2. “If we try to resolve terrorism with military might and nothing else, then we will be no safer than we were before 9/11. If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.” Greg Mortenson

Mortenson’s statement appears in Chapter 22, in the article Kevin Fedarko writes for Parade Magazine that garners Mortenson widespread public attention. Mortenson’s words refer to the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, just as the issue of Parade hits the newsstands, the U.S. army prepares for a major assault on Baghdad intended to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. Mortenson believes that, if the U.S. truly wants to eliminate terrorism and bring peace and stability to the Middle East, the way to do so is through schooling, not more violence. By educating girls, for instance, schools create more people contributing to a society’s economy, thereby reducing poverty, which can make people desperate and more likely to turn to violence. Mortenson also thinks providing free secular education for boys can counter the growing influence of extremist madrassas. Ultimately, education shows children that they have a variety of careers available to them, and schooling provides the skills that the children need to pursue those careers.

Mortenson had actually been making a case for the importance of education in overcoming violence since the events of 9/11, but with little success. As Mortenson developed his understanding of the Baltistan region, he saw that many young men turned to radical Islam because they were poor and being a jihadist was the only meaningful occupation they could find. He realized that the best way to give people any hope of escaping poverty and finding meaning in their lives was through education. Nobody, however, paid much attention to Mortenson’s thoughts on the link between education and reducing terrorism. One anonymous government official visited him to ask if Mortenson thought he could fight the rise in madrassas with more CAI schools, but that was all. Fedarko’s piece brought Mortenson’s thoughts about education reducing terrorism to a much wider audience than Mortenson had ever reached before. Shortly after the article ran, Mortenson began receiving letters and donations from numerous readers who agreed with his way of thinking and urged him to continue his work.