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Friday Dec 15, 2006

Week of Rising Hate

This week, CNN viewers had the misfortune of having to suffer the venom of both the anti-Muslim Dennis Prager and the anti-Jewish David Duke.

Which means Prager and Duke were making enough waves to be considered newsworthy.

Which means this was a disturbing week.

Granted, pretty much every week in the Bush Era has been disturbing.

But the fresh 15 minutes given to Prager & Duke speaks to a rising level of bigotry and hatred, fueled by those itching for an all-out clash of civilizations.

Global destabilization has a way of bringing hatred to the surface. Hatred clouds thinking. Oversimplification leads to bad policies. Problems worsen and war becomes unavoidable.

Globally, anti-Semitism is the big problem, contributing to terrorism and complicating efforts to forge peace agreements with Israel.

Domestically, it's anti-Muslim sentiment that feeds the notion that more violent confrontation is necessary, potentially steering our foreign policy course towards further destabilization.

Because the extremist hatred on both sides is rising, it makes for a treacherous dynamic for tolerant moderates.

The rhetoric is so hot, it's difficult to challenge overly simplistic notions of the Islamic world without being perceived as supporting or excusing anti-Jewish terrorist forces.

And we must stand strong against anti-Semitism, but not in a way that unwittingly contributes to efforts to bring about a broader war.

How should we navigate this treacherous dynamic?

1) Acknowledge that we are facing major security threats, and that we must learn lessons from the past.

This will help defuse notions up front that we lack "the will" to face up to global problems, and only those who push belligerent confrontation have the requisite "will."

2) State our own foreign policy principles -- promoting credible democracy and eradicating poverty -- which would remove factors that have fueled destabilization and hatred in the past and present.

This prevents us from being trapped in a right-wing frame, where war is the only serious way to address major security threats.

And it's one better than merely standing up to anti-Semitism abroad, it's offering a solution to reduce and marginalize it.

Read my book for more on this point.

3) Stress that we must know our adversaries well, not oversimplify and reflexively demonize our adversaries as we did with Iraq's Saddam Hussein, if we are to develop effective strategies.

This helps us challenge misinformation intended to make all Islamic leaders appear irrational and diplomacy seem pointless, without being seen as defending the loathsome.

For #3, there needs to be an Iran corollary:

Knowing Iran well means knowing that President Ahmadinejad isn't Iran's Supreme Leader, doesn't control the government, and his every utterance does not set Iran's policies.

Obviously right now, the majority of America is tired of war and wants to get out of Iraq.

But we're not getting out, the destabilization will worsen, and in 2007 and 2008, the public will be craving for solutions.

Those pushing further confrontation will be tenacious in offering their solutions.

We cede the debate, or handle the debate carelessly, at our peril.

Posted by Bill Scher on Dec 15, 2006 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Foreign Policy
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