Think Tank to White House: Define Your Enemy

By Matthew Harwood


 "Lacking is a full-throated recognition of the degree to which ideology fuels violent extremism, especially as international borders become less relevant due to the Internet and other technologies," the report states. 

(For previous coverage of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's work on counterradicalization and counterterrorism, see "Muslims Best Way to Stop Radicalization in U.S., Report Says" from February 2009.)

The authors argue that unless the United States starts to win the ideological battle it will face a youth bubble in the Muslim world as well as other vulnerable populations online susceptible to radical Islamism. Citing a recent report from the RAND Corporation, the authors note that there has been 46 cases of occurring radicalization inside the United States since 2001, with 30 percent occurring in 2009. The common link between these cases: radical Islamist ideology, according to the study group.

By not discrediting the ideology that persuades an individual to cross the line into violence, the authors argue, the United States is left trying to kill and capture violent extremists and terrorists rather than destroying the ideas that radicalized them. "Our ultimate adversary is not the individual bomber, but the radical ideology that propels him to carry out an act of terrorism," the report explains.

In an effort to discredit Islamist ideology and its propagandists, the authors offer a host of recommendations, the core of which is to separate the religion Islam from its political ideology Islamism. The United States can do this, the authors believe, by supporting moderate Muslim leaders inside local communities and overseas, especially those that have defected from Islamism, while publicly debating and discrediting radical Islamists. The latter part they argue is a cornerstone of the American project that respects the most important values of American democracy: freedom of speech and religion.

"The objective... is to strengthen the moderate center against the extremist pole and help Muslim communities become more resilient in confronting the challenge," according to the report.

♦ Screen shot of cover page of "Fighting the Ideological Battle"


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