by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
October 4, 2001
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- There are two ways to train a dog -- affection and fear. Maybe the United States has the same kind of choice when it comes to dealing with its enemies. I am not alone in believing that we should try to end terrorism with a combination of kindness and capitalism.
After World War II, Secretary of State George C. Marshall created a way for the United States to help the war-torn countries of Europe -- including our enemy, Germany -- and make some money at the same time.
The Marshall Plan pumped billions of dollars into Europe and transformed a region riven by two world wars into a peaceful and prosperous land. Who would've foreseen in 1947 that the countries of Europe would meld their economies and currencies into the European Union? Or that Germany would rise up to become the economic powerhouse of Europe? Or that the countries that were once under the control of the Soviet Union would be clamoring to join the EU?
Compared to the way the U.S. and its allies behaved after World War I, when they tried to bleed Germany dry with reparations and humiliating demands that helped set the stage for another global war two decades later, the Marshall Plan was truly an act of both generosity and enlightened self-interest.
"Wars are bred by poverty and oppression," Marshall once said. "Continued peace is possible only in a relatively free and prosperous world."
In Afghanistan today, around 5 million people rely on outside aid for their survival. The United Nations estimates that up to 1.5 million Afghans will be fleeing if the expected U.S. bombing occurs. There are already millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Iran and other neighboring countries. They are people who are desperately poor and have been desperately poor for decades. It is the kind of poverty that breeds hatred, chaos and terror.
If the Marshall Plan worked once, maybe it can work again.
First, though, we must press Israel until it gives the Palestinians a state with water. If I understand correctly, in the last treaty, the one that was rejected by the Palestinians a year ago, the proffered land did not have an aquifer under it. Water would've come in by pipeline -- and the line would've gone through Israeli territory. Would you let anyone else have control over your water supply? Neither would I.
Remember the Greek story of the Gordian Knot? Whoever unraveled the twisted knot would rule, and no one could. Then someone -- some say Alexander the Great -- came along and cut it through with a sword. That's what has to happen with Israel and Palestine now. It doesn't matter who is wrong or right. Everyone is wrong, and everyone is probably right, too. Cut it and move on.
Then we must try to comprehend the minds of men so filled with hopelessness and hatred for us that they are willing to die. Is it our religion? Our so-called decadence? Our hypocrisy in flaunting our wealth, freedom and democracy while at the same time backing with arms and dollarstotalitarian regimes in the Middle East, South America and Africa? Probably it's all of the above.
Many Muslim people -- but certainly not their leaders -- are poor. Afghanistan has been destroyed. The Palestinians have been oppressed for three generations; some still live in refugee camps. Syrians, Pakistanis and Iraqis are oppressed. In many places in the world, people watch Americans consume most of the resources of the planet while their own futures look bleak and hopeless.
Without being arrogant or patronizing, America should find a way to help them find futures. We are wealthy. We should share, and I don't mean blankets and food. We should smother them in job and computer training programs. We should help them unleash their own entrepreneurial creativity. We should help them build factories, create infrastructures, and educate their children.
The jobs we help them create should not be McJobs paying a dollaror two a day. They should be real jobs, with real pay and real possibilities for advancement. This requires a change in our mindset. Wall Street thrives on thelow-paying jobs that have turned much of the Third World into slave laborfor the First. For many years, Western civilization has been ill with its love for the bottom line.
However, the stock market would do well to remember September 11. On that horrible day, the bodies of bond traders rained from the skies. The markets plunged with them. Thousands lost their jobs. Whole industries were almost destroyed.
Maybe now is the time to develop a compromise position between the bottom line and doing the right thing. A man can either kill himself and many others in an exploding fireball, or make enough money at an interesting job to feed his family and, maybe, buy his mother a house. Given a choice between death and a real life, I believe most people would choose the second option.
If so, it would seriously cut into the number of supporters available to Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah, and all the other radical groups out there. They would end upstanding alone, exposed and vulnerable.
Then they can be swept up and brought into our courts, where they would be held accountable. Justice would be done.
There are real problems and dangers with this plan. We would need a reliable method of job creation. We would have to keep investments out of the hands of corrupt rulers. We would have to be careful about protecting the environment and developing alternative sources of energy, which would reinvigorate our own economy, too.
And we would need to be very careful about exporting "the American way of life." The Middle East has ancient and deep-rooted religions, cultures and civilizations. For our own survival as a nation, we need them to flourish again.
Maybe the Marshall Plan will work again. And if we can figure out how to share our wealth in the Middle East, maybe next we can turn our attention to Compton, Harlem and Mississippi.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.