There probably is at least a grain of truth in the statement by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that a key to winning the war on terrorism is resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
The United States supports Israel, and radical clerics indeed have used that to inflame emotions. But America cannot in clear conscience abandon a democratic ally simply in hopes of pacifying madmen like Osama bin Laden.
There is little hope that an equitable Mideast settlement can be reached in the foreseeable future. Every time a major breakthrough is announced, it unravels. On Friday, for example, Hamas said it would make a truce and accept Israel's right to exist in exchange for an independent Palestine. Two days later, inexplicably, it changed its mind.
Musharraf did make an interesting point in the same interview when, according to the French news agency, he said illiteracy and poverty were "breeding grounds of extremism and terrorism."
On the surface, that seems patently silly. Terrorists come from some of the wealthiest, oil-producing countries in the world.
That money isn't always distributed evenly, however, and the poorly educated probably are easier to manipulate than most other people.
Musharraf needed only to look at his own country to see that. Three of every 10 Pakistani children age 5 to 9 never attend school there, according to UNICEF figures released over the weekend. Of children who do enroll, only half reach fifth grade.
The Bush administration, with Musharraf's support, has liberated Afghanistan and Iraq. One can only hope the democracies that follow will usher in a renaissance of learning and economic opportunity soon will follow.
The more people have a sense of opportunity, the less they will rely on radical clerics.
The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) - Dec. 7
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