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March 6, 2006

The West's Deadly Ideological Battle With Islamic Jihadism

Topics: War on Terror

Today, two different opinion pieces target the same important issue, one that we need to not only hear much more about, but one that we must get deadly serious about making our number one priority - the battle over ideologies, to win the battle of hearts and minds with the clear objective of ending the threat of terrorism by the totalitarian ideologies of Islamic jihadism. (It is wrong and even deceitful to argue that jihadism has nothing to do with Islam, because the jihadists believe that they are acting as "true Islamic believers" and learn the Islamist mind-set in mosques and Islamic schools, including those of the Islamic diaspora in Europe).

We in the United States, the Western Europeans and other allies, as well as moderate Muslims, are engaged in a global battle of ideas, and our enemy is "barbaric if possible and deadly and suicidal if necessary." This battle is against those who want to "destroy the secular Western societies of Europe and the United States, moderate Muslim societies throughout the Middle East, as well as India, Indonesia and Israel, to mention just a few". There is no negotiating our way through this war, that's impossible, and defeat is unthinkable.

The challenge that we in the West face, along with our allies, is to utterly discredit the totalitarian ideologies of jihadism just as we discredited Nazism and communism before. And we need President Bush and all of our leaders" to lead us in the ideological fight just as Ronald Reagan did in the Cold War. "We need to hear from him - and the rest of our leaders - the kind of blunt comparisons we heard from Reagan - that radical Islam enslaves people."

In Jed Babbin's excellent opinion piece at Real Clear Politics, we are reminded of our failure to adequately engage the Islamists in the idealogical battle that is as much a necessity in the War on Terror as the military operations:

(...) We aren't fighting a war against terrorists to win the hearts and minds of the Middle East. We are fighting it to end the threat of terrorism. Victory can't be achieved with bullets and bombs alone. This is, at its core, an ideological war. Just as we defeated communism by defeating the communists' ideology, we need to attack and destroy that of the radical Islamists.

(...) To do that, we first have to understand that radical Islam - the Islam of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Usama bin Laden and the rest - isn't a religion. It is an ideology that cobbles totalitarianism together with a messianic vision of religious nationalism. Radical Islam (unlike the actual religion) tolerates no other religion, and demands that its adherents give up the basic human freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights. No freedom of speech, no free press, no fair trials by a jury of your peers, only enslavement. Like the Nazis, the radical Islamists play on the sense of persecution and cultural inferiority that many people in underdeveloped nations have because they are truly oppressed. And, like the Nazis, the Islamists have convinced their followers that the problems of their world are the fault of others. The Islamists blame every ill of their world on America, the West, the Jews and Israel. Like the Soviets, the Islamists believe that their enslavement of the world is inevitable (though, unlike the Soviets, they believe it is God's will that they must succeed). Its adherents, like the Nazis and the Communists before them, believe their victory is both inevitable and irreversible. That is a powerful ideology which we have yet to engage with the necessary weapons.

(...) Our military - comprised of many of the best people our country has ever produced - is winning every fight it enters. But it can't win the war alone. Our politicians have to do that by fighting the ideological war.

(...) President Bush needs to lead us in the ideological fight just as Ronald Reagan did in the Cold War. We need to hear from him - and the rest of our leaders - the kind of blunt comparisons we heard from Reagan. Radical Islam enslaves people.

Read all of "Fighting the Ideological War".

However, just getting President Bush and our political leaders to stop fighting each other and join in battle with the enemy of America and the West, is only the begining; what's needed is not only recognition of the problem and leadership, but also a sound and solid strategy to win. That's where Ariel Cohen's piece comes into play.

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., a Senior Research Fellow in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation, offers agreement with Babbin (above) that we are engaged in an ideological battle, and in referring to the latest violent convulsion in Iraq, he says that this homicidal rage has nothing to do with the United States. It has everything to do with the political ideology of militant Islam:

(...) The recent spate of violence gripping Iraq in the wake of the Askariya Shiite shrine bombing conclusively - and tragically - demonstrates that ideas of hatred cause wars and claim thousands of lives. A war of ideas is under way that manifests itself in the conflict between the extremist Sunnis and Shiites, as well as between the West and Islamist terrorists.

(...) militant Islam ... traces its development to the establishment of the radical Wahhabi sect in the 18th century in the Arabian Peninsula, then to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928 and, finally, to Ayatollah Khomeini's seizure of power in Iran in 1979.

(...) unlike most wars of the past, cold and hot, this one could take generations. It calls not only for public diplomacy, but also for political covert action, something the United States hasn't attempted since the early stages of the Cold War. This campaign, fought largely on the battlefields of information and media, pits the West not against a state or coalition of states but against an array of radical organizations and the governments that support them.

However, Cohen doesn't stop at identifying our need to fully engage in an ideological battle with the Islamists, but goes further by laying out ideas and strategies for doing so:

(...) The nature of the conflict requires overt and covert action. Our opponents and their financial backers employ stealth, and sometimes so must we. We'll never curb the radical Islamic brainwashing taking place in madrassas throughout the greater Middle East without penetration by undercover agents. And our foreign-service personnel with public diplomacy expertise won't be allowed to practice their craft in Iran or Syria, so we need for the CIA to rebuild its political action capabilities.

(...) Public diplomacy, a more overt activity, also presents a challenge. As we have seen from the State Department's past efforts in "branding" of the United States, the Pentagon's short-lived Office of Strategic Influence, and the modest inroads made by the U.S. government-run Middle Eastern broadcasting, regaining the upper hand in a post-Cold War media world won't be easy.

(...) The administration needs to set a determined course in this area, and its main weapon should be truth. We must tell the truth about the terror masters and the societies they create, and we must tell it through as many channels as possible. We can't let violence be glorified any longer or the lies and deceit that sustain jihad go unchallenged. We must take it on in the schools, in the media and in society.

(...) We'll need to assemble new talent for this new war. The government and non-profits alike must beef up their public-information skills. People from Muslim countries now living in the West should be recruited to manage - linguistically and otherwise - the challenges we all face together.

(...) Jihadis use and abuse the Internet for propaganda, recruitment, intelligence gathering and operational management - in all major languages of the world. Their Web sites and information warfare operations must be identified and shut down, and their funders, ideologues and Web masters arrested.

(...) The United States also should expand the publication of books, journals and newspapers that promote views which debunk radical Islam and endorse liberal values.

(...) U.S. officials should demand that Muslim states reform their educational systems to expunge messages of hate against Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. They must demand that governments cease to operate hate-spewing radical mosques and madrassas, which exist solely to indoctrinate potential terrorists. And the Bush administration should use the CIA to topple or destabilize radical Islamist movements Islam and regimes that support them.

Read all of Cohen's piece - The real war is a battle of ideas ...

As Cohen suggests in his article, we've accomplished much already, such as toppling the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq and replacing them with emerging democracies (albeit they are still works in-progress), however, these efforts have done little to discredit, demoralize or defeat our enemy the jihadists. Now, it's time to fully engage in the ideological nature of the conflict and do with words and pictures what we might otherwise accomplish through bullets and missiles.

Using Cohen's exact words, "We didn't start this conflict. But it's up to us to finish it"!!!

Additional informative reading (referred to and linked in introductory paragraph, above) - Jihadism's roots in political Islam (written by a Muslim living in Europe, whose views I find myself "mostly" in agreement with):

After any terrorist attack by jihadists - from the Sept. 11 attacks to those in Bali in 2002, Madrid in 2004 and London in July - two contradictory views are usually heard. Some people claim that such religiously legitimated terror has its roots in Islam; others, principally Muslims and politically correct Westerners, say such terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.

The truth can only be reached by putting aside both extreme views and by recognizing the difference between Islam, the religion, and Islamism, the religious-political ideology. Although jihadism may not be Islamic, it is based on the ideology of Islamism, which has emerged from the politicization of Islam in the current war of ideas.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of recognizing this truth. Jihadism will continue to be with us for decades to come, as long as the movement related to it within Islamic civilization continues to thrive and to disseminate its deadly ideas.

Jihadists see themselves as non-state actors waging an irregular war against "kafirun," or unbelievers. They see their struggle as a just war legitimated by a religious, political and military interpretation of the Islamic concept of jihad.

Jihadism's relation to Islamism can be stated in a nutshell: Jihadists read the classical doctrine of jihad in a new mind while reinventing Islamic tradition.

"A Nuclear Powered Rogue State" VIDEO (While there were divergent views on the continuing global war on radical extremism, there was a strong consensus among those at the conference regarding the gravity of the impending threat of a nuclear holocaust should Iran get its hand on nuclear weaponry).

Jihadism and denial

Posted by Richard at March 6, 2006 12:46 PM

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