Liberalization and Militancy in the Arab World

As the one-year anniversary of September 11 approaches, the shock of the attacks and the ensuing war in Afghanistan have given way to broader consideration of the U.S. war on terrorism. In this new chapter of the war the United States must continue to root out terrorist networks, using a combination of diplomatic, economic, and perhaps military means to do so. Yet Washington is also increasingly looking beyond short-term objectives and considering comprehensive, longer-term strategies for battling terrorist activity. Among the Western nations, the United States in particular must develop means for preventing the growth of new militant groups in the Middle East. Otherwise, it will continue to face a stream of ready replacements for those terrorist cells it exposes and apprehends. U.S. strategy must not only take aim at aspiring transnational groups that might directly target Americans, but also address the growth of localized militant movements in the Middle East. In this long-term battle against militancy, encouraging political liberalization in the Arab world is the United States’ best policy option.

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