Monday, September 20, 2004

Donate for victory

I've read a lot about how well-funded are our ideological enemies in the Muslim world. I've read of all this Saudi oil money being used to export Wahhabism to seemingly every Muslim community on the planet, and of Iranian funding of folks like Sadr in Iraq. The list goes on and on. If we're really fighting a war of ideas, then how well-funded is our side? Of course, as this tragic NYT Magazine story demonstrates, it takes more than money to fight violence. Nevertheless, money matters. So, how are our ideas ("our ideas" is an admittedly vague term) doing in terms of funding? There doesn't seem to be much written about that, although I've repeatedly read that only a small fraction of the Iraqi reconstruction money allocated by Congress has actually been spent.

I believe the proper response for those who have ideas they want to support in places like Iraq must be to bypass the ever-inefficient middleman known as the federal government. See here or here for examples of how some folks have taken it upon themselves to help out Iraqis in relatively nonideological ways. Now, if one considers how wealthy the United States is, then it becomes clear that we can easily out-fund our enemies in the war of ideas - without increasing government spending - provided we have the desire to do so.

Moreover, there are some weapons in this war of ideas that our government will never fund because of the religious nature of this conflict. Is the U.S. govt. going to officially sanction and fund some versions of Islam deemed compatibile with liberal democracy? If so, which versions? What about government funding of Christian missionaries? Religious conversion is often an impractical short-term goal, at least for those who reject gun-point "conversions"; yet for Christians, it is always a long-term goal. Finally, what about government funding of atheism abroad? After all, some of the more extreme atheists believe the world won't be safe unless religion is eliminated. Somehow, I don't see Western governments funding any of these. Again, it comes down to private funding. (For example, I've donated to these folks.)

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