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Editorial: Finding stability in the Middle East

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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The town of Peshawar, Pakistan, suffered an atrocity Tuesday morning. According to Reuters, 141 Pakistanis have been confirmed dead, almost all of them children. The total number of casualties is as yet unknown. The Taliban carried out the attack.

This sort of abhorrent and horrifying destruction of human life forces the world to ask itself, “To what end will the destruction of one terrorist organization bring?” As immediate as the threat of ISIS is, there is an even larger problem looming in the distance. How will the world respond to South Asia and the Middle East once it emerges from its current chaos? What is next?

While short-term action may be necessary to stem the flow of blood, we believe diplomacy is the only long-term answer. What does that mean for the United States specifically? It is hard to say if in the coming decades South Asia and the Middle East will look the same as they do today. What can be said is mostly a reflection on the lessons of the past. Staunchly supporting one group to oppose another has often led to weapons and resources ending up in the wrong hands, and that has increased animosity and distrust between the United States and the people of the Islamic world.

Perhaps a more balanced approach is required. Imagine, the United States in the role of the broker of peace and communication rather than being a party heavily invested and involved. U.S. leadership will still be required in such a world. But ideally, our guns and troops would not.

One can only assume that fighting terrorism, more of an idea than a specific force, incurs civilian casualties, sparking further resentment and terrorism. Non-military economic action may begin to help the protracted problem of instability in that part of the world. When people are in a stable environment with a chance at opportunity, they are less likely to take up arms and give their lives to radicalism.

Of course, being an occasional mediator rather than a heavy player in South Asia and the Middle East assumes many things, including the stability of oil prices and a cooperative Israel. In terms of oil dependency, the United States has been involved in the area to secure the stability of the worldwide oil supply, which has been threatened by ISIS and other groups recently.

Israel, being a U.S. ally, is a far more complicated situation. It is unfortunate that Israel is seen as a sort of Western military stake in the Middle East by the Arab world. One could argue, though, that it is how we treat Israel that defines its image. Regardless, the cultural tension in the region doesn’t seem to have an end, especially with a two-state solution (Israel and Palestine) seeming further away than ever. All we can do is continue to keep up the pressure on both sides.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that the problems of the area extend far beyond ISIS, and that beyond authorizing force against the group, we should be considering a strategy to address the root causes that foster terrorism via groups like ISIS and the Taliban in the first place. In time, this could lead to less animosity and more cooperation in the area and with the rest of the world.


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