- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

An unintended effect of the new Middle East war has been to make a couple of very hard problems much easier for the Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council. The first was best expressed recently by Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah when he said to Israel: “You don’t know who you’re fighting.”

Wrong — the Israelis, and now most everyone else — know they are fighting the Iranians. There is no doubt about this, not for the Israelis nor the rest of the world — regardless of where loyalties fell before the new war. It is a dangerously radical Iran now at war, and this makes it much easier for the international pressure to go against Iran — and it will.

Second hard problem: What to do about the burgeoning Iranian nuclear weapons program? Again, this is now far easier to deal with than before the war. Because, if nuclear weapons were available to the Iranians, they would be used now — the radical Iranians, both separately and via Hezbollah, have left no doubt about this.

Just as the North Koreans overplayed their hands with regard to the U.N. Security Council resolution on their nuclear weapons and missile programs, so now has the radical Iranian leadership.

In short, if this new war has settled anything, it’s that Iran will never be allowed to build nuclear weapons or to develop a nuclear weapon capability. And, while this proposition may once have been a fair statement of U.S. policy, the new war has made it a “sure thing” for the rest of the rational world, whether the Iranians have figured it out yet or not. They will, soon enough.

As important for the longer term is what happens on the ground in the Middle East after the current war. Also with some irony, this need not be as hard as it was before the war.

Whether its radical religion, tribalism or just warring clans of Lebanese gangsters, the effects in these societies prevent them from moving into modern, representative government, let alone any form of “democracy.” “Terrorism” and “insurgency” are just new words to describe the everyday violence of these pitched struggles: Hostages have always been taken and murdered, children and innocents always slaughtered, religious shrines always destroyed, and on and on.

It’s always very sad to watch from here — but is there really anything we can do to change it?

Probably not in the shorter term — and it will take a far more proactive and creative effort than just U.N. troops on the ground and a policy of “democracy” to effect longer-term change in the Middle East. If we are really serious about it, however, there are some things we could do.

But first, we need to recognize most of the current generations of senior leaders will not — because it’s simply not in their interest — resolve or settle these conflicts. And, because the societies are male-dominated, the 20- to 40-year-olds are likewise incapable. Even younger males — of 10 to 20 — are already “lost” in these societies. So we should assume the oldest members of the generation we have a fair chance of influencing as future leaders are now younger than 10 years old.

So, how do we effectively influence the very young in the Middle East?

(1) Re-establish a United States Information Agency (USIA), but kept separate and distinct from the State Department and — above all — the CIA. The actual creative work by this agency should be done by the established advertising industry — the good ones are well known and international in scope. New and more effective campaigns would be developed continually and ineffective ones discontinued. This could be the some of the best money spent in the war on terror.

(2) Our immigration policies for the Middle East and other high-threat regions should be re-examined with the objective of facilitating families with very young children to immigrate. Success stories would then be reported “back home” with a “reality TV” series.

(3) Establish regional cultural and media centers in selected countries and make such centers the essence of the U.S. presence in these countries and contingent on aid, loans, military assistance and all other U.S.-derived benefits. This would include Internet, media and broadcast centers and providing hardware and software to freely access them.

(4) Above all, and as far as our message goes, we must drop absolutely our traditional reluctance to take positions on religious, ethnic and cultural issues. What we might think is a “political correctness” issue should affect neither our long-term objectives nor our message in these new public diplomacy programs.

None of these recommendations are in the “hard to do” category. What will be hard is keeping sustained congressional and bureaucratic political support to “stay on message.”

Why? We will not likely see measurable results for a decade, and the current male — and often hopelessly geriatric — regional leaderships will not at all be happy with what we are doing because it does not support their vision for the future.

But we know all about their “vision”: It’s corruption, hate, ignorance, poverty, continued subjugation of women and the incitement of each new generation of naive young boys to die — and, above all, to keep the gratuitous and senseless violence going forever. This new war is just the latest evidence of it.

Daniel Gallington writes on national security issues.

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