Rodriguez for Congress campaign
War on Terrorism

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[October 12, 2016]  Military and Diplomatic Efforts are Necessary to Combat Terrorism - In the fifteen years that have passed since the U.S. initiated its Global War on Terror, we have participated in two wars--Afghanistan and Iraq, we have initiated special operations in a host of other nations, and we are currently engaged in supporting those who are attempting to defeat ISIS.

 We have learned through these efforts that a war designed to defeat an idea is a challenging task that is terribly expensive both in human treasure and in resources expended. The face of American involvement in this venture has primarily been through military action in which we have positioned combat assets and special operations forces into theatres of operation far afield where we hope to achieve our mission of eradicating terror. Associated with these operations are the diplomatic ventures—often occurring behind the scenes—to encourage allies to support U.S. efforts and to promote regional peace and security in areas scourged by conflict.

Much of the current discussion of how best to defeat ISIS centers upon the proper role of U.S. military assets—that is, whether to use air power alone or to commit “boots on the ground” to the operation—but fails to incorporate the central role that international diplomacy must play in finding a just solution. Much of what we are witnessing in the Middle East in 2016 stems from the diplomatic decisions that were made nearly a century ago at the conclusion of the First World War. International boundaries drawn by colonial powers, indifference to regional sectarian interests, and the potent politics of petroleum reserves all contributed to the scenario that has played itself out over the past century. Poor diplomacy helped to create this crisis, but more effective diplomacy can lead to a potential solution.

The effective engagement of regional players is key to finding a solution—whether military or diplomatic in nature—since national self-interest of those whose global neighborhood is disturbed stand to lose the most through the continuation of hostilities and the humanitarian crisis that follows. We must recognize that nations like Egypt and Iran, because of the sheer size of their populations and their regional influence, can have hegemonic power that could be used as a force for good or for ill in the efforts to defeat ISIS. The U.S. has attempted to draw support—largely financial--from Arab neighbors in the Gulf States like Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, but this support has been more symbolic than substantive. Turkey has seemed to be most willing to be engaged in the struggle, but since it is fearful of Kurdish autonomy it has much to lose in this venture and has thus displayed global passive-aggressive tendencies in its level of support. In addition, the U.S. commitment to Turkey as a NATO ally also makes this situation all the more complicated.

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Force alone cannot destroy the ideology of the terrorist. Nations that live within the region must reject this methodology and work to resist its adherents with all possible vigor, and religious leaders too—from all faith traditions—must reject outright any perversions of dogma that seek to justify the killing of innocents in the name of political justice because this is utter madness. Associated with these ongoing efforts, the global community of nations must be willing to find an effective diplomatic solution for the affected region that includes border adjustments, investments in aid and economic development, and cultural exchange. Those who live within a world that knows hope and opportunity are less likely to be radicalized and attracted by a false ideology that promises success from the misdeeds of the violent.

The U.S. can play a key role in this diplomatic venture by reasserting its role as a moral force for good in the world. We have a proud history of liberating peoples from oppression and providing real opportunity for change and transformation, but we often let others control this narrative. Still, an emphasis upon diplomacy does not preclude the right of the U.S. to defend its self-interest and to support its allies whenever they are threatened by the forces of discord. America is capable of employing both the carrot and the stick in this endeavor. No enemy should ever question the resolve of this nation to act when American citizens or their property is threatened by those who wish to do us harm for that would be a tragic error in judgment.

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