- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

The ideological battle against radical Islam over time is as important to winning the war on terrorism as arresting and killing terrorists is right now, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said yesterday.

Mr. Wolfowitz told an academic conference that a "dangerous gap" exists between the West and the Muslim world.

"I think it is a dangerous gap, but I think it's bridgeable," Mr. Wolfowitz told a conference sponsored by the Hoover Institution on the political and cultural impact of September 11.

The overwhelming majority of the world's 1 billion Muslims "would like to enjoy the same benefits we do of a free, democratic and prosperous society," said Mr. Wolfowitz, who returned Monday from a visit to Singapore and the Philippines.

Mr. Wolfowitz said, however, that the Muslim world today lacks models of free and open societies.

"Part of our job has got to be to help those countries that are striving to become models of that kind," he said.

Among the nations that could be examples of free and democratic Muslim nations are Turkey, Indonesia and Morocco, he said.

"Promoting that kind of success is as critical in the long run as arresting, capturing and killing terrorists is important in the short run," Mr. Wolfowitz said.

Islamic terrorist factions such as Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization are attacking Western values in addition to physical targets, he said.

The values they are attack, however, are not just American values but universal values, he said.

"I think we need to keep emphasizing that this is not a war a between the West and Islam," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "It is a war of Islamic extremists who are trying to hijack one of the world's great religions."

The deputy defense secretary, a former ambassador to Indonesia, pointed out that U.S. troops have defended predominantly Muslim populations from aggressive and war-induced famine six times in the last 11 years in Kuwait, northern Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia and Afghanistan.

"We didn't do it because they were Muslims," he said. "We did it because it was in our national interest. We did it because they were human beings."

The goal of Islamic terrorists is "to take the world's billion Muslims back to a twisted, medieval notion of what the proper order of things is," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "A world in which women are oppressed, in which religious bigotry and extremism are promoted; a world in which children are indoctrinated to hate. It is not, I believe, a world that most of the world's Muslims want to live in, and we need to help them to help ourselves in fighting that."

Mr. Wolfowitz compared Islamic terrorism today to the totalitarian ideologies of the last century.

"I do not believe that it is an exaggeration to say that this evil of terrorism that has grown up in the world on a particularly massive scale in the last 10 years threatens some of the same kinds of evil and destruction that fascism and Nazism threatened nearly a century ago," he said.

The attacks of September 11 have "galvanized" the United States and other nations to deal with the threat, he said.

"We have gotten the storm warnings in time to act, and if we act decisively, we can defeat the terrorists and as the president said, build a better world beyond the war on terrorism."


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