Vali Nasr has a vision of a valid strategy for success in Afghanistan. It is based on developing a relationship with people all over the world by engaging them in economic transactions. This could be described as a form of “economic diplomacy”. This is a process that engages the populations of the world that are at risk for terrorist recruitment so that they come to understand that they have important and powerful interests that align them with the “mainstream” and not with the radical or extreme views of the terrorists.
This strategy can be very powerful and very successful, but why should we limit ourselves and our strategy to this one narrow perspective of engagement? We should send a “representative” to every village that is at risk from terrorist recruiters. We must discover every possible aspect of common interest, and we must convince virtually everyone that our common interests are more important than our differences. It is not necessary to send massive amounts of supplies or to spend vast amounts of money all over the world. It is important to identify common interests and to develop relationships of mutual benefit that will lead to friendly interactions. Within this context of a respectful relationship a plan can be formulated for exchange. They can help us with our interests and we can help them with theirs.
Diplomacy begins with identifying common interests. Stronger bonds are formed by discovering and developing new common interests. Diplomacy requires patients, perseverance, and honest attempts to listen. Diplomacy is not the attempt to coerce or manipulate others so that they do what you want. It is a social relationship, and it requires hard work, continuous engagement, and a long-term perspective.
Terrorism is a social problem indicative of modern complex societies. It cannot be eradicated, and it cannot be “defeated” by military action. The war on terrorism will always result in stronger and more sophisticated terrorists. Engagement and diplomacy can reduce the terrorist threat to a minimal presence.