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Rhetoric, hatred can't help Trump win 'war on terror'

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-09-11 21:27

Since his days on the campaign trail, defeating terrorism and destroying the Islamic State have been on US President Donald Trump's agenda as an outstanding foreign policy imperative. He attempted to push through a controversial, and widely resisted anti-Muslim travel ban. And he has been working on a new counter-terrorism strategy to put an end to what he deems a Barack Obama-era failure.

Sixteen years after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted then US president George W. Bush to launch the "war on terror", the incumbent US president should have emerged a lot more knowledgeable about the mission. Because unless he refuses to face reality, he will realize the United States cannot win the fight alone, the "war on terror" alone is not enough to eliminate terrorism, and, most importantly, the US must engage both allies and past foes to complete the mission.

No matter how he evaluates the gains and losses of the Bush and Obama administrations, Trump should have realized by now that the matter is far more complicated than he had anticipated, or is willing to believe.

To be honest, he presented flashes of such realization during his visit to Saudi Arabia in May, as he chose his words carefully while addressing Muslim leaders, avoided using one of his pet terms, "radical Islamic terrorism", and stated that the fight against terrorism is not that between different beliefs or civilizations, but that between good and evil. Praising Islam as one of the greatest religions, he spoke the truth that 95 percent of the victims of terrorism have been innocent Muslims, which he had long ignored.

The biggest drawback in Trump's anti-terrorism campaign is the contradiction he is creating for himself. While he seems to have recognized the value of a broad global alliance to combat terrorism, he is simultaneously undermining it by alienating some key potential partners.

While it will take time for the international Muslim community to put aside Trump's previous anti-Muslim rant, his ongoing anti-Iran, anti-Russia moves are clearly counter-productive to building a global anti-terrorism front. His attempt to shift burdens to allies is not helping the cause either.

Moreover, the "war on terror" cannot be won on the battlefield. It must have the support of measures aimed at improving human rights, facilitating development, promoting good governance, and cleansing the soil that breeds hatred in communities considered hotbeds of terrorism.

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