Fareed Zakaria “The conversation at Davos is often dominated by economics and this year is no different. But the shock of the Paris terror attacks lingers and discussion has often turned here this week to radical Islam.
The death of King Abdullah has underscored those concerns because of Saudi Arabia’s complicated relationship with Islamic fundamentalist ideology. I posited last week that the solution does not lie in more American military interventions in the Middle East.
But what, then, is the answer? The problem is deep and structural, as I wrote a few weeks after 9/11 in “Newsweek” in an essay titled “Why They Hate Us.” The Arab world has been ruled for decades by repressive, mostly secular dictatorship. That in turn spawned extreme, mostly religious, opposition movement. The more repressive the regime, the more extreme the opposition.
Islam became the language of opposition because it was the one language that could not be shut down or censored. Now the old Arab order is crumbling, but it has only led to instability and opportunities for jihadi groups to thrive in the new badlands.
Over the last few decades this radical Islamist ideology has been globalized. Initially fueled by Saudi money and Arab dissenters, imams, and intellectuals, it has taken on a life of its own. Today radical Islam is the default ideology of anger, discontent and violent opposition for a small number of alienated young Muslim men around the world. Only Muslims and particularly Arabs can cure this cancer.
That doesn’t leave America and the West helpless. Washington and its allies can support Muslim moderates, help these societies modernize and integrate those that do into the world. But that’s for the long haul. Meanwhile, they must adopt a strategy that has four elements — intelligence, counterterrorism, integration, and resilience.
Intelligence is obviously the first line of defense, but also attack. We have to know where jihadis and potential jihadis are and what they are planning. That means using sophisticated technology, yes, to search through various kinds of communications. But it also and crucially means developing good relations with Muslim communities. Because only they can early on identify the potential troublemakers.
Counterterrorism is the natural follow-on to intelligence. When you know where the bad guys are, capture or kill them. It’s easier said than done, of course, but the United States and other Western nations have had considerable success with this tactic, not only in war zones like Afghanistan and Pakistan but also in intercepting plots on their way to cities likes Paris and London.
We must always remember, though, counterterrorism has its down sides. For instance, while drone attacks look seamless from the skies, they inevitably produce civilian casualties.
Integration is third. It’s something America does well and with which Europe struggles. One of the chief reasons that America has not had as many problems as many predicted after 9/11 is that its Muslim community is well integrated, largely loyal, and believes in American values.
Finally, resilience. Terrorism is an unusual tactic. It doesn’t work if we are not terrorized. Bouncing back, returning to normalcy, these are all ways of ensuring that terrorism does not have its desired effect. We’ve not always managed to do this. In recent months, we have massively overreacted to the ISIS execution videos, which is why they were produced in the first place. The Paris attacks were barbaric, as were those in Ottawa, Sydney, London, Madrid and Ft. Hood. But one way to gain perspective might be to keep in mind the numbers. According to the global terrorism database, in the 12 years between September 12th, 2001 and 2013, the number of Americans who have died on U.S. soil due to terrorism is 42.
Meanwhile in one year alone, 2011, the CDC reports that 32,351 Americans died because of firearms in one year. The number who died in car and truck accidents in that same year was 33,783. So keep calm and carry on is more than a slogan to wear on a T-shirt. ”