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Education vs. Terrorism

On the issue of national security I believe that it’s about not liberal vs. conservative, the choice seems to be closer to something like education vs. terrorism.

In today’s Times, Nicholas Kristof talks about the inspiring story as told in Three Cups of Tea.

So I have this fantasy: Suppose that the United States focused less on blowing things up in Pakistan’s tribal areas and more on working through local aid groups to build schools, simultaneously cutting tariffs on Pakistani and Afghan manufactured exports. There would be no immediate payback, but a better-educated and more economically vibrant Pakistan would probably be more resistant to extremism.

“Schools are a much more effective bang for the buck than missiles or chasing some Taliban around the country,” says Mr. Mortenson, who is an Army veteran.

Each Tomahawk missile that the United States fires in Afghanistan costs at least $500,000. That’s enough for local aid groups to build more than 20 schools, and in the long run those schools probably do more to destroy the Taliban.

The Pentagon, which has a much better appreciation for the limits of military power than the Bush administration as a whole, placed large orders for “Three Cups of Tea” and invited Mr. Mortenson to speak.

“I am convinced that the long-term solution to terrorism in general, and Afghanistan specifically, is education,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, who works on the Afghan front lines, said in an e-mail in which he raved about Mr. Mortenson’s work. “The conflict here will not be won with bombs but with books. … The thirst for education here is palpable.”

Military force is essential in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban. But over time, in Pakistan and Afghanistan alike, the best tonic against militant fundamentalism will be education and economic opportunity.

So a lone Montanan staying at the cheapest guest houses has done more to advance U.S. interests in the region than the entire military and foreign policy apparatus of the Bush administration.

During one of the breakout sessions at the Global Internet Evangelism Network forum, I joined a group thinking about how we can use technology to augment Adventist educational mission around the world. We really have amazing global infrastructure. General Conference Vice-President mentioned this and the satellite downlinks that many of our churches have leftover from the Net evangelism of the 90s. He proposed coming up with a way that teachers and students in their local context could create literacy, health, etc., online classes. Thus a local college in East Africa or South America could create the content, beam it up through the global system and than back to local churches which could be used as a gathering place for learning.

What do you think of that?

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