OPED: Absence of Arab leadership
The 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001 and the recent release of the infamous "lost 28 pages" from the 9/11 report that indict Saudi government officials is a sobering reminder that the War on Terrorism remains. We must remain vigilant. The root cause of terrorism is not the responsibility of the Muslim Faith. The true responsibility for the terrorism is the poor leadership exhibited by Arab leaders from World War II until present.
The majority of Arab leaders continually fail their citizens. Despite having one of the most important natural resources in the world - oil - they have been unable to establish stable economies and therefore poverty is high and hopes of any economic improvement is low for so many citizens.
They have failed to create effective educational systems in their countries to put their citizens in a position to succeed. These poor Arab children are not learning how to read or do math, but that Israel and the West is the enemy and the reason they have little hope to succeed. Their leaders allow their new generations to believe that the answer to their problems is pushing the Jews in Israel into the sea. Unfortunately, it's an environment ripe for angry young men to find terrorism as an answer.
Arab leaders, from Nasser to Arafat, have had numerous opportunities to reach peace with Israel. The peace agreements they refused would have helped improve their economy by learning from innovations created by the Israelis, improved trade with the West, and helped hundreds of thousands of Arabs leave Arab-initiated refugee camps with the promise of a better life. The peace process facilitated by President Clinton between the Palestinian Authority and the Israelis came painfully close to agreement. Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US for over 20 years, told Arafat that it was a great deal (Israel was willing to trade land for peace) and that if he refused, "he would have the blood of millions of Palestinians on his hands." Arafat refused.
Real Politic and the need to maintain stability in a region of the world producing so much oil has developed an American foreign policy in which we rarely hold Arab leaders accountable, while at the same time brow beat Israel for air strikes against known terrorist sites 5 miles from their border. Israel, an economically strong democracy where over 2 million Arabs reside and live comfortably, has been condemned by the UN more than any other country, including known Governments that support terrorism such as Iran and Syria.
As the unchallenged leader of the world, why does America permit this? Why aren't we holding Arab leaders accountable for permitting terrorism and continuing to blame their national issues on the West.
It's time that we incorporate some conviction into our relations with the Arab leaders. We should not be afraid to openly criticize their leadership failures, which inevitably create many of the terrorists that exist today. In 1948, Harry Truman exhibited great conviction by recognizing the State of Israel. It was a risk that could alienate us from oil producing nations. Complicating matters, Truman's close friend and Secretary of State, General George Marshall, threatened to quit if Truman recognized Israel and even said he would vote against him in the next election. It would have been easy for Truman to follow the State Department's advice and ignore Israel, but he did the right thing by following his heart and convictions to recognize a country whose people were almost completely annihilated during the Holocaust.
Islam is not causing terrorism. Poor leadership in most Arab countries is responsible for creating conditions — poverty, poor education, aggressive and hateful positions towards other countries — conducive to terrorist recruiting. America may have the firepower to easily defeat these countries on the battlefield, but the true road to peace is for our leaders to finally be honest with their Arab counterparts about their failures and its impact on their people.
— Matt Helfrich is a York Dispatch guest contributor and a resident of Harleysville, Pa.