Part of 2008: Obama vs. McCain

America's Priorities in the War on Terror

Islamists, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan

The United States, as the world's only superpower, is less vulnerable to military defeat. But it is more vulnerable to the animosity of other countries. Much like a top high school student, if it is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised.

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States' main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists. At the same time, my administration will never surrender any of our sovereignty, which is why I was the first presidential candidate to oppose ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would endanger both our national security and our economic interests.

A more successful U.S. foreign policy needs to better explain Islamic jihadism to the American people. Given how Americans have thrived on diversity -- religious, ethnic, racial -- it takes an enormous leap of imagination to understand what Islamic terrorists are about, that they really do want to kill every last one of us and destroy civilization as we know it. If they are willing to kill their own children by letting them detonate suicide bombs, then they will also be willing to kill our children for their misguided cause. The Bush administration has never adequately explained the theology and ideology behind Islamic terrorism or convinced us of its ruthless fanaticism. The first rule of war is "know your enemy," and most Americans do not know theirs. To grasp the magnitude of the threat, we first have to understand what makes Islamic terrorists tick. Very few Americans are familiar with the writings of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian radical executed in 1966, or the Muslim Brotherhood, whose call to active jihad influenced Osama bin Laden and the rise of al Qaeda. Qutb raged against the decadence and sin he saw around him and sought to restore the "pure" Islam of the seventh century through a theocratic caliphate without national borders. He saw nothing decadent or sinful in murdering in order to achieve that end. America's culture of life stands in stark contrast to the jihadists' culture of death.

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