What Billions of Muslims Think

On the Military Role and Arts and Culture - One in every 5 people on the planet is a Muslim. In the last eight years, American foreign policy has rocked their world. There's a lot to unravel, a lot to address, and a lot of fences that need mending.  The United States armed forces will probably remain in the Middle East for a long time.  There may be a significant drawdown in Iraq, but there may also be build ups elsewhere. Given this scenario, there are two things Mr. Obama's new policies address:

First, a military that is better and better prepared to be more and more involved in other facets of peace keeping than the explicitly military, including social services, medical aid, construction and education.

Second, we should hope to see soon a large increase in the State Department's budget, so that the U.S. can begin to disperse American Arts and Culture around the world and so regain the respect of large populations on the ground by bolstering education, establishing libraries, and launching film and speaker series throughout the world.

Security and peace are of course important, but what about promoting understanding?  We have forgotten over the years how powerful Arts and Culture can be in making friends and influencing people positively. Louis Armstrong, American jazz, and rock and roll radio broadcasting as well as junkets by American poets, writers, and artists in the 1960s through the 1980s may have had more to do with the opening of Russia than all our Cold War diplomatic and military efforts. For the State Department and other nongovernmental institutions to help the proponents of Arts and Culture entertain and educate around the world, it is going to take a real boost in the budget.

Finally, in addition to state of the art military bases, the United States should be in the business of building schools for local use, schools designed to serve the people where they are built, thousands of schools in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in the Middle East. How else will citizens ever be trained to be nurses, teachers, business entrepreneurs, and leaders? How else will people ever be able to see it that their villages and towns have clean water, fresh produce, safe homes, good clinics, and the rule of law?

Will Mr. Obama's new foreign policy address these needs?  I hope so.

Michael Wolfe is Co-Founder and President of Unity Productions Foundation, a nonprofit media organization working to increase peace through the media. The first American correspondent to report live from Mecca, he wrote and produced a half-hour TV Special for ABC Nightline, which was nominated for Emmy, George Polk, and Peabody Awards. He has since co-produced six nationally broadcast documentaries.

1/1/2000 5:00:00 AM