The military might of the United States is unrivaled in the modern world. Equal parts strong and skilled, disciplined and determined, the armed forces serve as the fulcrum for the preservation of America’s freedom and position of strength in the world.
We depend on them for much—from patrolling the streets of Baghdad to airlifting supplies to the regions devastated by the Christmas tsunami of 2005—and they consistently deliver. So much so that we begin to believe that no challenge exists that is too difficult for the military to overcome.
Yet when it comes to the war on Islamic radicalism, we cannot expect the military to achieve victory on its own. Instead, we must commit to supporting cultural strategies that supplement our military efforts by advancing the cause of freedom (and simultaneously defusing the fire of Islamic radicalism) in the Middle East and beyond.
In partnership with free nations around the world, we must continue to devise and implement policies that foster economic development in the Middle East. The Middle East Free Trade Area Initiative (MEFTA) serves as an excellent example of such a policy.
Launched by President Bush in 2003, MEFTA encourages regional free trade, sustains economic reform, and seeks to foster the increased growth of Middle Eastern economies. The goal is to establish a free trade area in the Middle East by 2013.
Part of this process includes having Middle Eastern countries sign Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs). These agreements set a conversation between two countries in motion by initiating legal protection for investors, intellectual property legislation, transparent trade procedures, and more. Intra-regional TIFA partners currently include Algeria, Lebanon, Qatar, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.
Ultimately the hope is that TIFAs would help create the economic reforms that will lead to bilateral trade agreements between the United States and Middle Eastern countries.
Designed to counteract some of the highest unemployment rates in the world, the State Department claims that free trade agreements “encourage job creation, technology transfer, expanded manpower skills and training, and increased foreign direct investment in the Middle East.”
Five regional economies have already established free trade agreements with the United States, including Jordan in 2000. Since that time Jordan has experienced a 500 percent increase in direct foreign investment and witnessed the creation of 45,000 jobs.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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