Barack Obama, a name that emerged as a ray of hope at a time when then US President George W. Bush’s hawkish policies had placed the planet particularly the Middle East on a powder keg and the world was prepping for a massive economic breakdown. The name became a symbol of hope. It were not only the Americans but people all across the globe saw in him a man who had the audacity to steer the world away from the crisis.
Understandably though, taking the reins of the sole superpower plunged into a frightening morass of lies and deceit was an uphill task. Americans had grown weary of wars in the Middle East. Apart from the loss of innocent lives in this part of the world, Americans saw their own children fighting and getting killed in a far-flung region unknown to them. In addition to the caskets flying back home, thousands of war veterans returned with serious psychological disorders only to add to the woes of an average American.
In Obama, they saw a leader who could simply say no to wars and pull his troops from the region without further delay. Perhaps that was one of the reasons that helped Obama propel to the top spot.
However, by the time Obama took over, the Middle East had already turned into a maze of conflicting interests wherein it is easy to enter but very difficult to find one’s way out. Political observers knew that with huge investments like oil and weapons agreements, establishment of military bases throughout the region and the ruinous state of Iraq and Afghanistan would not make US pullout easy. Yet the Obama administration pulled out US troops from Iraq. The consequence of the withdrawal, however, is another debate and this writer does not wish to digress. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that so-called Arab Spring not only aggravated the situation in the region but also added to the problems of the US. Despite being the sole superpower and enjoying considerable leverage in the region, the US apparently chose to stay away from the quagmire and did not intervene directly and only time will tell, whether this approach is correct or not.
Countries like Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan have been turned into cauldrons of chaos. The Middle East has never been polarized to the current extent. Militant groups from the Bush era are forging alliances and emerging as stronger militias ready to deface the region.
Many in the region blame the US for the current mess. Anti-US sentiments have reached to such an extent that America comes to the minds of many whenever the word “enemy” is mentioned.
Al-Qaeda’s activities in Iraq are almost always linked with the US invasion of Iraq. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is a view that the US actually supports the Taleban. Drone attacks that kill innocent people have turned popular hatred against America, not the Taleban.
The idea of “let us withdraw our troops, minimize spending and control the region with drones” in an increasingly tumultuous Middle East has today rocked America’s superpower status.
Unfortunately, Obama repeated the mistake committed by his predecessor. He tried to counter violence by violence. Obama and his advisers failed in understanding the psychology of radicalism. It feeds off aggression and violence. It is directly proportional to the number of drone attacks and civilian casualties.
Obama, undoubtedly, world’s most powerful leader appears to be a reasonable and rational man. He can still play his role in cleaning up the mess. In order for him to do that, he must understand the psychology of radicalism and radicals. As mentioned above it thrives on violence and hatred. Religion, in this case Islam, is being used to further selfish interests of a few. Unfortunately, such ideas gain popularity very fast and earn diehard supporters in no time.
Religious extremists follow skewed interpretation of their sacred texts. It is said: It’s all in the head.
Instead of resorting to violence one needs to take measures to educate them. In case of our part of the world, the extremists claim to be following the teachings of Islam. Well, they are wrong. Whatever they are doing is in contrast with the teachings of Islam. It is a religion of peace and love and advocates coexistence.
Hatred toward others, the rage and urge to kill so conveniently cannot be described as Islam. Propagation of true teachings of Islam is the only weapon to defeat these elements. If Obama desires peace in the world, he must shun the current tactics apparently an extension of the “shock and awe” era. The US must support enlightened Muslims who believe in the true essence of the Qur’an to educate their deviated brethren. The Muslim world and the Middle East in particular also want to get rid of extremist elements. All kind of extremist tendencies and extremists from all religions can be tackled through a comprehensive educational policy.
There is no need for piling up arms or establishment of bases in far-flung areas. A comprehensive educational policy devised with the help of enlightened and sensible Muslims and people of other faiths can do wonders. This is the only option for Obama and the US. Heeding this call can make the world a much better place.
Mr. Adnan Oktar's article on Arab News: