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The Islamist Challenge to American Security
by Frank J. Gaffney, October 19, 2004
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Middle East Quarterly*
Summer 2004
http://www.meforum.org/article/639
Audio recording available at http://www.meforum.org/audio/
* Cross-posted with permission

Frank J. Gaffney is founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC. He earned his AM in international studies from John's Hopkins University. A former deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, Mr. Gaffney's articles have appeared in Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, New Republic, Newsday, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. He is a contributing editor to National Review Online. Mr. Gaffney addressed the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia on September 22, 2004.

The threat of terror is the most direct challenge to the stability of America as a functioning country. The term used by politicians and the media to describe America's response to this threat the "War on Terror" is a misnomer, however. The war is actually a war against those who foment and support terror. In this respect, it is really a "War on Islamism," known also as fundamentalist Islam.

There are five essential principles the U.S. must follow if it wishes to win this "War on Islamism" and severely curtail and eventually eliminate the threat of Islamic terror.

Define U.S. enemies

First, America must clearly define its enemies. These enemies include all groups and nations that participate in terrorist activities by means of carrying out attacks, providing financial and military aid to terrorists, and lending logistical support to the overall pernicious goals of Islamic fundamentalism. Organizations like al-Qaeda typify this definition of a U.S. enemy. Equally discernable as enemies of the U.S. under the same definition are countries such as Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea, and formerly, Saddam's Iraq.

The regimes that collaborate with terrorists are just as dangerous as al-Qaeda because terrorist cells could not operate nearly as effectively without state sponsorship. The people who believe the American war on Iraq was a diversion from the real war against terror are missing the point entirely. Saddam's Iraq willingly provided Islamists with an array of support as part of retaliation for the 1991 liberation of Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. Eliminating his regime was a proactive step in the "War on Islamism" and a grave message to all other enemy regimes and organizations that offer aid to Islamic terrorists.

Define U.S. friends

Second, America must clearly define its true friends. These are the nations that share America's values and sense of morality. Israel is at the top of the list of countries along with Britain, Australia, and Japan. India and several countries that escaped tyranny in central and eastern Europe probably also qualify as friends.

In the same spirit, America must examine its "so-called friends." Leaders in this category include Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan, for example, helped out in the "War on Islamism" over the last few years; previously, however, Pakistan actually supported the growth of terror networks in Afghanistan. The nation has only been on the U.S. side since 9/11 because an alliance with America better serves Pakistani interests than its former pre-9/11 alliance with the deposed Taliban regime. This fair weather alliance is not a friendship. Saudi Arabia, also presents itself as a friend of America and supporter in the global fight against terrorists. Yet it is hard to find a government that supports and invests more in Islamism than the Saudi regime. Currently, manifestations of this involvement exist both within the country and outside via doctrinal religious intolerance and financial support for terrorists.

Taking the war to the terrorists

The pursuit of an offensive strategy is the third crucial principle in the "War Against Islamism." America must take the war to the terrorists rather than waiting for the terrorists to strike first. The war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq exemplify this strategy. Although currently unfinished, they are important steps within a long-term strategy to eradicate the enemy. As a result of American intervention, these nations no longer have the capability to substantially support terror from a state sponsorship role.

Improved homeland security

Better homeland security is the fourth principle the U.S. must follow to ensure the defeat of Islamism. Terrorists have the ability to smuggle unconventional weapons into the country and use them against Americans. Although America has a very limited capability to eliminate all possible threats of this kind, stricter border and port security in addition to better detection technology limit the potential for terrorist attacks.

Economic offensive against Islamists

The fifth principle is to empower individual Americans is by making them aware that they can economically damage Islamism and regimes that assist in terrorist activities. Many Americans have investments in publicly traded companies that do business with regimes that willingly and openly support Islamic terrorism. Some of these stocks even come through pension funds and other retirement funds.

Unfortunately, most people who hold these investments are unaware of this issue. However, they are entitled to know about this problem so that they can make moral choices and play an assertive role in combating terror. The website www.divestterror.org provides more information about investments. Importantly, from a financial perspective, if a company sells items to a pro-Islamist regime, and that regime uses these items in an attack, then the stock of the company will fall and consequently hurt all shareholders.

Conclusion

Ultimately, if America does everything in its ability to adopt the first four principles, it still will not succeed against the Islamist threat without adopting also the fifth: working to obtain the sustained support of the American people. In order to garner this support, something must be done to give Americans a sense of empowerment in combating potential terrorism. The concept of divestment as an economic weapon will give Americans a personal opportunity to combat terror and will also be a key instrument in fighting the "War on Islamism."



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