Winning Hearts and Minds

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In the New York Times Book Review of General Bolger’s “Why We Lost” [Nov. 16, 2014], the reviewer, Andrew Bacevich, not only critiqued Bolger’s perspectives meaningfully, but also went beyond his thesis to raise crucial questions about the failure of our democratic system—and ultimately of us all—to demand a more effective strategy for responding to terrorism.  That fatal failure continues to dog us to this day. A central component of that failure is our framing this as a war, which from the onset ensures our defeat.

A successful strategy for overcoming terrorism must begin at home. Our own country is increasingly inequitable, with a competitive, dog-eat-dog individualism that leads most of us  to feel powerless and politically inefficacious. The current role of money in determining public policy further undermines our belief in democracy.  Look at how few of us chose to vote this month. Given, the society we are creating at home, we cannot hope to overcome the competing absolutist vision abroad that promises personal meaning, connection and, in desperation, the power of violence and holy self-sacrifice to so many.So, our greatest challenge as Americans today is to live out democracy far more effectively, in our politics and in our daily practices. We must live in ways that enable all of us, in our increasingly rich diversity, to connect with each other and shape our personal and shared futures more powerfully and meaningfully. To have any hope of winning the hearts and minds of others we must first win back our own.