Thursday, February 21, 2008

Radical Islamic Extremism Is Not "The Transcendent Challenge of the 21st Century"

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. says that John McCain is wrong in his claim that "the transcendent challenge of the 21st century is radical Islamic extremists"--and that deflating that notion undermines the best rationale for electing him:

"Presumably, he's saying that Islamic extremism is more important than everything else--the rise of China and India as global powers, growing resistance to American influence in Europe, the weakening of America's global economic position, the disorder and poverty in large parts of Africa, the alienation of significant parts of Latin America from the United States." I'd certainly add global warming to the list.

But, Dionne asks,"Is it in our national interest for all these issues to take a back seat to terrorism?" He says no.

He cites early neoconservative Owen Harries' argument that viewing terrorism as an ideological challenge akin to Nazism or Soviet communism is neither accurate nor prudent. Quoting Harries:

"I think it's to belittle the historical experiences of World War II, not to speak of the Cold War, to equate the terrorists of today and the damage they're capable of with the totalitarian regimes of the previous century."

Dionne concludes: "Underestimating our enemies is a mistake, but so too is endowing them with more power than they have." Unfortunately, the years since 9/11 have given free rein to the latter. McCain really needs to explain why more of this same failed policy makes any sense.

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