Michelle Bernard

Who are we fighting in this War on Terror? For many Americans, the War on Terror remains a confusing concept. We are used to wars against countries, not against a group of people brought together by an ideology and hatred of the West. Our enemy is most easily defined by their acts: the attacks of September 11th exemplify the threat they pose. Now, with news that the CIA has concluded that members of al-Qaeda, in concert with allies of Baitullah Mehud, a Pakistani tribal leader, were responsible for the murder Benazir Bhutto, we are reminded that this War on Terror isn’t just about the safety of the United States, but the fate of the world.

Another foreign nation is in crisis. Americans should appreciate yet again how fortunate we are to live in a country that is both free and stable. We do not worry about one killer turning our political system upside down.

The contrast today with Pakistan could not be greater. The murder of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was a tragedy on many levels. Her family has lost a wife and mother. Her party has lost its soul and inspiration. Her country has lost an intelligent, courageous woman prepared to lead in difficult times. The rest of us have lost one of the world's leading female politicians—living proof that a woman can run the government of an Islamic nation. Bhutto could have helped turn Pakistanis and Muslims elsewhere away from the failed politics of extremism and terrorism and towards the positive approach of global engagement and leadership.

Bhutto's death was a blow against people of goodwill all over the world. But we must not grow discouraged. To the contrary, the U.S. and its allies must redouble their efforts in the War on Terror and aid Pakistanis as they attempt to advance democracy in their nation.

All people are entitled to self-government. Throughout history, all people have sought self-government. Unfortunately, however, not all people are ready to build stable and free political systems. This is the ugly truth that we have learned in the Middle East. Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and other Muslim states have suffered under autocracy. All have taken some moves toward democracy but still face enormous barriers to the practice of liberal democracy in their nations.

For democracy to work, government must be built on respect for the life and dignity of its citizens. People must be willing to work peacefully with other groups and accept defeat in elections. Private mediating institutions are necessary to link individuals and families to communities and the nation.

Michelle Bernard

Michelle D. Bernard, a lawyer by training, is the president and CEO of the Independent Women’s Forum and author of Women’s Progress, How Women are Wealthier, Healthier, and More Independent Than Ever Before.
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