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Updated 29 June 2008

From an apogee between 2001 and 2006, when much of Islam either supported al Qa'ida or joined it, to its present shell of its former self, one wonders what happened. Thanks to the Sunnis, al Qa'ida was at least temporarily chased out of Iraq. The Surge didn't do it; al Qa'ida is on the defensive virtually everywhere.

So what did happen? Well, for one thing al Qa'ida isn't dead, just wounded. They could regroup and their imitators will be around for a long time. But al Qa'ida no longer speaks for Islam, but then it never really did. Such was the drama they created, that many, especially in the West, perceived al Qa'ida as the common and only enemy worth focusing on, and it was an easy and lazy intellectual jump just to lump all of Islam into the basket called terrorism. And of course as the most prominent terrorist, it was easy to assume the al Qa'ida represented all of Islam. Both bin Laden and Bush, for different reasons perhaps, encouraged such thinking. But that propagandized perception missed its proper focus--the battle of ideas.

Has al Qai'ida lost the battle for the hearts and minds? In most quarters, for sure, and this is the good news. The bad news is that the US deserves little or no credit; the reactionary powers as well as the moderates in Islam together turned the tables and are winning. The war over ideas is just now coming into some focus in both worlds. Moderates on both sides see this, but they are hemmed in and hammered by the extremist elements of their respective societies. Whether left or right politically, or religion-wise, extremists have been having a field day since 9/11. The extremists are highly organized and well connected and deeply entrenched, while the moderates typically are not. In this environment, progressive ideas are slow to surface. This is a primary issue everywhere, but it is most acute in the Middle East.

How did al Qa'ida lose the battle of ideas? They did it to themslves by turning on the Sunnis, assassinating many innocents, and by declaring all who were not part of them heretics and deserving of death. Al Qa'ida is among the most extreme of the extreme today and that alienated many who might have otherwise been sympathetic. The Sunnis began fighting back. Losing sanctuary and themselves marked for retaliation, al Qa'ida operatives are more and more finding themselves among the hunted instead of the hunters. Undoubtedly The Surge picked off a few, even an important one or two. But that is small potatoes compared with what the Sunnis accomplished in Iraq, however temporary that too may be.

This feature is perhaps the best example of how al Qa'ida overreached. That is often typical of extremist factions of any society it plagues, even the best of them. Napoleon, Hitler, and now Mr, Bush also, all overreached when a little prudence would have brought them more.

So what if al Qa'ida is now less threatening? The Islamic divides remain threats to peace in the Middle East. So also, the insurgencies in both Afghanistan and Iraq threaten peace in an important part of the world. Most importantly, it is the extremists on each side of the wall in Palestine, that now has become physical, keeps that pot boiling after 50 years. That feature is compounded by tunnel vision in Washington, where the tail is waging the dog--literally. A small group of Zionist hawks have done more to set back peaceful coexistence in the Middle East than any other action.

Whether it be Obama or McCain, the next President's most urgent matter will be to facilitate the creation of a two-state Palestine where each side can live in peace and harmony. That is idealistic, but it is worth working toward and banking whatever we can get to ascend one more rung up the long ladder toward a workable peace. It will take the best efforts by the US and Europe combined to turn around the actions to date that have engendered hatred in Arabic countries. Military responses do not solve political problems. Neither does demonization of either side by the other. Negotiations with each side respecting the others needs and fears may be the only way out. Another way out, genocide, cannot be on the table.

The war for hearts and minds as of this writing remains as hot as it ever was. Instability anywhere in the world threatens peace. The fight over resources, oil supplies for example, are symptomatic of the problem, not its solution.

This is serious stuff for all concerned. The next administration must give it the highest priority by fostering research and subsidizing the development of alternative energy sources. Recycling bio-energy is an important adjunct, but requires diverting farm land to energy instead of food. Energy from nuclear fusion could be a salvation, but it may be a long way off, like decades, if then. Th problem there has to do with nuclear repulsion at the atomic level. It may so high that creating energy is not economically viable against solar or other sources.

Solutions are simplistic and there are many, beginning with our individual and group psychologies dealt with elsewhere on this site. Two of the more important follow:


Our primary glimmer of hope lies here at home. Entrepreneurial companies are corralling vast areas of desert lands with a view to relieve our dependence on fossil fuels by converting to solar power. As usual, under a science-repressing regime, the US is playing catch up--Germany and Europe lead. That is not to say we will remain a minor player--we are coming on strong. Research world-wide is proceeding deeply on two broad scientifically-broad fronts. One has already been proven: direct extraction of heat from solar radiation. The other front has great potential: use of the photo-electric effect to convert solar radiation directly into electricity. Combining the two seems possible for even greater efficiency. But we are only part way up the learning curve necessary to have much effect on the price of gasoline any time soon, if ever.

Think about the basic driver:

Solar energy reaching the deserts of the world per unit time is orders of magnitude greater than the energy consumed per unit time by all of humanity as fossil fuels--which will run out this century at current usage rates.


Neither al Qa'ida nor Islam is our greatest enemy. We are. Our wrong-headed attitude that we must support Zionism to the death or stay in Iraq are just two of the many symptoms of that danger. Al Qa'ida may have shot themselves in both feet, but are we not doing the same thing by our national stubborness in pursuing wars of choice according to the failed Neocon agenda?

If he has done nothing else, Mr. Bush has added a lot of evidence that guns do not bring peace. So any changes must be fundamental to American Society. They must be social and economical, for we cannot forever continue increasing the gaps in income, education, and opportunity that are so prevalent in today's America. Not since the 1920's has the economic gap between the haves and have-nots been so gigantic.

On the world scene, analogous changes are also needed. All must proceed in unison for all are now linked irrevocably.


Roadtopeace knows of no one who is waiting, witness the sixth paragraph above. The world-wide silicon shortage also attests to that. Fossil fuel price escalations make present panels more attractive even at low efficiencies. They are just not yet competitive. New technology will come in due coarse in the form of cheaper panels. The new technology is proving difficult as it is multi-component and composition sensitive. The science is sound, however. The amount spent on Iraq would have done wonders for solar power.

The transition to solar power should be a bit easier now that al Qa'ida has tripped.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 22:32:37

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