Color me taken aback - Ed Brock

Most Iranians in the United States should vote to reelect President George W. Bush in November, according to Aryo B. Pirouznia, coordinator for the Student Movement Coordination for Democracy in Iran.

Well, that wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear.

I had called Pirouznia on Saturday fully expecting to hear reassuring words on how Bush had messed things up in the Middle East almost beyond repair and the only hope for the democracy movement in Iran to succeed was the election of John Kerry as our next president. Well, it didn't work out that way, but in the end that's good.

It's good to hear things you don't like and don't agree with, though really Pirouznia and I disagreed on only one point. Who will actually take the right steps to win the current war on terrorism?

But let's back up a bit, since most of you who are reading this probably aren't regular readers and don't know how this began. I was to write this column to present my ideas on what should be done next in the war on terrorism.

Then, on Sunday, I went to the book store and saw "The 9/11 Commission Report" on the shelf and thought "Hey, there might be some good ideas in there."

And indeed, at the risk of sounding a bit like a Rush Limbaugh fan, my response to most of the recommendations made by the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States is "Ditto." Of course, I still have to read the entire report, but I skipped ahead to the relevant portions to draw a few things that I think support my position.

And I'll strongly recommend that everybody lay down the $10 for the report as well so you can read along.

First, I'll say what I mean by "the current war on terrorism." Then I'll get back to my discussion with Pirouznia. In next week's column I'll tie that in with the recommendations in the commission report to show why I still plan to vote for Kerry.

The current war on terror is the one we are fighting against radical Islam. In defense of President Bush, when he finally confessed that we cannot actually win the war on terrorism I think he was referring to the greater war on terrorism as a concept.

That one we can't win any time in the predictable future.

Indeed, we'll be hard pressed enough to win the one on Islamic extremism.

Terrorism is a concept, a means to an end, and as such it can only be eliminated by a dramatic evolutionary change in the human species in some far future time. As it stands now, violence effects change, and thus it will be used by numerous disenfranchised groups that seek to change the larger society for one reason or another.

Terrorism as a concept belongs to that basic paradigm, and so it is extremely unlikely that we will win, and thereby finish, the war against it.

But the key to slowing, if not winning, the war on the form of terrorism perpetrated by Islamic extremists is essentially simple. We have to reduce the number of radical Muslims, preferably not only by shooting or bombing them. We have to stop moderate Muslims from becoming radical Muslims.

Bush has said that one way to do that is to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, and I said previously that I tend to agree. But I think that, instead of forcing democracy ourselves such as in the case of Iraq, we should work with existing democratic movements such as the one in Iran.

Enter Mr. Pirouznia.

I'd like to start with the points on which Pirouznia and I agreed. Number one, military action should not be used against Iran in order to stop them from developing nuclear weapons.

Pirouznia believes Bush when he says he won't seek a military solution. He may be right, since even Bush has to realize now that we are stretched far too thin to start a third front in this war.

Instead, America should impose strict economic sanctions on the current Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran in order to encourage real change, Pirouznia said. Most Iranians want to rid themselves of the oppressive rule of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Pirouznia said, and I also agreed with Pirouznia that anybody with a sane mind would chose the freedoms of an American-style life over the repressive life offered by radical Islamic rule.

What has Pirouznia so upset with the Kerry-Edwards team is their recent talk of offering a "great bargain" to the current regime. That is to say, allowing the regime to continue its peaceful nuclear power program with help from America if it just turns over material from that process that can be used to build a nuclear weapon.

It's really not a great bargain for us, since it has yet to work for the Europeans who were trying the same approach with Iran before discovering the alleged efforts to convert uranium into weapons grade plutonium. And trying to buy off North Korea hasn't worked too well, either.

Plus, I tend to agree with Pirouznia that America, as he put it, must "really bang on the table" and take a firm approach toward the Muslim regime in Iran. I will concede that Kerry should exercise his flip-flop talent and take an approach to Iran that is more along these lines. If the people of Iran truly want democracy, we need to back them up.

In fairness to Kerry, his running mate John Edwards has said that, if the Iranian government refused to take the "great bargain," then Kerry would encourage our European allies to enforce sanctions against Iran.

But I can't get a fix on Kerry's position on regime change in Iran, so yes, that worries me. However, there is a greater issue, that being which candidate is best suited for encouraging confidence in the Muslim community.

Pirouznia said he doesn't think the war in Iraq is responsible for the increase in radical Islam as reported in this week's "Time" magazine. The hatred of America by radical Muslims started long before Iraq, Pirouznia said, and it would have gotten worse no matter what.

Well, again, that wasn't what I wanted to hear, so I called my friend Shahir Raslan, an active member of the Masjid Al-Ihsaan in Riverdale. He didn't exactly give me a solid Kerry endorsement, either.

In fact, Raslan, who is a native of Syria but a long-time naturalized American citizen, said most Muslims in America can't distinguish between the two candidates in terms of their approach to Middle East foreign policy. That's sad, but I believe it to be true.

The importance of this falls under the category of next week's column, following the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at ebrock@news-daily.com .