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Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Rohde spent eight years covering Afghanistan and Pakistan. For seven months of that time he was held captive by the Taliban. In a new book, he argues our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly underscores the limits of military power. What’s needed, he says, is not military force but support for economic growth, the kind of support we used to regularly deliver through USAID and other civilian institutions. Veteran foreign affairs columnist David Rohde on the urgent need for traditional American diplomacy, how the Islamic world is changing and what these shifts mean for U.S. strategy.
- David Rohde columnist for Reuters and The Atlantic; former reporter for The New York Times.
Read An Excerpt
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “Beyond War” by David Rohde. Copyright © 2013 by David Rohde.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist David Rohde covered Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly a decade starting in 2002. He saw firsthand what U.S. policies have accomplished and what they have not. Now, in a new book, he argues the U.S. has made major mistakes, but that it's not too late to bring back American diplomacy and adapt to a rapidly changing Islamic world. The book is titled "Beyond War" and David Rohde joins me in the studio.
MS. DIANE REHMThroughout the hour, you're welcome to be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, David, good to see you.
MR. DAVID ROHDEThank you so much for having me here.
REHMDavid, there's so much that's gone on in the last couple of weeks. Even this morning, security officials are investigating what Libyans say was a car bomb that exploded in front of the French embassy in downtown Tripoli. What do we know about what happened there?
ROHDEThere was a --- it was a huge blast that destroyed half the French embassy, apparently, in Tripoli. It's the first attack in the capital of Libya since the fall of Gadhafi and obviously the first major attack since the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens last September.
ROHDEFrankly, the French were lucky. No one was in the building at the time. Two French guards were wounded, but half the building was destroyed.
REHMSo even right there in Libya, the violence continues?
ROHDEIt does and I guess and it's a great example, I think, for kind of a central argument of my book and my effort, I think, to present a different view of the region. If you remember, after Ambassador Stevens was killed, there were hundreds, maybe thousands of Libyans who marched through the streets of Benghazi protesting his death.
ROHDEThere were Libyans that were sort of ashamed and horrified by the attack. They actually -- it was a small victory, but they actually attacked. The demonstrators went to the building, this headquarters of the militant group that had carried out the attack that killed Stevens, and forced them to flee.
ROHDEAnd, you know, if there's one kind of broad lens I want to offer, maybe suggest for people looking at the Middle East today, it seems to be just chaos to us, but I think there's a historic, really epic struggle going on in the Middle East between sort of very conservative Muslims, some of whom are very violent, not all of them and then more sort of moderate Muslims.
ROHDEAnd it's this, you know, very important struggle for control of politics, culture and even sort of the interpretation of Islam that's going on and it's very important, I think, for the whole world. It'll have an impact on all of us for decades.
REHMYou're focusing on Muslims, you're focusing on those who share the religion but not necessarily the kind of outcome that some within their religion would like to see.
ROHDESure. It's, you know, it's an enormous faith. There are over a billion Muslims in the world and, you know, just like there's a huge disparity among Christians and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists inside that faith, that's absolutely true in terms of Islam.
ROHDEAnd I'm a member of the media and it's natural that we cover disasters and terrorist attacks, you know, but there's an impression that there's only one side of Islam and that's this militant Islam, you know, which appears to have played a role maybe in the attacks in Boston.
ROHDEYou see this kind of attack in Libya and I think you don't see, you know, other sides of Islam and other, you know, Arabs and South Asians who have a different interpretation of faith and a different worldview.
REHMThere's been a great deal of discussion about Chris Stevens, what actually happened there. How do you think that that attack was carried out so successfully?
ROHDEI think there is a vacuum of authority in Libya. There's been no, you know, there's really no strong central government. The government can't control these Islamist militias. There are militias that are sort of hardline Islamists. There are militias that are tribal and want to control their area. And there really has, you know, no central government has evolved so it was easy for them to carry out that attack.
ROHDEThe U.S. embassy was sort of reliant on a local, you know, pro-American militia that did not respond well that day. And sort of jumping forward into the book, but I also see the failure of the securing of that embassy as a sign of the anemic state of the State Department.
ROHDEOur State Department is too small and it is too reliant on private contractors. And a sort of untold story of Benghazi is that one of the first things that the Libyan government did after the fall of Gadhafi was the new government banned the use of private security contractors in Libya.
ROHDEThis was partly a response to what had happened in Iraq with Blackwater and these private contractors being seen as out of control and killing civilians. So the American embassy in Tripoli and then the cops in Benghazi couldn't bring in private contractors.
REHMSo they had to rely on internal?
ROHDEInternal staff, it's a little known office of diplomatic security. It's tiny. There were so few staff and they're so overstretched and they're so reliant on contractors that in the weeks before the attack, there was -- one or two Americans were the sole guards, three or four at times as well, in Benghazi and they were there on four to six week rotations.
ROHDEAnd it was a, you know, a completely inadequate amount of security and because the State Department couldn't bring in private contractors, they simply didn't have enough staff to put there.
REHMSome criticism was leveled at Ambassador Stevens himself for having made that journey from Tripoli to Benghazi.
ROHDEThat's true and what's key here -- and I've talked to many diplomats. There is some criticism of him, but most people I talked to say he was the kind of ambassador you need in that kind of situation. And I hate to say this and I don't want to see this happen, but many diplomats have told me we're going to lose diplomats. That it's not fair to have thousands of young American soldiers dying and losing their limbs and then to expect that we're going to have no casualties in the diplomatic corps.
ROHDEThat if we're going to make a difference in these parts of the world, we have to have diplomatic engagement, economic engagement, training programs and we're going to have to have some risks to our diplomats and accept that this thing is going to happen. Many people say Chris Stevens would not want us to pull back. They would not, you know, he would not want his death to be the creation of fortress embassies where we, you know, have no tolerance for any casualties of any kind.
REHMAnd now a woman has been appointed as U.S. ambassador to Tripoli. What do we know about her? Why would a woman going into a country that is still controlled by Islamists feel comfortable with having a woman as U.S. ambassador?
ROHDEWell, I think no one is in control of Libya and I think it's inaccurate to say that it's controlled by Islamists at this point. There are Islamists roaming the country, but there's not a strong enough government to stop them from carrying out attacks. There are Libyan women that are very modern and they hate these Islamists and they don't want them to run Libya.
ROHDEAnd I think those Libyan women, many of whom participated in the protests, you know, after criticizing the killing of Ambassador Stevens and apologizing for it, I think those women would welcome her. And across the region, again, there is this broad struggle I see. You don't see it in the American press and, again, I'm part of the press and part of the problem here, but there are, you know, moderates, women, many, many young Muslims, young Libyans who want to be sort of part of the world.
ROHDEOne of the things I talk about in the book is all these years covering the region, what I hear from many young people is that they want to be Muslim. They're proud of their faith and their culture, but they also want to be modern. They don't want to be sort of dictated to by American soldiers and forced to, you know, have some American style democracy.
ROHDEBut they also don't want to be dictated to by armed jihadists that want them to live in a 12th century caliphate.
REHMTwo-time Pulitzer Prize-winner David Rohde. His new book is titled "Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East." Is there, thus far, really a new Middle East?
ROHDEI think there is. I think that technology really matters and I don't think any regime can stop information from getting into a country. Last night, I spoke at Politics & Prose and a young Saudi man came up to me afterward and he said, Saudi Arabia has changed, you know, one of the most rigid systems in the region because people are seeing things on the web, on social media.
ROHDEThey simply can't -- the governments can't stop information from coming in. Iran, obviously the hardline regime is still in control, but information is getting in. And I think that, you know, even in Egypt, the genie is out of the bottle.
ROHDEIf Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood thought that the Egyptian public would sort of quietly, you know, allow him to govern, you know, they're not. They are demanding things. There are expectations from the public across the region. They want, you know, effective governments and growing economies and I think it's a permanent change.
REHMIt's interesting you talk about investment, education, normalizing relations. You say that can be as potent as the way the U.S. has thus far conducted relations with the Middle East.
ROHDEI think that the lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan is that, you know, deploying 100,000 American troops isn't going to change these countries in the long term. And the only way we can sort of help these countries change is through investment and training and working through local allies. A, we do have allies in this region, you know, there are moderates there and B, we're much better off, I think, scaling back our goals.
ROHDESome places there is nothing we can do and we should accept that. But in other places where we have local partners, we should be working with them, trading with them, letting them come for education in the U.S. and having a normal relationship, not just one about terrorism.
REHMDavid Rohde, columnist for Reuters and The Atlantic, formerly a reporter for The New York Times. His new book "Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East."
REHMWelcome back. David Rohde is with me. He has a brand new book. It's titled "Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East." He's talking about the distance we've come in regard to our relations with various countries in the Middle East, how far military action has taken us and the roadblocks ahead unless we turn to other sources of influence.
REHMBefore we go on with that, David, let's talk about what happened in Boston and how these two young men, one an American citizen and the other apparently in some waiting position stage for citizenship apparently became radicalized.
ROHDEBoston was sort of tragic and personal for me. My stepfather was a lawyer in Watertown for decades. And it was sort of astonishing to see this diner we used to eat in, you know, in the background of those stand-ups. And my father ran the marathon numerous times and my family lived outside of Boston for years. My brother was actually a police officer in a suburb of Boston for a long time. And it's horrific and inexcusable and a terrible crime that's been carried out.
ROHDEMy time as -- I was kidnapped for seven months by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and I lived for six weeks with a suicide bomber. And I guess one thing I want to say is that this process of radicalization, it's this powerful myth that spread online and these -- you know, yesterday one of the -- the surviving defendant apparently said they did this to defend Islam. I don't know exactly what he meant by that, but my guards were absolutely convinced that there was this vast international conspiracy of Christians, Jews and Hindus to -- and they were working together to obliterate Islam from the face of the earth.
ROHDEAnd the whole mentality was this sense of them being under siege, that their faith, their way of life, their culture was under attack. And they had no choice but to sort of carry out suicide bombings. And this young man that I lived with, you know, just said he had been slowly psychologically separated from his family. He was told that, you know, his earthly relations didn't matter. All that mattered was his relationship with God. And he was -- you know, he asked me these crazy questions. He said he saw that some Afghan government officials were wearing neckties. And he said, you know, aren't neckties a secret symbol of Christianity?
ROHDESo what's happened in Boston is terrible. It's a slow process, this radicalization. It doesn't happen overnight but it's very dangerous. And it's, you know, this awful sort of radical side of Islam that, again, I do not think represents the faith by any means.
REHMAnd yet, the younger man who is hospitalized seemed to have been so well integrated within his school, his community, well-thought of. People have already come out and said, I'll testify in his favor. So clearly, while the older brother seems to have been of another kind of thinking, the younger brother must've been putting on an awfully good act.
ROHDEIt's true. And I guess I would just caution Americans that the radicals, you know, who carried out this attack -- I think the older brother was a much more troubled person, you know. He was married. He left behind a widow and a young child. He clearly, I think, influenced the younger brother. But I -- radicals want us to turn this into a religious conflict. They want us to fear all Muslims. That's their goals when they set off bombs in crowds like this.
ROHDEAnd I think by blaming all Muslims for what happens, it actually helps them create this clash of religions becoming like fortress America and limiting visas, you know.
REHMDo you think that that's what Americans are doing, blaming all Muslims?
ROHDENo. I -- no. And I think, you know, Americans haven't. And I think we should be proud of the fact that we haven't done that. It's just careful that we don't fall into that trap. And I think that, you know, they -- these radicals -- when I spent time with them, they see this as a religious war. They want to turn it into a religious war. There are 2.5 million Muslims in this country.
ROHDEThe other day I was in Lexington, Ky. and I was meeting with a group of Pakistani-American doctors just after news broke about these two young men and their backgrounds. And they were devastated. They said, this is the worst thing that could happen. You know, for years we've been trying to integrate and be part and teach people in Kentucky and around the country about Islam and their more moderate interpretation of it. They're very worldly. They favor education.
ROHDEThey feel safer in this country than they do in Pakistan. In Pakistan they are, you know, targeted and killed because they're moderates and they're educated. And so it's really a tragic thing for everyone.
REHMTell me about your experience being kidnapped. How did that happen? And I gather that experience affected your lack of travel for doing this particular book.
ROHDEI was working on a book about the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. I was very focused -- and I'll talk about that in a minute. I was looking at the civilian effort in Afghanistan. There's been many books about the military and intelligence effort. I kept meeting civilians that thought the key to stabilizing the country was sort of reviving the economy, training Afghan police and army and sort of creating more functioning institutions so we could leave. And I still believe that's true.
ROHDEI decided I needed to interview a Taliban character for the book, someone who would -- you know, took up arms against the U.S. effort and the Afghan government. And unfortunately this person kidnapped me. He had done interviews with two other Western journalists and not kidnapped them. It was myself and two Afghan colleagues, a journalist and a driver. We all showed up for the interview and his men grabbed us at gunpoint.
ROHDEThey quickly took us -- we were just outside of Kabul and they were able to move us across three Afghan provinces. And we crossed the border and were in the tribal areas of Pakistan. And that's really a fulcrum where you have some Arabs, some Uzbeks, and I never saw them but, you know, there's talk of Chechens being in the tribal areas of Pakistan. And they really indoctrinate these young Afghans and Pakistanis and sort of their vision of global Jihad.
REHMWhat do you think they hoped to achieve by kidnapping you and the other two Afghans?
ROHDEWell, they demanded $25 million cash ransom and they also wanted 15 prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
REHMHow were they expecting you to get that money?
ROHDEThey were irrational. They -- you know, they live in an alternate universe where they think all Americans are millionaires. They see Westerners as weak and very fearful of death, where they embrace death. So they were convinced that somehow my family -- and at the time I was working for the New York Times -- would be able to come up with this insane amount of money. And, you know, the U.S. government, you know, has not released and will never release, you know, I think prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for some journalist.
REHMHow did the Times react?
ROHDEThe Times was fantastic. They worked very closely with my family, you know. And they -- we tried -- they -- there was much to be -- we talked about this. After quite a while they offered a very small amount, frankly, of ransom. I don't want to say the amount. It was nowhere near the millions and millions of dollars these guys were asking for. And the Taliban literally laughed at it.
ROHDEAgain, it's delusional. This is the worst side of radical Islam. Luckily we were able to escape after seven months. And I was helped by my Afghan colleague, one of the moderate Muslims that is this other side of the faith that I write about.
REHMHow were you treated while you were held captive?
ROHDEWell, I mean, they called me the golden hen. They expected me to lay the golden egg in terms of money and prisoners. I was never beaten. I was given bottled water. And initially it was humane but, you know, as time went by, you know, I realized they just saw me as a commodity and something they could potentially make money off of, boost their own standing among other Taliban commanders.
REHMYou were with the other two captives?
ROHDEYes. All three of us were held together. All three of us, you know, came home -- two of us escaped and then the third person, the driver, was released. And I'm lucky, you know, that all three of us survived. And I regret going to the interview. It was a huge mistake. My career as a war correspondent ended. I wanted to become a foreign affairs columnist. And so that's -- I moved to Reuters and they've given me this great opportunity. And it's a way to write about the region and the years I spent there, but not go to war zones. I made a promise to my family after this ordeal that I wouldn't be doing war reporting.
REHMHow did you escape?
ROHDEWe were moved to various houses. And, you know, it was really the tremendous bravery of my Afghan colleague, the journalist who was with me. The driver had become more and more fearful. In past kidnappings what they had done was execute the drivers and videotape it. And then use that tape as a way to increase pressure to get their demands met. We spoke to the driver a couple times about escaping and he told the guards we were thinking of it.
ROHDESo we were moved to a new house. The Afghan journalist who was not cooperating with the guards had been -- he got out of the house. He would go out to meet -- to see a doctor, to do shopping. They trusted him but he was actually sort of casing the town and getting the sense of the layout of the town. So we moved to this last house. He says this house is the closest of any to the one Pakistani military base in the middle of this town. There are Pakistani bases but the soldiers never come off them. They never confront the Taliban. The Taliban control the town and there's just this -- these bases.
ROHDESo while the guards were sleeping we used a rope -- I had found a car tow rope, went up on the roof of the house, tied it to the wall, lowered ourselves down into the street. And in the middle of the night my Afghan colleague, you know, knew the layout of the town, brought me to this Pakistani military base. We were nearly shot by the guards. I had a long beard at that point and local clothes. And we were let in.
ROHDEThey searched us because they thought we were suicide bombers. And again, a moderate Pakistani army captain brought me inside and he let me call my wife. And she then -- months of efforts by her, she called Richard Holbrook. Then Hillary Clinton was contacted and eventually a military helicopter came and got us, the Pakistani military. That Pakistani army captain, I'm still in touch with. He friended me on Facebook. He recently got married and I sent him a wedding gift.
ROHDEAnd it's -- again, the Afghan, you know, saved my life. This Pakistani captain saved my life. And there is another side to this faith that I think Americans don't hear about enough.
REHMIn addition to experiencing what you experienced, how did that experience affect you internally for the long run?
ROHDEI think it showed me -- and it's a cliché -- but sort of humanity at its best and at its worst. I had a -- I was also taken captive in Bosnia for ten days. And there was a -- this was by Bosnian Serbs. They are Christians -- Orthodox Christians. And what one of the sort of takeaways about human nature -- and this may sound a bit odd, but it was true -- was that whether it was the Serbs who had me or the Taliban, the danger isn't that people are sadistic, that they sort of know what they're doing is wrong. The danger is humanity's ability to rationalize what they're doing.
ROHDESo the Talibans I've talked about saw themselves as the victims of this vast international conspiracy. They thought American soldiers were forcibly converting Afghans to Christianity. When the Serb Orthodox Christians had me, they said there was a vast Muslim conspiracy against them. They accused me of taking money from OPEC countries to write false stories about Serb war crimes.
ROHDEAnd it's this, you know, to me frightening ability to kind of isolate ourselves and to rationalize what we're doing that's, you know, the danger. It's again the human mind's ability to rationalize that is really scary.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you've just joined us, David Rohde is with me. He's a columnist for Reuters and for the Atlantic, formerly a reporter for the New York Times. And he's the author of a new book. It's titled "Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East." Former Secretary of State Clinton talked about new jobs, new economic opportunities as a way of trying to influence, change the attitudes. What's happened there?
ROHDEAbout -- you're right. In 2001 she said that the heart of American foreign diplomacy was what she called economic state craft, which is essentially jobs at home and jobs abroad. And she proposed an incentive fund of roughly $500 million for the Middle East for post-Arab Spring countries. And I support this general idea, which is that you give incentives for countries when they carry out democratic reforms, economic reforms. They get aid. They get access to American markets.
ROHDEIf you look at what happened in Turkey, the European Union accession process, which was never completed in Turkey but it did lead to tremendous reforms politically and economically over many years, implemented by Turkish leaders. That's the important thing. Local leaders are doing it that have created -- Turkey now has -- they're not really worried about being part of the EU because Turkey now has a faster growing economy than any European nation. They are booming, economically gaining influence across the region.
ROHDEThere's problems politically with Prime Minister Erdogan. But I think this incentive approach is right. Hillary Clinton proposed this fund last year. It was dead on arrival in congress. You know, it's easy to blame congress but, you know, there was criticism of the administration as in many issues, for not spending more time with congress. Members of congress said, you want a $500 million fund, a blank check to give this money. What are you going to use it for? And the administration didn't do a good job of communicating with the Hill. And that's a real problem, I think, across the board.
REHMDavid, is it too late to try to be doing the things that you write about in the book, reaching out diplomatically as opposed to militarily? Is -- have the ideas among Muslims been established toward the United States, ideas that in some quarters become radicalized? Ideas that take some people from rational thinking to ideas of what can we do to destroy this enemy?
ROHDEThat's the -- you know, this is -- the radicalization, the attacks on civilians, the terrorism is totally unacceptable, you know. Again, I will always -- I'm bias but I will loathe the people who kidnapped me and the tactics that they used. Our policies though help play a role in creating it. You know, in the 1980s we worked with Pakistan's intelligent service, you know, in the Saudi Arabia in spreading Wahabis hard line Islam in Afghanistan. And we were happy when young militants were attacking and killing Soviet soldiers.
ROHDEAnd I think we have this terrible track record of backing dictators in the region. And it, you know, hasn't worked. It doesn't create stability. You know, we need education and economic growth in the area. And we need new approaches. We should do less. I'm not saying we should spend, you know, hurl tens of billions of dollars at the problems. We tried that in Iraq and Afghanistan.
REHMWhen you say do less, what does that mean?
ROHDENot try to make countries democracies overnight. You know, create incentives so that they make the changes themselves. And if they don't want to make these reforms, you know, let them face economic isolation.
REHMDavid Rohde. His new book is titled "Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East." When we come back, we'll open the phones. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd here's our first email for David Rohde, columnist for Reuters and The Atlantic. He's written a new book titled, "Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence In A New Middle East." It's from Robert, who says, "We're asked to be tolerant of the Muslims who live in the U.S. It's obvious that the few radicals can do a lot of damage. In order to be tolerant we need to hear more from the majority Muslim population condemning the radicals. We hear very little condemnation."
ROHDEThere is condemnation, to be fair. But, you know, I think that the American Muslim community could do more I think to come out and be public. I mentioned this group in Kentucky, it was a group of doctors I, you know, was having breakfast with. One of them is named Dr. Muhammad Babar. Even before the suspects were announced in the Boston case he wrote a letter to the local paper in Louisville saying, I condemn whoever carried out this attack. I don't care if it's Americans, I don't care if it's Muslim Americans. This is wrong and abhorrent. When the news broke that the two young men were of Chechen descent he immediately asked the Imam in his mosque in Louisville to put out a statement condemning it.
ROHDEI quoted him by name in my story, which was a Reuters' column that went all over the world. It was very popular. I was very happy. His mother and relatives said, you are crazy to put your name out. Because even as a doctor in Louisville, Muslim moderates are afraid that radicals are going to attack either himself or his family in Pakistan. And he said he was going to take this risk and publicly condemn this thing. And he knew it put his family at risk in Pakistan. And an important idea here is in the struggle for Islam, this kind of ideological struggle for its future, he feels that America is a safe haven where he as a moderate Muslim can say things that he can't say in Pakistan.
ROHDEAnd he said he was going to redouble his efforts to reach out to young Muslims, that radicals do a much better job of reaching out to young Muslims and moderates need to do better themselves.
REHMHere's a caller in Bandera, Texas. Cathy, you're on the air.
CATHYWell, thank you, Diane. My idea is that trying to change the mind of irrational people is of itself irrational. If these two young men were radicalized in Boston after all the kindnesses and educational gifts the United States gave them, then that's not working. All ideas, all philosophies are not equal. We permit that in the United States because we are a free country, but when somebody wants to institute Sharia law or do things or say things that are going to bring the country down in their churches or mosques or something we need to know about and say, okay, here's who we target.
ROHDEI agree with you. I mean I feel that these young men are absolutely wrong and their ideology is sort of twisted. And I'm saying that there are other Muslims that completely oppose that radical interpretation of Islam. This case in Canada this morning, where there was a plot to blow up a train, it was other Muslims that told law enforcement that there was a plot brewing. And, you know, it's important to think of, you know, they win when we put all Muslims in this box and think that these two young men represent all of the at least 2.5 million Muslims that live in this country.
REHMBut to Cathy's point, if you have a group of Muslims who are blaming all Americans, don't you have the same dynamic going on?
ROHDEThis is a tiny fraction of American Muslims who believe this. Again, I think it's been a great failure of al Qaida. They expected lots of American Muslims to rise up after 9/11 and join them in their cause. They failed. They expected Iraqis to rise up and joining al Qaida in Iraq. They didn't. And there were letters intercepted from Osama bin Laden begging radicals, al Qaida members in Iraq to stop killing their fellow Muslims. These radicals are losing this struggle. Around the Islamic world, you know, educated people are being gunned down by them and they are not gaining popularity.
ROHDEAnd I just, again, I agree. It's a twisted ideology. We should be combating it, thinking of new ways to combat it with, you know, something other than military invasions.
REHMHere's an email from Susan, who says, "The U.S. missed an opportunity after September 11, 2001 when we did not explore the question of what made so many men from our ally, Saudi Arabia, attack us. What opportunity does David think we're missing today?
ROHDEI think that we face a threat. I think that radical Islam is a danger to moderate Muslims and it's a danger to the United States and to the world. And I'm sort of in the middle on this. I think there's sort of people farther on the left that say there isn't a threat or we created this whole mess ourselves. We did it along with the Saudis and along with the Pakistani military, creating these training camps to go kill Soviet soldiers. We've recognized our error and we're trying to sort of put this genie back into a bottle.
ROHDEBut there really is a threat and I think a better way to respond to it is economically, is education, is interacting with the Muslim world. When I was in Tunisia I kind of asked moderates what can we do that helps you and, sort of to answer her question, opportunities, I said what can we do that helps you in your struggle inside your country to determine the future of the region. And they said they wanted private investment. They didn't want aid. You know, I met young Tunisians that want to work for Google. If you look at polls, American ideals of democracy are very popular and so are American business practices.
ROHDEThey said they wanted education. They really admire the American system of education. We can do that by helping them with education in their country and letting some come here. That's more difficult post-Boston. And they also called for, you know, just trade and tourism and contact. They said the worst thing we could do was to have another military invasion in the region, that that actually hurts moderates. And just a last point, Ryan Crocker, he was the American ambassador in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. He said we need to listen to these moderates.
ROHDEBenazir Bhutto died, the Pakistani former prime minister sort of fighting these jihadists. There's a young 15-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai, who was gunned down because she wanted to go to school. And what Crocker said is we come in as Americans, we want to fix it, you know, immediately, within one or two years. We need to slow down, stop and listen and talk to these people about what we can do to help them. There may be nothing we can do. There may be, you know, again, trade, education, who knows. But we need to listen to these people in the region and see them as our allies.
REHMLet's go to Mallory in St. Louis, Mo. Good morning to you.
MALLORYGood morning. I guess I have a comment more than a question.
MALLORYI think it's a bit unfair that because of the society's fear and racism that a community of moderate or just sort of a regular Muslim community has to go out of their way to defend themselves and speak out so aggressively against extremism. I mean I think that expectation, in and of itself, has some embedded racism within it.
ROHDEYeah, one argument is that after Timothy McVeigh, you know, blew up the bombing in Oklahoma City, should all Americans sort of--I don't know, whatever group he would represent, should they all have been apologizing for him. And, you know, one of the things that's important here and one of the approaches I like in Boston was I think law enforcement did a tremendous job. And I think it's really important to treat this as a criminal act and that these are criminals. And, you know, they're abhorrent and it's unacceptable. There's talk of Guantanamo Bay and calling them enemy combatants.
ROHDEWhether it's in the U.S. or abroad, we tend to answer problems, you know, we think of using the military and militarizing problems. And, as I mentioned earlier, we need sort of a more robust State Department and U.S. aid. And when we only have resources in the military, that sort of creates us to only, you know, we only have sort of military solutions to problems.
REHMAll right. To Houston, Texas. Good morning, Roger.
ROGERGood morning to both of you. I have a question that's similar to the email you first read, in that I don't understand why Muslim religious leaders don't deplore and condemn the violence committed by the radicals among them, but I also wonder why members of the media--they don’t seem to try to interview these religious leaders and ask these kinds of questions.
ROHDEYou know, it's a really good question. And I'm hearing this over and over again. I mean, again, I know individual Muslims that did put out statements that deplore the attacks in Boston and there really was a sense of doom, of sadness when this happened in the community, in at least the people I've talked to. And maybe, frankly, the American media needs to get out and interview these people more. There was a front-page story, I know, in the New York Times about a Chechen family in Boston that described how sad they were and condemned what happened. If you remember the uncle of these two brothers, you know, called them losers in a press conference in front of his house.
ROHDEBut I guess we need a dialogue. And you're right, you know, Roger, I think the media needs to talk to Imams, leaders of these mosques. And, you know, we need to hear from them more.
REHMInteresting that earlier in the week it was reported that their father had planned to come here to the States to see his son and now that visit has been put off. I don't know if you know anything about that.
ROHDEI don't. And honestly, I think it was puzzling, I think, to Americans and disappointing when the father and the mother were both interviewed and they just said, well, this isn't possible. There's no way my--
REHMThe FBI has got it wrong.
ROHDEYes. It's a plot. And I feel for them. It's not an acceptable answer. I mean it's sad. I think any parent would have a hard time accepting that their child did this. And I'm not justifying their reaction, but in many--whether it's Russia or Egypt, these people have, you know, grown up in sort of police states where there isn't open court systems and people do feel like the police just grab innocent people and create these plots. So they don’t trust their own governments so, you know, the immediate reaction of, oh, my child couldn't do this and it's, you know, a government agency that's somehow plotting against me is sort of a, you know, reflection of the world that they live in. I'm not saying it's acceptable, but when they said that, that's what I saw.
REHMTo Orlando, Fla. Hi there, Sarah.
SARAHHi. Good morning.
SARAHI'm so pleased to hear your guest speak from his experience. I had lived and traveled extensively, more than 30 years ago, for over 5 years in that part of the world. And he is saying things that I completely agree with. And I think that we need to look at our own society here. We are looking at other cultures as though they need to know how to do it. They need to know the better way. And suggesting something that allows us to, not just look at other and gain more information--I think we're talking about knowledge and familiarity and learning about other people.
SARAHAnd the suggestion of rationalizing behavior, aren't we doing that? Aren't we rationalizing our arrogance about our better way and how we need to show the other cultures the better way?
REHMThanks for calling, Sarah. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David?
ROHDEI agree with you. I think there's a danger in--I mean we shouldn't be thinking we can create or trying to create American-style democracies. And I'm sort of going out on a limb here. I do think after years in the region, that there are common values. I mean most, you know, families want good schools for their kids, you know, across the Middle East and south Asia. They want safe streets with police that serve them instead of preying on them. And they want sort of a steady job so they can support their families. There's a great tradition in Islam of justice. You know, the prophet Muhammad was seen as this person who was sort of a pious leader. And he was not corrupt.
ROHDEAnd so these concepts of the rule of law, I mean, of stopping corruption, are very common in their culture, as well. And back to this idea of people I met who want to be Muslim and modern, let them create Egyptian-style democracy, Tunisian-style democracy, Turkish-style democracy. We've seen this in India. India's a successful democracy, but it's very Indian. And let them create systems of accountability, ways of fighting corruption that work in their culture. But I do think there is a desire for these ideals, there's a desire to be part of this global economy, young people are fascinated with technology and it's happening now. Globalization is happening, but sort of, you know, I think they do want progress, but they want it on their own terms.
ROHDEAnd there's maybe places we can help them do it, but let them do it on their own.
REHMAnd here's an email from Rick in Rochester Hills, Mich. "Do you think the Taliban could ever be part of an Afghan-ruling coalition? They seem so religiously ideological and intolerant. It's hard to imagine, especially given their past brutal record in Afghanistan. But I've heard at times that they must be brought into the discussion.
ROHDEI'd divide the Taliban into two groups. And I thank you for that question. It's a great one because the guys who kidnapped me, you know, I talked about the tribal areas of Pakistan, where they're mixing with these sorts of Arabs and other foreigners--are much more radical. And they sort of seem to buy into this kind of global jihad and, like, we're going to create a caliphate that spans the Islamic world. I think there's other Taliban that are sort of fighting for control of their village or their valley.
ROHDEAnd there's been talk about negotiations with them. They haven't gone very far. Maybe as U.S. troops leave that will--the goal is that it takes the oxygen out of the insurgency and that maybe there can be a resolution where some Taliban can be brought in. Others though, I think they're going to have to be fought against.
REHMAnd finally, "Please ask him about the Palestinian struggle. Is this the crux of the battle for the jihadists?"
ROHDEIt's become a symbol, I think, across the region of kind of--people say is Western hypocrisy, that they talk about ideals and, you know, growth and development, but not for Palestinians. Secretary Kerry's proposing that same incentive fund for the whole region that Secretary Clinton did. He's also proposing $300 million to help start the Palestinian economy from growing. There are moderate Palestinians. President Obama talked about 100 new Palestinian high-tech firms that are operating on the West Bank.
ROHDEOutgoing Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad created viable Palestinian institutions, the police and security forces. So there are kernels there. Solving Israel-Palestine would be a big step forward. It's very difficult to do, but we should keep trying.
REHMDavid Rohde. His new book is titled, "Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence In A New Middle East." Congratulations on the book, David.
ROHDEThank you so much.
REHMAnd thanks for being here. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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