Stop the Bombs! I Can't Hear What my Enemy is Saying.

September, 11, 2009. I remember the moment that I watched the second jet hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I was in a hotel room in Cedar City, Utah where I was on a PTA-sponsored speaking tour of Utah schools. As I sat on my bed watching the events unfold, I went through a myriad of feelings in the space of those awful 15 or 20 minutes starting with a surreal fascination and curiosity followed by rage and intensity. But the feeling that has stuck with me almost continuously the last eight years is one of determination to not just sit in the comfort of my house and watch the killing and hating through my peripheral vision. It's easy to do that with a smorgasbord of pop culture continually screaming for attention. I try not to let the din of American commercialism cover up the crying happening daily in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and other turbulent regions.

I have to keep believing that all of us pushing and shoving for space on this planet really desire peace, love, and harmony more than war, hate, and disharmony. Surely—even the most radical extremist would prefer a comfortable abode for his family, sufficient food to eat, and just a bit extra to enjoy the simple things in life. The opium-farming Taliban Afghani would rather just sell his beautiful flowers for decoration if he could make enough money that way. The bomb-toting Hamas Palestinian youth would rather strap on a book bag on his way to a higher education if it were available. Poverty and lack of education breed desperation and hatred. We've seen it here in the US in our inner cities for years. We shouldn't be surprised that the same formula equals a similar result in other places.

I remember thinking naively, after Osama Bin Laden announced his ownership of the 9/11 tragedy, "I want to go and talk to him - ask him why he hates us so much. I want to play music for him and infuse a bit of love into his otherwise hate-consumed world." I thought at that time that he just needed to get to know us and he'd have a change of heart. I now feel that those on the extreme side of world conflict may be too immersed and invested in their causes to listen to reason. However, there are millions of others who are in the more reasonable middle ground. They should become our focus now.

I am convinced that the answer to solving the MIddle East conflict, is NOT found at the end of a gun rifle but at the end of an outstretched hand. Guns, bombs, and violence can only breed more of the same. The same could be said for other foreign policy hotspots around the world. During the last election, I remember Obama being castigated by the Republican candidates when he mentioned in a debate that if elected, he "could be willing to meet leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea in [his] first year of office." Despite the protests of his opponents, this simple statement by Obama was hailed by the majority of countries outside our shores. Perhaps they realized like Abraham Lincoln did that "Am I not destroying enemies when I make friends of them?" or Moshe Dyan who said, "If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies."

That is why I was constantly confused at the Bush administration's insistence on NOT talking with those who fight against us. We can't bomb them into oblivion. Using force against them without discourse only ignorantly reinforces their idea that America is "occupying" their homeland. Emerging from the rubble of Baghdad, Kabul, and Gaza will be stronger fighters even more incensed and determined to bring about our demise. Bush and Cheney's "surge" and resolve to not discuss and educate was just pouring gasoline on an already growing fire.

During the first eight months of Obama's administration, I have observed his foreign policy start to take shape and have been cautiously optimistic as I've seen a hand outstretched in the direction of Russia, North Korea, and other nations deemed part of Bush's "Axis of Evil" only a year ago. More talking and overtures of peace and less yelling and posturing seems to be this administration's foreign policy mantra. We've carried a "big stick" long enough. Obama seems to want to infuse a little more "speak softly" into his foreign policy equation. From my vantage point, it's starting to work. The more this country presses the flesh, the less apt we are to press the red button.

Kurt Bestor is an Emmy Award-winning composer, multi-instrumental performer, and producer. His music has been heard on numerous shows such as NFL Monday Night Football, National Geographic Explorer, and the Olympics.

updated 4 years ago