How to Fight Terrorism

How to Fight Terrorism

Mini Teaser: Radical Islam is its own worst enemy. It will marginalize itself unless the United States overreacts.

by Author(s): Daniel Byman

The implications of radical Islam's weak appeal are profound for the question of whether the United States should promote democracy. One oft-heard criticism of pushing for democracy is that it will empower followers of Bin Laden, not followers of Thomas Jefferson. However, if Takeyh and Gvosdev are right, by pushing the rule of law and legitimate elections, the most extreme voices are likely to lose out. Those who take power would not necessarily be Washington's friends, but the worst nightmare--a peaceful jihadist takeover of a country via U.S.-supported elections--is highly unlikely. Even if anti-American but peaceful Islamists win, their probable poor performance in power is likely to discredit their cause.

Takeyh and Gvosdev's findings also suggest that U.S. foreign policy may be too focused on Al-Qaeda and the broader problem of Islamic radicals. Because  radical Islamism's ideology may be in retreat and its appeal limited, the United State is facing a foe that often defeats itself. The lack of appeal of the jihadists' own program offers perhaps the greatest opportunity for the United States. Although opinion of the United States in the Muslim world is often dismal, this does not mean that those advocating violence are popular.

Through effective public diplomacy, the United States can make these movements even less popular. The key is not for the United States to be loved, but rather for our enemy to be scorned. This would not involve simply selling America as the Muslim world's secret friend, but rather the far easier task of pointing out the brutality and poor record of radical Islamists in and out of power.

Essay Types: Book Review