In facing new threats, a fundamental focus must be on defining the identity of such threats and an associated awareness of the need to change our governmental and policy strategies accordingly. If the threats are not clearly identified and defined, the consequences are a series of desperate, fractured tactical efforts to address aspects of the threats as perceived by diverse governmental organizations, without a coordinated strategy. Such a tactical-centric approach to new threats would predictably draw upon old paradigms and processes used in addressing older, previous threats.
This remains the primary challenge to America in dealing with Jihad. Without defining Jihad’s ideological basis, desperate governmental leaders and policy analysts revert to using outdated tactical measures that are focused on regional threats and Cold War statist measures. Without a strategy defining the ideological threat, government and policy leaders are confused, misguided, and frightened, and offer half-measure tactics. In today’s America, this combination of factors has resulted in the current ambiguous “war on extremism.”
To effectively deal with the war of ideas that Jihad represents, American government and policy leaders must honestly and clearly define the enemy ideology, and reject regional and statist tactics that are designed for a different enemy than we are fighting today.
The Regional Conflict Perspective to Jihad
On August 18, 2008 in the southern Philippines, new Jihadist atrocities were committed against the Philippine people, leaving 39 dead. News reports stated that “[s]ome of the civilians were hacked to death by machetes and there were reports that some were used as human shields during the violent rampage.” This is the latest in a Jihadist struggle that has reportedly claimed 120,000 lives in the past 30 years in the southern Philippines – equivalent to forty 9/11 attacks. Yet this Jihadist atrocity does not get major mainstream news coverage, because of a counterterror position that is prevalent throughout much of America’s intelligence agencies and analysts, which views Jihad in the Philippines as an isolated, regional conflict that has no links to Jihadist terrorism elsewhere in the world.
Analysts have remained focused on the geographical and ethnic issues in the Philippine Jihad struggle on the southern most Philippine island of Mindanao, which is 63 percent Christian, but where Islamic supremacists seek to have a segregated, separate territory. In fact, to try to achieve peace by accommodating segregationist goals of such separatists, the Philippine government created an Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which has its own separate government (that the other Philippine citizens have to support 98 percent of its economy). The latest violence is the result of a Philippine Supreme Court decision that defies the Islamic ARMM territory from having the “right” to assimilate new cities and provinces to expand its separatist territory. The Philippine’s Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) jihad attacks have been defended by terrorist leader Abdurahman Macapaar who threatens total war on the Philippine citizens and states that “in the eyes of Allah we are not terrorists,” calling for “Islamic justice in Mindanao.” The horror of the Jihadist atrocities in the Philippines is lost on the U.S. Ambassador to Philippines Kristie Kenney who urges the Philippine government to negotiate with this same MILF organization, and dismisses the latest attacks as merely “a few bad days.”
The “regional conflict” perspective is so embedded among many policy analysts that there is no linkage between the Islamic supremacist ideology inspiring the Philippines Jihad resulting in 120,000 dead, the ongoing terror attacks (Jihad and Communist) in India with an estimated 60,000+ dead (TOI report, BJP report), the ongoing Jihad attacks in Thailand since 2004 with 2,700 dead, the thousands dead from Jihad in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the steady stream of Jihadist terror plots and Islamic supremacist abuses in the United Kingdom and Europe. The standard argument remains that a solution to this global threat must analyze the needs of the local communities in each area to find ways to discourage “extremism.” Moreover, since the victims are not in Iraq, they get minimal to no American mainstream media news coverage, except for wire news reports. Jihadist terror that has resulted in hundreds of thousands dead in other regions of the world is just not “news” to many American media outlets.
Why American Government Leadership Doesn’t Confront Jihad’s Supremacist Ideology
On July 13, 2008, the Washington Post published a column by former CIA member Glenn Carle who stated “[w]e do not face a global jihadist ‘movement’ but a series of disparate ethnic and religious conflicts involving Muslim populations, each of which remains fundamentally regional in nature and almost all of which long predate the existence of al-Qaeda.” This denial of anything “global” about Jihad and Islamic supremacism is the mantra of the mainstream media, intelligence agencies, government leaders, and too many in the counterterrorism community.
The idea that the Islamic supremacist ideology that is at the root of the women murdered by the Taliban in Pakistan on August 20, 2008 (crushing one of their faces) — is the same Islamic supremacist ideology that drove MILF Jihadists to dismember innocent Philippine citizens on August 18, 2008 — does not make sense to a policy world that view threats by regions, not by ideologies. Moreover, both U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson and U.S. Ambassador to Philippines Kristie Kenney have given credibility to proponents of this supremacist ideology in these countries. Ambassador Patterson has met with pro-Taliban, pro-Sharia leaders such as JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman to promote “free and fair elections.” Ambassador Kenney has called for negotiations with MILF a day after MILF’s jihadists were burning down buildings and dismembering Philippine citizens. This is who is representing America in the eyes of Islamic supremacists in these nations, which is another reason for the increasingly brazen acts by Jihadists in both countries.
To further prevent any confrontation of such an ideology, not only are threats specific to region, they are also considered to be nothing more than “extremism,” as stated in the 2008 National Defense Strategy Report authorized by Secretary Gates. The ambiguous term “extremism” provides politically correct coverage that a “threat” has been acknowledged while allowing agencies to still deny the nature or identity of the threat. A threat that cannot defined, however, is certainly not a strategy.
Yet in facing other supremacist threats, America’s counterterror analysts and governmental leaders did not take this tactic of creating barriers to ideological confrontation by creating regional categories and blurring the identity of the supremacist groups. This phenomenon is unique to the denial and fear of confrontation only when it comes to Islamic supremacism.
Why Denial is Not Part of American Historical Success against Supremacist Terror
Imagine the howls of outrage and disbelief from the majority of the American public and the mainstream media if 20th century counterterror analysts argued that white supremacist terrorism in Alabama was based on isolated incidents and local issues that were separate and different from white supremacist terrorism in Mississippi, in Michigan, on the West Coast, etc. Imagine how incredulous the public would be if analysts claimed if you had not spoken with whites in each of those community areas that you had no ability to recommend actions against white supremacism. Imagine the confusion if our government leaders had recommended that we not use the term “white supremacism” for fear that the very term would incite other whites to violence. Imagine the protests if analysts supported groups who praised scholars that supported segregationist policies or justified actions by white supremacist groups.
Yet these are precisely the failing tactics that American governmental and policy leaders are using and recommending regarding “extremism” (aka Islamic supremacism).
If 20th century counterterrorist and government leaders had used such tactics, we would have lost the war on white supremacism, and America would not have shown the courage of its convictions in defending the natural law that “all men are created equal.” In fact, America’s leadership was able to confront white supremacist ideology on a holistic, strategic basis, as a crushing, national effort against white supremacism throughout America in the 1960s through the 1980s. While that war continues today, the strength of national 20th century white supremacist ideology was smashed by a national relentless confrontation to every aspect of it that continues in cities, homes, offices, and public places today. As a result, the majority of the American public and mass media has zero tolerance for such white supremacism.
The question must be asked why American government leaders and policy analysts are now using tactics that fail to acknowledge our successes in fighting supremacism in the past.
Cold War Tactics to Fight Statists When Faced With Supremacists
In planning tactics against Jihad, an incorrect analogy gaining popularity in counterterrorism communities is the comparison of Islamic supremacism to the gradual Cold War efforts against Communism where some were encouraged to move from Communism to “Socialism” to merely being left-wing, as the nature of far-left statists evolved over decades. But looking at the evolution of a statist ideology in the same way as looking at an identity-based supremacist ideology (based on race, religion, etc.), is simply erroneous from both an ideological and a historical perspective.
I have previously pointed out that while there are some similarities in the activist nature of both the ideologies of Communism and Islamic supremacism, the latter has a true transnational activist appeal in that Islamic supremacism is not targeted merely at the transformation of states, but is targeted at the transformation and assimilation of individuals on a global basis.
All supremacist ideologies seek the transformation of individuals and their behavior, but the activist nature of Islamic supremacism is more dangerous in that it seeks assimilation as well as transformation of individuals. White supremacist Americans sought to impact the behavior of black Americans based on their supremacist ideology, but they never sought to convert them into white supremacists. Aryan supremacists sought to impact the behavior of Jews, but also did not seek to convert them into Aryan supremacists either. This is a boundary inherent in race-based supremacism.
But Islamic supremacism has no such boundaries either of state or of individual converts. Islamic supremacism has no limitations on assimilating others under its ideology. Islamic supremacism has the singular goal of total assimilation or submission of those not assimilated.
Therefore, not only are Cold War statist-based tactics not applicable to such a supremacist challenge, but also the regional categorization of threats is not applicable to such a supremacist challenge. In short, America’s predominant policies and tactics for fighting the Jihadist enemy are designed to fight a completely different enemy altogether. This inability by government leaders to recognize such shortcomings leaves America totally exposed in the war of ideas against Islamic supremacists. While the Islamic supremacist ideology behind Jihad is activist like Communism, the strategic lessons that need to be learned from history must be drawn from wars on identity-based supremacist ideologies.
Those who would seek to argue for cold war tactics against Al-Qaeda believe that the same Cold War approach to fighting Communism in shades of grey to “de-radicalize” individuals will work for supremacist ideologies as well. The challenge is that such tactical arguments fail to recognize that there are no “grey areas” in a supremacist ideology; it is a truly binary challenge.
Andrew Cochran’s July 23, 2008 posting of a commentary by Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker, Chairman of “Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East,” states:
“We need to understand the mentality of our fanatic fundamentalist enemies. Life is totally black or white for them — there are no shades of grey. Surviving a battle with the superior forces of their enemy is seen as a victory by them — proof that we in the West are too soft to defeat them ultimately.”
Yet those who would pursue Cold War tactics make the argument that by persuading individuals to take steps away from Islamic supremacist violence that we are winning a war of ideas. This argument believes that such “de-radicalization” successes can be demonstrated: (1) if an individual goes from actively supporting Al-Qaeda to “merely” supporting “defensive jihad” in Afghanistan and elsewhere, (2) if an individual goes from Jihad to political Islamism, (3) if an individual goes from terrorism to Wahhabism, Salafism, Khumeinism, or (4) if an individual still supports Islamic supremacism but is more a polite public “citizen” about their views. The “de-radicalization” theorists claim that such changes demonstrate western values winning a gradual war of ideas. In fact, this is only a change of tactics by supremacists, not a change in support for supremacist ideology at all.
A number in the counterterrorism community are comfortable with this incorrect argument that ignores the binary nature of supremacism, as such tactics suggest that persuasion (as opposed to confrontation) can be used to avoid inciting individuals to Jihadist terrorism and preventing them from “radicalization.” Today’s counterterrorism community is particularly vulnerable to this self-deception, due to its inherent focus on preventing terrorist violence, rather than a primary focus being the homeland security of our values of equality and liberty that defines America’s identity.
The Cold War Thinking That Equality and Liberty is Someone Else’s Fight
In addition to the failed government and policy perspectives focused on fighting an enemy different from Islamic supremacism, the actual change in the American sense of responsibility in our national defense is impacted by the Cold War history.
Of all the pernicious wrong-headed approaches that continue to be carried over from the Cold War, the worst of the Cold War ideas that are still alive in America is that our national security is someone else’s fight. The approach during the Cold War in dealing with a communist, statist enemy with clearly defined military, troops, and weapons, such as the USSR, was to maintain a centralized, paternalistic military command.
The logical idea was that such centralized national security gave America the technology and the intelligence to fight a statist enemy with nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. While this tactical strategy was focused on the long term war with that specific enemy, the unintentional impact was that Americans became dependent on a centralized military and intelligence infrastructure to take on the majority of the burden of such a fight. After the elimination of the military conscription in 1973 (with a brief return in 1980), the call for the citizens to make a personal, significant sacrifice was blurred to only seeking tax dollars for volunteer military personnel and contracted equipment.
But with the 9/11 jihadist attack on America’s homeland, many of us hoped that these attitudes had changed. To some extent, attitudes have changed among some Americans. Individuals around the nation have risen to the ideological challenge in researching Jihad and debating the war of ideas.
However, the majority of the American public has yet to fully realize that the battle in dealing with Islamic supremacism is truly their war and their personal responsibility, requiring their personal sacrifice and commitment. To a society used to being “led” by analysts, politicians, experts, mainstream media, this American public still has not yet grasped that it has to do its own research, reach its own conclusions, and tell its government representatives (in detail) what it seeks to have done to win this war. Some in a baby-boomer post-Cold War society find this terribly unfair. After all, isn’t this the government’s job? The simple answer is yes, if we want to lose the war against Islamic supremacism. Because what such government leaders and analysts have clearly demonstrated is that they are taking the wrong path, and academia, the media, and many analysts are keeping us on that wrong path.
In a representative democracy, fighting against supremacism and defending our values of equality and liberty is everyone’s fight. The Cold War is over. It is time for America’s baby-boomers to grow up. This is our generation’s challenge and defining moment.
Why Confrontation is Essential in Fighting Supremacism
Confrontation is unpleasant. Engagement is an easy sell to a confused, misinformed, frightened, uninspired, poorly led public. To American government leaders trying to develop tactics around “extremism,” the rat hole of engagement with an undefined ideology or enemy actually sounds better at government meetings and political discussions than the dreaded idea of “confrontation.” In our political world, Americans constantly seek “engagement,” because we believe that we can somehow persuade others of our viewpoints. We fail to understand that this perspective is unique to pluralistic democracies that value equality of opinion and ideas, and that value liberty of freedom of speech and press.
Moreover, American history is not a popular subject with collegians or with political analysts, especially in considering world issues. America’s pluralistic outlook to the world drives us to seek answers based on other experiences in the world and balance our views based on other ideologies. This willingness to be relativist on other cultures and values is usually laudable in an open-minded, creative nation.
However, when it come to dealing with Islamic supremacism, American leaders fail to recognize America’s own successes in dealing with supremacist ideologies and fail to recognize that there are supremacist cultures that are fundamentally inimical to natural laws of equality and liberty. Supremacism is not a negotiating, relativist culture. There are no half-measures with supremacism. Fighting supremacism is a life or death matter for America’s culture and for the defense of equality and liberty.
History shows that in fighting supremacist ideologies, only confrontation works. White supremacists were not persuaded to change their views on segregation and equality – they were confronted by force and by law. Aryan supremacists were not persuaded to change their views on Jewish individuals, homosexuals, and others – they were confronted by military force. Change in those who supported supremacist ideologies was not the result merely of arguments and fine words in literature and the press; changed happened due to direct confrontation. History shows that supremacists are not readily argued away, bought away, or persuaded away from their ideology in a process of “de-radicalization”; supremacists can change their tactics from time to time to allow non-supremacist authorities to let down their guard, to allow for rebuilding and infiltration, and to develop other less obvious tactics of recruitment. A supremacist’s change in tactics is not the same as a change in ideology – a war of ideas that merely seeks to change supremacist tactics, not fight in defense of equality, is not a “war of ideas” at all — and is merely a plea to be “left alone.”
American counterterrorism analysts need only to consult their own national history for lessons on fighting supremacism. The 1869 federal grand jury declaration that the Ku Klux Klan was a terrorist group did not end white supremacist activism in America. The 1929 arrest of Ku Klux Klan leaders by the FBI did not end white supremacist activism in America. The 1960s arrest of Ku Klux Klan leaders by the FBI did not end white supremacist activism in America. Arrests of Ku Klux Klan terrorists, arguments to persuade white supremacists to change, none of these alone were sufficient to break the back of the white supremacist ideology. Consistent, total, and unwavering confrontation was required. What American history demonstrated was that there were no shades of grey in fighting white supremacism. Tolerating some supremacist activities merely allowed for the re-growth of other more violent supremacist activities to rise up again. It took America 100 years to learn this vital lesson that there are no “half-way” measures in defending equality and there are no “half-way” measures in fighting supremacism. Why is this costly, painful lesson ignored by those leaders who are responsible for fighting Islamic supremacism today? Because we are allowing them to ignore these lessons. Our government is representative of its people; it is past time that American citizens concerned about Islamic supremacism speak out on the imperative need to use lessons from our history in confronting today’s challenges on Islamic supremacism.
A Solution in Defying Supremacism with Equality
Equality is the one thing that supremacists can not and will not tolerate. The natural law that “all men are created equal” is America’s strongest weapon against supremacists of every kind.
A proof of this is found in previous efforts of supremacist organizations to attempt to infiltrate and influence the American people. White supremacists could not and would not tolerate equality. When they were losing the war, they offered the segregationist compromise of “separate-but-equal” schools, public facilities, etc. Aryan supremacists also could not tolerate equality. The Nazi German American Bund that sought to infiltrate America did their best to pretend to be patriotic, complete with a birthday celebration to George Washington, and calls for “liberty.” But the Nazi Aryan supremacists could not address the idea of equality, it choked in their throats.
In Europe, the continuing publicity by courageous women against Islamic supremacism has led to similar fractioning of Islamic supremacists. Even now, in the UK, Islamic supremacists are offering similar “separate-but-equal” new “rights” for women using a new charter under Sharia law (when British women already have equal rights under British law). The vast and obvious inequalities between men and women in Islamic supremacism are recognized as a fault line in the supremacists’ global campaign. Of all the strategies that Americans should be concentrating on, the vital need to publicize the failure of Islamic supremacism when it comes to women’s rights is the most promising near-term topic in the war of ideas.
Equality has been a threat to Islamic supremacists around the world and in international organizations. It is their greatest fear and is America’s strongest weapon. But in promoting equality as a measure against Islamic supremacism, it must be understood that such confrontation will require a more aggressive war of ideas. Our respect for equality in a diverse nation is something that Islamic supremacists must attack. In fact, a nation dedicated to equality is indeed Islamic supremacists’ greatest threat.
Those who seek to solely avoid additional violence will discourage this confrontation. Those who seek to demonstrate the courage of their convictions on equality and liberty will demand it.
Why Equality Will Defeat Supremacism
A supremacist society is dependent on its rigidity, conformance, and limited perspective in defining WHAT IS based on reinforcing the supremacist perspective. A supremacist society is dependent on its lie of a singular superiority of identity to control its populace. Without defending its lie of superiority, a supremacist society will crumble. When challenged by others who don’t accept its supremacist ideology, a supremacist society will either crush those who don’t conform, or if it is weak, it will call for so-called “separate-but-equal” segregation until it can gain more strength.
A nation dedicated to ensuring equality creates a transformational society. An egalitarian society utilizes its infinite diversity, creativity, and unlimited vision to define what COULD BE based on it acceptance of equality as a fundamental value. An egalitarian society can weather any storm and can transform its skills, talents, and focus to meet the needs of overall population. Its basis in the natural law of equality gives it transformational advantages over any other society. The concept of “separate-but-equal” segregation of the population is illogical in an egalitarian society which draws its strength from its diversity and unlimited ability to use its population in endlessly diverse combinations and permutations to promote human liberty and progress.
As a transformational, egalitarian society, Americans can seek to reinvent the American experience in ways that allow continuing new opportunities and liberties for fellow citizens to grow and contribute to their communities, their families, and themselves. Our societal development is based on the fundamental natural laws of individual equality and liberty. Our egalitarian ability to transform is multi-dimensional – it occurs on an individual, family, community, and national basis.
This is why supremacism will ultimately lose to America. No matter what weapons are used against Americans, no matter what attacks are made on America, its foundation in equality makes it a transformational society that allows infinite ways to defend itself, respond to attacks, rebuild and restore itself, and continue an endless war against its supremacist adversaries.
But every battle, like every journey, requires a first step. That first step for America in this war is in recognizing that it is neither “extremism” nor “terrorism” that it is fighting — it is fighting the very idea of Islamic supremacism.
Our courage today creates the future that we leave our children tomorrow.