I am firmly of the opinion that we will want and need every willing back, every strong hand in friendship, every erg and dyne of support we can get. This is not a conflict that calls for a measured, careful response. This is a conflict that calls for an overwhelming, careful response, and continued commitment. The enemy has billed this as a war of cultural annihilation. Either they remove us, or we will remove them.
"They" have defined the goals of the conflict. The enemy is just as vulnerable to these objectives as we are. More so, in fact. The enemy builds his force on ignorance, on the Big Lie. The enemy's greatest fear is that the prosperity of the West will seduce the generation after this one. That the memories of old blood feuds will fade when presented with McDonald's and computers and cheap cell phones. Every call they make to recruit is against the decadence of the West destroying their way of life.
After we punish the enemy with bombs, with bullets, we must salt the soil that nourishes the twisted tree of intolerance and fanaticism. We must change the hearts and minds of the young.
We salt them with small computers. With internet access. With a telephone in every village. With juvenile novels and encyclopedias translated into Arabic. With teachers who speak their language, and who teach them to use these tools to answer questions for themselves. Yes, some of those teachers will be killed. They are soldiers in this war as much as anyone who takes on a beret or a gun, and we can make martyrs of them for the world. No tyrant can long survive with an informed and educated populace.
The organizations they decry as the mouthpieces of the U.S. shall be USED as the mouthpieces of the West. We tell their children that there is a life beyond subsistence farming and blood feuds. We tell their wives and daughters that there is a life where they are valued as individuals and people in their own right, not as chattel. We give them the tools of bilateral communication, rather than unilateral indoctrination. We give them the internet. We declare a great work, of making sure that every corner of this globe has fast internet access. Not just the U.S. Not just Europe. The world.
They will see pornography sites. They will also see sites discussing engineering, and simple improvements to agriculture. The curiosity of children will be piqued, and their questions answered. With each question asked, and each answer given, we slowly wean them away from the culture of intolerance. They'll be able to ask questions without censure or censoring, and get answers they might not otherwise have.
I would sooner carpet bomb with game boys and Pokemon, and an Arabic translation of Monopoly, than FAEs and nuclear explosives. The adults are beyond our reach. The young MUST be reached so that twenty years from now, the thought of piloting a captured airliner into an office building full of innocent bystanders meets with universal horror.
I fear, in the haste for vengeance, that the nature of this conflict will be forgotten. Make no bones about it -- this is a culture war. It can only end with a declaration on the order of Cartago Delenda Est. We cannot win this war with bombs or bullets, although we can accelerate its prosecution by those means. We can only win this war through a generational conflict; we must win the war in the hearts and minds of the children growing up in the Middle East now.
Winning that longer war will be costlier and less immediately gratifying than cluster bombs and Fuel Air Explosives, and "killing the bastards and everyone that helped them." It can, however, be a profitable war. If you are an author, or someone who creates media, contact your publisher about translating your works into Arabic. Someone in the Department of Defense is in charge of outbound propaganda; we should find who that person is, and give them the munitions to win this war.
Bin-Laden has declared this a culture war. Let's show him what a culture war TRULY looks like. Let's send in Shakespeare. And Heinlein. And Harlequin Romances, Pokemon and The Simpsons.
Ken Burnside is a game designer and freelance writer living in Madison,
WI. This essay has appeared in slightly different form in a number of
forums dealing with warfare, science fiction, and future conflicts. His
web site is at http://www.adastragames.com/. More essays on the Culture War are at