This I Believe

Carlos - Schenectady, New York
Entered on July 3, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

Change Is Possible

I believe in the power of change. On May 15, 2006 the United States announced that it would resume diplomatic relations with Libya. This is a major change in American foreign policy because for the past twenty-five years, Libya has been designated as a “sponsor of terror.” The State Department said this change in policy was a result of dramatic improvements in Libya’s foreign policy. Over the past six years, Libya has accepted responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, assisted the United States in the War on Terror, and turned over all of its weapons of mass destruction. Muammar Gaddafi has suddenly changed his foreign policy because he realizes that trade and diplomatic relations with the United States can improve Libya’s economy.

I believe that improving relations with Libya could be the first step toward improving American relations with other countries in the Middle East and Africa. While he has ruled Libya, Gaddafi has established relationships with many countries in the Middle East. Gaddafi also joined many African countries in forming the African Union. As a result of his high profile in the international community, many heads of state will be watching Libya in the coming months to see the results of its new relationship with the United States. I believe that if these heads of state can see the benefits of trade and diplomatic relations with the United States, they may choose to follow Libya’s example and cooperate with the United States. For example, Syrian President Bashar Assad could decide to turn over his chemical weapons and secure Syria’s border with Iraq. Although Assad may portray himself as an uncompromising ruler, his withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon last year shows that he is willing to change his policies to appease the international community.

I believe that new diplomatic relations with Libya could improve the image of the United States in the Muslim world. Although Arab countries have not always looked favorably upon Gaddafi’s government, the practice of Islam has served as a bond between the Libyans and the Arabs. Islam has also strengthened the relationship between Libya and other nations in the African Union. Over the past six years, many radical Mullahs and Imams have portrayed the United States as an imperialistic nation threatening the Islamic way of life. This inaccurate message has caused many Muslims to bear animosity toward the United States. It has also caused some of the most violent terrorist attacks in history. I believe that if Muslims who have been taught to hate America can see that the United States is increasing the standard of living of their fellow Muslims in Libya, they may no longer view the United States as an evil enemy that needs to be killed. If our image in the Middle East does start to change, fewer people may join radical organizations such as Al-Qaida and there may be a decrease in terrorist violence.

In life, change does not always occur quickly. Change on a global scale can take even longer to occur. However, change is occurring in the Middle East. When Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was killed on June 8, 2006, many people in the Arab world celebrated. This strong reaction illustrates that many Muslims do not agree with Al-Qaida’s violent interpretation of Islam. The fact that one of Al-Zarqawi’s “fellow Muslims” revealed his location to the United States indicates that there are some Muslims in the Middle East who trust America and want the political situations in their countries to improve. I believe that by taking small steps like resuming relations with Libya, and having patience, the United States and other nations of the world can work together to gradually change the political landscape of the Middle East so that the power of the radical Ayatollahs and Imams can become just another chapter in the turbulent history of this world.