As we fight the Islamic State and other extremists, there’s something President Obama and all of us can learn from them. For, in one sense, the terrorists are fighting smarter than we are.

These extremists use arms to fight their battles in the short term, but, to hold ground in the long run, they also combat Western education and women’s empowerment. They know illiteracy, ignorance and oppression of women create the petri dish in which extremism can flourish.

That’s why the Islamic State kidnapped Samira Salih al-Nuaimi, a brave Iraqi woman and human rights lawyer in Mosul, tortured her and publicly executed her last week. That’s why the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, then 15 years old, after she campaigned for educating girls. And that’s why Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria and announced it would turn them into slaves.

In each case, the extremists recognized a basic truth: Their greatest strategic threat comes not from a drone but from a girl with a book. We need to recognize, and act on, that truth as well.

For similar reasons, the financiers of extremism have invested heavily in fundamentalist indoctrination. They have built Wahhabi madrassas in poor Muslim countries like Pakistan, Niger and Mali, offering free meals, as well as scholarships for the best students to study in the gulf.

Shouldn’t we try to compete?

Shouldn’t we use weapons in the short run, but try to gain strategic advantage by focusing on education and on empowering women to build stable societies less vulnerable to extremist manipulation?

The United States’ airstrikes have slowed the advance of the Islamic State and averted a genocide against the Yazidi population in Iraq, but it’s very difficult to win a war from the air. That’s why the Taliban still thrives in Afghanistan after 13 years of American air attacks.

Unfortunately, we’re not playing the long game, as the extremists are. We are vastly overrelying on the military toolbox and underemploying the education toolbox, the women’s empowerment toolbox, the communications toolbox. We’re tacticians; alas, the extremists may be better strategists.

It’s not a question of resources, because bombs are more expensive than books. The United States military campaign against the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS and ISIL, will cost at least $2.4 billion a year and perhaps many times that, according to an estimate from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.

In contrast, Obama seems to have dropped his 2008 campaign promise to establish a $2 billion global fund for education. And the United States gives the Global Partnership for Education, a major multilateral effort, less in a year than what we spend weekly in Syria and Iraq.

The New York Times

Herbicide-resistant crops

not a solution for weeds

When crops were first introduced that had been engineered to withstand the herbicide glyphosate — better known by the trade name Roundup — the agricultural industry said it would confer a terrific environmental advantage.

Glyphosate is a relatively benign herbicide, after all, and the industry claimed it would be able to use less of it to get rid of weeds, without harming the corn or soy.

At first, farmers did spray less glyphosate. But resistant versions of the weeds soon cropped up. That meant heavier, repeated spraying, which in turn meant more resistant weeds. No problem, agribusiness said. We’ll just make new crops genetically engineered to resist other herbicides.

But that’s not a solution. Just as the nation must stop overusing antibiotics if it hopes to slow the emergence of resistant infections, it must do the same with herbicides and genetically modified crops. The way to deal with so-called superweeds isn’t by escalating the arms race against them.

A new generation of herbicide-resistant crops is wending its way through the federal approval process. A division of Dow Chemical recently won the approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for corn and soy that have been bioengineered to withstand spraying with both glyphosate and 2,4-D — a more toxic weed-killer some critics have said is dangerous to the environment and to people.

Why both? About 18 weeds have developed resistance to 2,4-D over the more than 50 years it has been in use. So the idea is to use both herbicides, with each one eradicating the weeds the other one can’t. But first, the Environmental Protection Agency would have to approve the special blending of the two herbicides developed by Dow. Called Enlist Duo, the mix has been formulated not to drift over large areas as 2,4-D commonly does. It would thus reduce the risk of killing crops miles away.

According to USDA estimates, the introduction of the new crops would mean the spraying of five to 13 times as much 2,4-D by the year 2020.

The Los Angeles Times

NFL must openly

address fan violence

Silence has not served the National Football League (NFL) well.

For years the league downplayed its problem with domestic violence and lightly penalized its offending players. That all erupted in a blaze of scandal and bad publicity when a video camera caught Ray Rice decking his then-fiancee in an elevator.

Now NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is clinging to a job and reputation in steep decline.

Another sort of violence lurks beneath the surface of this league, and last month reared itself in two stadiums — University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Brawls broke out in the stands between spectators that turned far too dangerous as people tumbled over seats and down cement stairs.

The crowd videos are cringe-worthy. Punches land sharply on faces. People fall several feet onto hard seats and sharp corners as those around them gasp. In Glendale, blood spatters the concrete. Fans nurse bleeding wounds. Glendale police arrested two men on assault charges and stadium security expelled a number of other people involved in the two fights that broke out in the upper decks of the Cardinals stadium.

The NFL has long known it has a problem with crowd violence. Last December, at least three people were stabbed outside of the Denver Broncos’ stadium as fans poured out into the parking lot following a loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Former NFL defensive end Akbar Gbajabiamila wrote at NFL.com in 2012 even players are concerned about the safety of their family members in the stands.

“Fans can be brutal no matter what venue you go to,” he wrote. “When I came into the league in 2003, I was warned by veteran teammates to tell all of my family and friends to wear neutral colors to road games in order to deflect unnecessary attention that might cause them to be harassed.”

Anyone who has frequented NFL games in the past decade can speak to the declining spectator environment — encounters with beer-swilling low-lifes who tease and taunt and finally bully those around them. The most dangerous people at football games are not the huge men playing a violent game, wrote CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel. “The true danger is us. We are the thugs, and we are everywhere.”

The NFL has been quietly trying to address the problem, he explained, with liaisons to each franchise focused on crowd security as teams coordinate with stadium guards and local law enforcement. Most NFL teams post a phone line for fans to text stadium personnel of any problems or concerns, Doyel reported. And the league is actively gathering information at all stadiums and studying the findings.

The league operates quietly on this front because it doesn’t want to alarm its customers, Doyel said.

The Arizona Republic

Military’s Ebola mission vital for Africa, U.S.

Hundreds of Fort Bliss soldiers are headed to an important and unique mission in West Africa, trying to slow the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The Pentagon announced the deployment last week. The purpose of the mission is to help build a medical infrastructure in West Africa to disrupt and — hopefully — end the Ebola epidemic now sweeping that region.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, was explicit on what the U.S. soldiers would not do: “U.S. military personnel are not and will not be providing direct care to Ebola patients.”

The stakes could not be higher. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the number of Ebola cases could reach 1.4 million by January without proper intervention.

But prompt action can make a huge difference.

The U.S. military mission is part of a broader effort to build the infrastructure necessary to meet the goals outlined by the CDC.

The announcement of the deployment of the Fort Bliss soldiers came on the same day the CDC confirmed the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States, involving a man in Dallas who had recently traveled in West Africa.

So it’s natural families of soldiers deploying to Africa will have concerns about possible exposure to the deadly virus. Pentagon spokesman Kirby assured all proper precautions would be taken.

“All the troops that are going are getting trained on personnel protective equipment and on the disease itself,” he said.

Force protection is always the top concern for the U.S. military on missions, and the fight against Ebola is no exception.

This is a different sort of mission for the U.S. military, but it is crucial.

Containing the epidemic is not just a public health issue in Africa and elsewhere. It also is a national security issue for the United States. A spreading epidemic would create political instability across West Africa and potentially elsewhere as the virus spreads.

We wish the Fort Bliss soldiers — as well as other U.S. service members — Godspeed on this vital mission.

The El Paso Times

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