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Looking to the future

Looking to the future  



Related Links A Cold War approach to beating radical Islamists

Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, spoke with U.S. News Senior Editor Julian E. Barnes at Camp Victory, Iraq. Edited excepts:

Iraq's future: A lot of people say it's possible the Iraqi government could emerge as an Iranian-style theocracy. That is a risk, and it is possible. But I don't think it is probable. . . . I think Iraq will emerge as something completely different than an Iranian-style theocracy.

The risk of civil war: The presence of our forces here, despite the fact that they are the targets of various groups, acts as a stabilizing influence because no group is powerful enough to defeat the multinational force. And so you hope that the multinational force provides a shield behind which political activity can take place that doesn't turn violent.

U.S. troops in the Middle East: What makes it hard for the United States is that an overbearing presence, or a larger than acceptable footprint in the region, works against you. . . . The first thing you say to yourself is that you have to have the local people help themselves. What we are trying to do in Iraq is not defeat the insurgency all by ourselves. But to transition . . . so that the Iraqis can defeat the insurgency.

Islamic extremism: In the recent past there has been an acceleration of extremist thinking that I think is largely accelerated by the sophisticated way they use modern communications to convey their message. . . . When [the extremist movement] is empowered by the Internet, it moves with the speed of light, as opposed to the way communist or fascist ideology moved.

The effect of elections on Islamic extremism: I believe that we are in a period of revolutionary change in the Middle East, with or without us. It is the struggle between moderation and extremism. The revolutionary part of change in both Iraq and Afghanistan is that moderates have sought to build governments that have popular approval. . . . So not only are you moving toward an opportunity for people to vote . . . you're also moving beyond the normal ethnic, tribal, and cultural barriers that have existed out here for so long.

Spreading democracy in the region: This change in Iraq [is] an opportunity . . . for Arabs to look and see that free and fair elections can lead to a better future, as opposed to accept[ing] authoritarian governments without question. It is just a revolutionary principle. The same interconnectedness of the world that empowers extremists also empowers the moderates.

The enemy: It is unmistakable to me that the same people who brought us 9/11 are also fighting us in Mosul and Baghdad and are bringing in suicide bombers to not only attack us but to attack Iraqi security forces. They tried to assassinate [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf; they tried to assassinate the legitimate leaders in this country. They tried to assassinate the leaders of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda, Ansar al Islam, Ansar al Sunna . . . all these groups have different names, but [they] . . . all have the same ideology. And so this very, very dark vision of the way the world ought to be run is being fought in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Algeria, Egypt. -Julian E. Barnes

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