History News Network | Letter to My Friends: Why We Can’t Expect to Win a Religious War in the Middle East

William R. Polk’s great advice at the HNN that we unfortunately won’t follow:

“Adding up these points, I argue that the more they are attacked, the stronger the salafis become.  Even if we kill their leadership, cut off their supplies of arms and food and overwhelm their followers, we cannot destroy their movement.  I believe that the history of religious movements proves two things:

The first it that, religious wars are never “won.” That is the “bad news.”

Second, the “good news” is that even violent, radical, ugly religious movements “mature.”  That is, they are forced by their followers and even by some of their leaders to become “civilized.”  This is a process, slow to be sure, we can see in all radical movements.

Thus, what we need to do, in my opinion, is to ease our pressure to enable internal changes — those that are beneficial to them and to us — to take place.

Admittedly that is a long-time strategy.  It is far less popular than attacking:  most people love war, soldiers like to win glory and promotion and arms dealers want to sell their goods.  So our leaders may not have the strength or the courage to try a long-term strategy, but I think it is far and away the most likely to accomplish our objectives.”

Please read his entire post at:

History News Network | Letter to My Friends: Why We Can’t Expect to Win a Religious War in the Middle East.

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