Tuesday, July 13, 2010


*** Scary thing is, the people entrusted with guarding the gate - don't know where to start. MANY from the Muslim community have given their feedback but it falls on deaf ears. There needs to be a serious change in culture otherwise we're in for a some real trouble. MS ***

Fighting the Ideological Battle: The Missing Link in U.S. Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism
By Matthew Levitt

As nonaffiliate terrorist actors begin to take center stage and al-Qaeda's core strength diminishes, it has become clear that America is at war with a larger enemy: the extremist ideology that fuels and supports Islamist violence. Unfortunately, the United States is not well equipped to fight on this ideological battleground, and U.S. efforts to confront the ideology worldwide have not kept pace with more successful military targeting of high-level al-Qaeda leaders.

In a new Washington Institute Strategic Report my co-authors and I argue that rather than avoid any mention of the religious motivation behind the terrorism of al-Qaeda and other like-minded organizations, the Obama administration should sharpen the distinction between the religion of Islam and the political ideology of radical Islamism to successfully defeat Islamist terrorism at its most fundamental source.

Engagement and counterterrorism are key elements of this comprehensive strategy, we argue, but the wide space between them must be addressed. Missing are the policies and programs that should suffuse the space between these two poles on the counterradicalization spectrum, including efforts to contest the extremist narrative of radicalizers, empower and network mainstream voices countering extremism, promote diversity of ideas and means of expression, and challenge extremist voices and ideas in the public domain. Contesting the radical Islamist narrative does not mean arresting or banning despicable but protected speech; rather, it means openly contesting extremist views by offering alternatives and fostering deeper ideological debate. The objective in either case is to strengthen the moderate center against the extremist pole and help Muslim communities become more resilient in confronting the challenge.

This report, Fighting the Ideological Battle: The Missing Link in U.S. Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, follows on the Institute's 2009 bipartisan Presidential Task Force report Rewriting the Narrative: An Integrated Strategy for Counterradicalization. It is a joint project of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and Project Fikra: Defeating Extremism through the Power of Ideas.

This new report recognizes the important steps the Obama administration has taken to address violent extremism and suggests ways to address remaining gaps in U.S. homeland security and foreign policy. The report has benefited from a series of interviews with administration officials at numerous cabinet level agencies and the White House and is the product of a small study group including myself, my Washington Institute colleague J Scott Carpenter, and former White House counterterrorism officials Steven Simon and Juan Zarate.

Access the report at: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC04.php?CID=332