Perhaps, too, we could have followed the proposal of the 9/11 Commission and engaged the Islamic world in a true battle of ideas. Indeed, if we had not from the start adopted tactics and rhetoric that cast the war on terror as a new "Crusade," as a struggle of good versus evil, we might have been able to achieve more popular support in the Islamic world. Our attempts to change Islamic opinion with an Arabic-language satellite-television news station and an Arabic radio station carrying rock music were simply not enough. We talked about replacing the hate-fostering madrassahs with modern educational programs, but we never succeeded in making that happen. Nor did we successfully work behind the scenes with our Muslim friends to create an ideological counterweight to the jihadis. Although we talked hopefully about negotiated outcomes to the Palestinian conflict and the struggle in Chechnya, neither actually came to pass. Because we were afraid to "reward bad behavior," we let Iranian nuclear-weapons development get too far along, to the point where our only option was to attack Iran. This set back the Iranian democratic reform movement and added Hizbollah to our list of active enemies.
Still a third consideration is that one has to look at a society's relations with hostile neighbors. Most societies have chronic hostile relations with some of their neighbors and societies may succeed in fending off those hostile neighbors for a long time. They're most likely to fail to hold off the hostile neighbors when the society itself gets weakened for environmental or any other reasons, and that's given rise for example, to the long-standing debate about the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Was the conquest by Barbarians really a fundamental cause, or was it just that Barbarians were at the frontiers of the Roman Empire for many centuries? Rome succeeded in holding them off as long as Rome was strong, and then when Rome got weakened by other things, Rome failed, and fell to the Barbarians.
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