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News - Is the U.S. doing enough to woo all Muslims in its war against terror?

Yes. But let's distinguish between true allies and sunshine friends.

Our recent diplomatic maneuvering in the Arab world might be dubbed the Sally Field Doctrine. We want them to like us — to really, really like us.

Allah only knows what U.S. officials have promised as they try to bring Islamic countries into our anti-terrorism coalition. But it should make us mighty nervous when President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell express support for creating a Palestinian state, or when Palestinian groups aren't named as targets in our drive to choke off terrorists' money.

True, fighting terrorism will be easier with genuine cooperation from moderate Arab states. But if they can't make a moral choice between us and the terrorists, absent prodding, pleading and promising, then — pardon my bluntness — screw 'em. Let's distinguish between true allies and sunshine friends.

More importantly, Osama bin Laden wants to get the United States to curtail our support for Israel and to do the Arab world's bidding. It would be a supreme irony if, in our quest to build a coalition to get him, we do change course. This also would play into a peculiar sentiment expressed in the Islamic world and even among some Arab-Americans — that the terrorist attacks, while terrible, are in some way a consequence of U.S. policies in the region.

Just what policies would those be? Pouring foreign aid and American investment into the region? Rescuing Arab countries from Saddam Hussein? Allowing their young people to study at our universities? Contrary to the rhetoric spewed for years by some of the Arab governments we're now schmoozing, our support for Israel doesn't mean we're the Great Satan or that we're responsible for everything Israel does. And if anything speaks to the folly of an independent Palestinian state, it should be the Sept. 11 tragedy, where we saw what can happen if terrorist organizations operate under protection of state power.

Israelis argue that a Palestinian state beyond their security control would be a base for terrorism aimed at them. Before we dismiss this concern, we should remember that Yasser Arafat and his henchmen were (or are, depending on your viewpoint) terrorists. When the World Trade Center went down, his people cheered in the streets.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently compared the current U.S.-led charm campaign to 1938, when Western powers let the Nazis dismember Czechoslovakia to keep the peace. That's overwrought, but he has a point about coddling those who don't have our best interests at heart.

No one wants to piss off a billion Muslims, but we need to be careful not to go too far to enlist their help. And if that means we have to fight the war without them, so be it.

Richard Shumate is a writer and Internet consultant living in Sandy Springs.??





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