At last, someone takes up the issue of the nearly forgotten elephant in the living room. “Candidates On Fighting Islamic Extremism,” from CBS, October 23 (thanks to Twostellas):
* Says if he gets a shot at bin Laden, he will take it – with or without Pakistani permission.
* Would send in more troops to Afghanistan.
* Wants to give Pakistan $7 million to build schools, roads and health clinics.
* Says it’s a mistake to be so explicit about violating another country territory, but leaves little doubt he would go after bin Laden even if that would be necessary.
* Would send in more troops to Afghanistan.
* Supports non-military aid to Pakistan, but has put no price tag on it.
(CBS) To help you make an informed decision in the presidential election, CBS News is devoting a large part of our broadcasts until Nov. 4 to telling you where the candidates stand on major issues – from the war in Iraq to health insurance to education “¦ and a lot more. Each piece will be an in-depth look at the issues facing the 44th president. In this installment, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports on how what Barack Obama and John McCain propose to do about Islamic extremism would affect the world.
The driver of an orange-and-white car shown in a video tape is a suicide bomber. He just barely misses an American convoy. The threat of Islamic extremists on the battlefield is so deadly, the only way to win is to shoot first.
But to Greg Mortenson, the real battleground is in the Hindu Kush, where Muslim children have no schools. For him, a classroom is the best weapon against terrorists.
“I think they fear education and literacy much more than they fear a good gun battle,” Mortenson said.
Since 1993, Mortenson has been building schools in mountains so dangerous you take your life in your hands just crossing a river.
“Fifteen years later, now we have 78 schools, about 28,000 students and our primary focus is on girls’ education,” he said.
He is competing against religious schools called madrassas, teaching jihad to young boys who graduate to terrorist training camps. And his 78 schools are badly outgunned.
“Today, there’s about 25,000 extremist madrassas with about four million mostly boys going to school, learning about militant ideology,” he said.
Why is that? Does anyone know or care? Do they really think that there are 25,000 “extremist madrassas” because people don’t have roads or scholarships?
“Doesn’t sound like a fair contest,” Martin said.
“It’s just a drop in the bucket,” Mortenson said.
A drop in the bucket against a fanatic ideology that, for a decade now, has spawned monstrous attacks on Americans.
There is no more visceral issue than the battle against Islamic extremism. And from the beginning, both candidates have put it at the center of their appeal to voters.
For both men, it begins with hunting down Osama bin Laden and other top terrorists – wherever they are.
“We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as president, I will not,” Sen. Barack Obama said in May. “We must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.”
Obama makes no bones about it – if he gets a shot at bin Laden, he will take it – with or without Pakistani permission.
Sen. John McCain says it’s a mistake to be so explicit about violating another country’s territory, but leaves little doubt he would do exactly the same.
“There’s a guy out there in Afghanistan or Pakistan,” McCain said in March. “You know his name: Osama bin Laden. And if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I’ll get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.”
The battle against bin Laden and Islamic extremism began in Afghanistan. Seven years later, the United States has 32,000 troops there, and it is still not clear which side is winning.
“Our commanders on the ground in Afghanistan say that they need at least three additional brigades – and our commanders in Afghanistan must get them,” McCain said.
Both candidates say they would send in more troops.
“As Commander in Chief, I will have no greater priority than taking out these terrorists that threaten America, and finishing the job against the Taliban. That’s why I’ve called for at least two additional U.S. combat brigades,” Obama said.
The U.S. military is already planning to send four more combat brigades – about 15,000 troops – and both candidates seem likely to approve. Both also recognize that’s not enough. It will take what’s called “soft power.”
Obama wants to give Pakistan $7 million to build schools, roads and health clinics. McCain also supports non-military aid, but has put no price tag on it.
Has either one even been asked about the evidence that the Pakistani government has jihadists in high places, and that much of the money we have given them to fight “extremists” in the past has…gone astray?
In Los Angeles, McCain said: “Our goal must be to win the hearts and minds of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists. In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs.”
Does study of the roots of “violent extremism” enter into this struggle against it and attempt to win hearts and minds? Are we too politically correct even to allow ourselves to know what we’re dealing with? Does McCain, does Obama have a plan for combating the Islamic supremacist ideology that renders so many of our attempts to win hearts and minds fruitless?
Does anyone even wish to know or care where this problem came from? They continue to assume that it’s all about poverty, despite the fact that so many studies have shown that jihadists tend to be wealthier and better educated than their peaceful peers. Scholarships and roads will fix it. But have they even considered the possibility that some Muslims may wish to wage jihad against the West even after they receive scholarships and schools and roads and health clinics?
Is it forbidden even to raise the possibility that some Muslims will consider that an attempt to buy them off, and will hold all the more tenaciously to their ideology of violence and supremacism?