The United States is often described as the best country in the world, mostly by us, but by many millions of others too. Since it’s beginning, America has held out a glimmer of hope for the oppressed people of the world and it has provided a measure of freedom and democracy to those who live here. But there are also other views of our country, and they aren’t nearly as flattering. We are viewed as arrogant and greedy. We are viewed as oppressors. We are viewed as two-faced liars. We are viewed as weak and immoral. Some of these viewpoints are directed at our government, but others are pointed straight at us, as individuals and as a whole people. Some of the people who don’t think too highly of us are actively seeking ways to destroy us and our way of life. Obviously, we must not let this happen. We have the strength to fight back. We have the resources to fight long. We have the desire to win. But will we?

Winning the fight with our enemies will require many years of hard fought battles, and many of the casualties will be innocent civilians. But the fight between cultures, for let’s use our common sense here and call it what it is, will not be won just by spilling blood. Many will die, let’s be clear, for that is inevitable in a war where one sides stated goal is to kill all of the other. There is no way to win this without the use of force and violence. But we must also deploy all the other tools in our arsenal: diplomacy, assistance, and investment.

I called this a fight between cultures, and because I don’t want any confusion about what that means, let me explain. Our primary enemies today are not all members of the Islamic religion, but Islamic hard-liners who follow a particularly strict interpretation of their religion. Their goal is to return the state of civilization to a pseudo-medieval arrangement. They seek to impose their ideals on the rest of the world, spreading from their original homelands, primarily in the Middle East and Africa. The most effective of these enemies, Al-Qaeda, is not even a foreign government who we could wage a more conventional war against. Instead, they are scattered across the world. For while America is their primary target, they seek to cower to entire world before they are done and they spread their violence and terrorism to our allies as well. They operate a well-financed organization, obtain highly trained scientists and tacticians, and maintain a steady influx of recruits. Their culture is inherently different from our own. Their laws and governments are written and run by the clerical hierarchy. Their interpretation of their holy books dictates daily life. Personal freedom is nearly non-existent and public dissent forbidden. Were they to win, we would lose everything we hold dear.

We, on the other hand, represent a way of life that embraces personal freedom. We are made up of many factions, and rightly so, for to our enemies, anyone not with them is a legitimate target. And because we embody so many different beliefs, we rule ourselves with tolerance. These two ways of governing are not compatible. Only one will ultimately win. Currently our way, or variations of it, has proven to offer a quality of life unknown in much of the world. Their way offers a life of slavery. Given the choice, I’ll fight for our way every time.

Still, we have our faults and they are great. The time has come for us to really look at what we are doing in the world and determine how we could be doing it better. We never asked to be the world’s Superpower. The world asked us. And as a result, as we went on our prosperous way, enriching our lives and strengthening ourselves, the world looked at us in a new way. They sucked our culture up like a coke fiend at an all-nighter and then cursed us when the stuff turned out to be laced. We never sought the limelight and we never went looking for trouble. But the world came asking and we took up the challenge. And in doing so, we turned into management. The problem with being in management is that you tend to stop looking at the individual and begin looking at the goals of the whole. Good managers know that you have to do both. A good manager isn’t afraid to use common sense, but we haven’t always had good managers. Our government today has few, if any. And without good managers, both the whole and the individual begin to fail. The policies and the actions of our government have not always been designed to benefit us as citizens, or even us as a country, but to satisfy the greed of autocratic businessmen or power hungry bureaucrats. As such, we have made enemies without even knowing it, at least, not until it’s too late.

So while we must continue to fight the enemy on the battlefields and in the cities, we must also look within ourselves and recognize that while we didn’t ask for this war, we can’t win it without changing ourselves too.

Diplomacy is not a tool that can be used directly with our Islamic enemies. Their goals allow no concessions, their purpose to win by slaughter or submission. We can’t hold a dialogue with an enemy who cuts off our head when we sit at the table. But diplomacy can and must be used to prevent the terrorists from gaining ground in other Middle Eastern or under-developed nations. And diplomacy can and must be used to maintain our allies and bring in more who will help. Diplomacy will allow us to show the world that they are part of the “us” in the “us versus them” equation. We should be prepared to offer our support to nations who join in the fight against the enemy. That support should be offered in ways that include technology sharing, medical training, and infrastructure support as well as financially and militarily. By offering these things, we would be showing our friends as well as those on the fence, that we too are one of “us” and that in order for “us” to survive, “we” must work together. By working to end the culture of haves and have-nots, we eliminate one of the reasons for others to hate or envy us. It’s time to change our unspoken national motto from “Greed is Good” to “Greed Can Be Deadly.”

Assistance and diplomacy go hand in hand. By working with other nations to improve the lives of their citizens, we make ourselves safer. Why should the people of the world strive for the American Dream? Do they really want to leave their homelands and families? Why don’t we help them create their own dreams? What’s wrong with striving for the Afghani Dream or the Mexican Dream or the Thai Dream? By helping them develop their own national dreams, they create a culture that would naturally reject religious totalitarianism like that of Al-Qaeda. And if they help us now we should begin to help them now.

Of course, diplomacy and assistance require investment, both in capital and in time. As members of an expensive and fast paced culture, these are two commodities that are dear to us Americans. We often pay lip service to diplomacy but we are reluctant to offer commitments without specific parameters. But mutually cooperative agreements don’t need to be held on a schedule. They should continue until both sides have achieved their goals. If we are asking for friends then we must be ready to be a friend. Everyone knows what it’s like to depend on someone and then have them let you down. After a while, you don’t think of them so much as a friend as an adversary. It the geo-political world, adversary is just a stones throw from enemy. So in order to succeed in the non-combat areas of this war, we need to listen to our allies, offer what we can and expect them to do the same. At the same time, we must change their negative impressions of us by seeking better ways to manage and share global resources, technology, and education.

America is a great country. Our biggest problem is that we have spent too much time in management and are out of tune with our world. The ninety percent of the world that wants us to succeed in this war includes Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, pagans, atheists, and quite possibly Druids and Jedis. We must all work together to conquer the enemy and ensure the quality of our lives. We have so many problems facing us as a species that we need to put an end to this culture war once and for all.

It will not be won without sacrifice from each and every one of us. In ways that we don’t even think about consciously, we have to be ready to change how we live and relate to the world. We have to be prepared to sacrifice now so our children can have a better tomorrow. We have to see beyond ourselves and our immediate desires to ensure that we are creating a foundation for the future generations. It will be painful. It will be costly. It will be worth it.