; substantial military assistance and training to the Lebanese military, and in principle an overpowering commitment to democracy in Lebanon that is lacking today.
Everyone rejoiced when a million Lebanese marched in the streets for freedom and to remove the Syrians. Some, naively or for ideological motives, falsely trumpeted this as a historic moment and now, they mock that worthy vision and move to destroy it, whether they intend to, or not.
Today, some of those million Lebanese, true heroes for freedom, are dead. Others are now disgusted and appalled by what is happening to them while the world watches. In the end, nothing would better serve the security of the United States and Israel more than a stable Lebanese democracy, which is within reach, but which also is in grave danger of being destroyed and leaving Lebanon with the civil wars that were so destructive in the past.
Third, in the immediate term, at a minimum, we should champion the idea of a short term cease fire, proposed by some, that will enable humanitarian aid to reach those who need it desperately, urgently, and today. Perhaps we can create a window of opportunity for greater success. At least there is much to be gainedand little to be lost with a short term halting of the bloodshed; there is much to be lost with the continuation of endless killing that merely perpetuates a status quo that is not in our interests, but does serve terrorist interests throughout the region.
Fourth, there is already general agreement that a cordon sanitaire should be established on the Israel-Lebanon border, and all parties should agree in principle while details are worked out. For Israel there are military options that exist today and can be supported involving continuing actions now, to create this border of relative safety, in ways which dramatically minimize and hopefully end the unnecessary killing of civilians that serves neither Israel's nor America's interest or values.
Fifth, we have got to recognize that freedom is in a battle of ideas with terrorism, and that the battle will ultimately be won or lost not only by military tactics, which are needed, but by our ability to turn a generation of young Arabs away from hatred and rage, and to create hope and opportunity for the generation of young Israeli's as well. It is wrong to kill the innocent; the weak, the elderly; the children no matter who or how; and all this does is recruit ten new terrorists for every terrorist we kill.
President Kennedy is my model; he understood the appeal to ideas and the spirit; he also knew the principles of counter-insurgency warfare that frankly neither liberals nor neocons fully understand today. Those of us who have known them, know that Special Forces are not only the toughest in our military, but among the smartest and most sophisticated and they understand from experience that the battle of the guns must be accompanied by the battle of the ideas.
Fifth, there should be far greater support for those advocating freedom and democracy from Afghanistan to Iran to Lebanon. This is not war policy, this is freedom policy; this involves support for the womens groups, the labor unions, the student groups, tolerant clergy which can be widely given without any implication of force. It can be easily offered through neutral nations or NGO's.
Sixth, we must stop neglecting Somalia, which today offers a potential victory for terrorists; we must stop neglecting Afghanistan which is far more dangerous than Americans now realize. We must reach out to the authentic voices for freedom and hope and stop making Faustian deals with warlords and dope growers that are morally wrong and a strategic disaster. The same economic, political and carefully planned counter-insurgency programs discussed above are needed. We must understand the deadly dangerous consequences of neglect of Afghanistan and Somalia today.
Here is what we must avoid: the United States repeating the mistakes of Iraq, or the Israelis repeating those mistakes; thinking that shock and awe bombing can win counter-insurgency wars, which it cannot; and pursue policies that alienate most of the free world and a whole generation of young Arabs, most of whom reject terrorism as well as occupation.
Even if every policy pursued by the American and Israeli Administrations were correct; the smartest commanders and the most able diplomats realize that a policy that becomes alienated from the overwhelming majority of democratic peoples in the world, and becomes alienated from the overwhelming majority of people who's hearts and minds we must finally win, creates disasters, not solutions.
Terrorists thrive on discontent, chaos, rage, instability and outrage. We must kill the terrorists; America must kill the terrorists; Israel must kill the terrorists; but we must do so in ways that do not turn the world against us; and we must do so accompanied by actions of politics, economics, and justice the prove that freedom and democracy offer a better way.
President Kennedy understood this; the Green Berets understand this; and common sense demands this. In the world we live in, policies of occupation almost always ultimately result in failure, because they go against the trend of history; they violate basic notions of freedom and democracy, even when offered in their name; they create more enemies than they kill; this is what Israelis from Yitzhak Rabin to Ariel Sharon came to learn; these are the lessons must heed today, to win.