Judging by the debate over which presidential candidate can best act wisely when he/she answers that 3am telephone call should a crisis break out in a dangerous part of the world, such as in one of the Muslim world's hot spots, the next president is going to have rebuild a lot of broken coalitions shattered by years of failed U.S. diplomacy to make that 3am call less of a threat to our sleeping kids.
Inheriting the Muslim world's bloody internal/external struggle between extremism and moderation from the Middle East across Asia to the Far East is unfortunately one of the legacies that will be left by the Bush/Cheney/Rice team. Where will a wise president turn for good judgment, advice and counsel among the pantheon of Muslim leaders whose imaginative, reform-minded few are working hard to carefully integrate Islam and democracy, thus cutting the cult of extremism off at the pass.
In the Arab world, the young monarchs of Morocco and Jordan have been taking Islamic extremism head on not by more autocratic crackdowns, but by accelerating democratic reforms. Both leaders are helping to tamp down extremism in their neck of the woods with impressive gains against Islamic extremists. The enlightened leadership of the United Arab Emirates, whose gem in the desert Dubai, is fast serving as a beacon of moderation, also have much to offer us in the way of good advice and fine example.
In turbulent and dangerous Pakistan there may be hope for us yet because a new democratic coalition may be willing to rebuild ties with the next American president if we are smart enough to break once and for all with Bush's destructive embrace of Pervez Musharraf. The new ruling coalition is also determined to eradicate Al Qaeda's trespass in its northwest territories.
In South East Asia, where Al Qaeda's subchapter -- Jemmah Islamiyah -- (think of the Bali bombings) took strong root, both Indonesia and Malaysia, two of the largest Muslim nations, are proving that Islam and democracy are not only compatible, but are taking concrete actions to confront extremism in their midst without violating basic human rights.
Malaysia, in particular, stands out. A nation not normally on our radar, there is nevertheless a lot of good happening in that largely Islamic, multi-racial nation. Its Prime Minister -- Abdullah Badawi -- is up for re-election this weekend. Badawi is leading Malaysia through an impressive Islamic democratic renaissance. Unlike his fiery predecessor, Badawi is deploying a newly-minted social and economic policy, fueled by an impressive rate of economic growth, to counter religious extremism and set an example for othe Muslim nations to follow.
Badawi hopes to convince other Muslim leaders to adopt his model economic/social reform program in his capacity as Chairman of the Organization for islamic Conference (OIC) -- a sort of caucus of all 57 Muslim countries around the world. What he is lobbying for is an unprecedented Muslim world initiative to commit these nations to a joint program to eradicate poverty, illiteracy and unemployment using the incredible surplus of petro-dollars awash across the OPEC states which are members of the OIC.
Badawi's commendable domestic success and his influence in the broader Muslim world makes him the very type of Muslim leader that an American president should reach out to. Badawi, who has been quietly supporting efforts to confront Al Qaeda and Jemmmah Islamiyah, may be open to working even more closely with a new president to gain greater Muslim world support to defeat Al Qaeda and its Muslim world support network. He faces an electoral test against an extremist-inclined opposition that is determined to imposed stricter, less democratic Islamic laws on Malaysia's multi-racial society than Badawi will allow.
If Badawi prevails, and is re-elected, perhaps the next American president would be well advised following his inauguration to reach out to the reform-minded Islamic leader of Malaysia who in turn could help forge a coalition of other moderate Islamic states such as Indonesia, Pakistan, the UAE, Jordan and Morocco to explore how the U.S.can best rebuild its shattered image in the Muslim world, encourage Islamic self-help to rebuild to help vanquish Al Qaeda, and modernize their societies, thus making it a lot easier for the next president to know with whom to consult when the next threat arises in the Islamic world if and when that red phone rings at 3am.