I’m not sure if any of you have heard yet, but apparently our president is currently on his first trip abroad in his capacity as the chief executive. He is taking his show on the road for a whirlwind tour of the middle East. This makes sense because we have been embroiled immediately and directly in the affairs of the middle East since the early days of Bush the younger. Over the course of those years Bush attempted to implement policy that would help fix and advance the cultures of the middle East. He had his successes but there were far more failures. Then Obama showed up. Second verse, same as the first as he continued and even expanded American involvement everywhere in the middle East, and even into Africa.
Now it is Trump’s term to take a stab at the most pressing questions of our day. I am skeptical of his potential after the comments he made during the election season. He made comments that were patently absurd. He knows better than the generals how to defeat ISIL. He will bring peace between Israel and Palestine. These are crazy claims especially in light of how he has behaved since winning the election. Even with this said, I do my best to be charitable because until we convince him to resign he will remain the president.
For the sake of this sense of fairness I listened live to Donald Trump’s speech to Saudi Arabia. It wasn’t awful, not by a long shot. It was hardly spectacular though. It was immensely average, and that seems to have made it a success. Let that mean what it will to you. There were some good individual points in his speaking. such as his abandonment of draping our goals in the values of our nation, more on that later. He also made a point of calling on the islamic states of the middle East to do their own work to solve the complexities and issues facing them today.
It was those first comments, or lack of comments that made me really think about the desert wars we are fighting. What can we do? Do we even have any objectives any more? These are complicated vexing questions. These questions have been plaguing me now since I heard the speech. As I have been chewing these over I have eventually come to several conclusions that I would like to share with you.
Firstly lets address whether or not we still have a mission in the region. We never really had a mandate in anyone’s minds except our own going in. We lost even our own mandate then when we sprawled our mission far and wide. This sprawl has not conferred to us a new mandate, but it has trapped us in the rubble of our own old quest. We came back in to the region to remove an existential threat to our way of life. When we failed to do this we destroyed what we could of them. Once we did this but then realized it was not enough we began to try and affect nation building in the rubble that was left.
There is never a mandate to go “nation building” abroad. It is impossible to generate cultural change through or in the after math of warfare. It just can not be done. This will be radical Islam’s ultimate failing. This will also be a mark of our failure in the region if we do not change our means soon if not immediately.
This brings me to the subject of the means. War is an ugly brutish thing that in the course of human history has unfortunately been occasionally very necessary. Many world super powers have gone to war in the middle East trying to help them and lost their empires in the process. Something that has never failed however to violently affect positive cultural change is the free market liberalism that was birthed by Anglo-Saxon culture. We can not win with bombs and guns. We need to stop fighting these wars that way. We should instead be fighting this war by putting businessmen on the ground instead of soldiers. We need to flood their markets with American style prosperity and show them what the peaceful but competitive pursuit of capital can be the greatest of peace-bringing activities.
As we flood them with these American dollars and cents, their quality of living will improve. This improvement will cripple radicals ability to recruit with finality. Like Americans as they grow accustom to this they will then want to pursue more of this material comfort. This sort of non-aggressive self-interest will enable us to mop up what is left without having to watch our backs and constantly back track. Once we get to a point where they have also embrace free modern markets then they will realize that they also have every incentive to remove these economically damaging radicals.
Bombs have failed us. They have their time and their place, but the ability of markets and money to build coalitions, unity, and peace is unrivaled. If we want to really end Islamic terrorism and and bring our boys home then we need to stop throwing lead at them and start buying their stocks instead.