As the war with ISIS heats up, so too does the debate over what it will take to win. Immediately following Obama’s announcement of air strikes against ISIS, the debate centered on whether air power was enough or whether the United States also needed to commit boots on the ground.
However, in recent days the focus has shifted to the war of ideas. The now infamous verbal brawl between Ben Affleck and Sam Harris on the Bill Maher show is just one sign that more and more people are identifying the ideology of jihad as the main front in this war.
General Jonathan Shaw, former Assistant Chief of the UK Defence Staff, said in a recent interview with The Telegraph that the war against ISIS will not be won militarily. This battle must be fought ideologically and politically. He said the heart of the problem is Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s funding of militant Salafism. Saudi Arabia has long funded radical mosques and Islamic cultural centers across the globe, and Qatar supports Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, considered the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Al Jazeera, the pro-Muslim Brotherhood news outlet. But these efforts have now backfired. According to General Shaw: “This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education, Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money and that must stop. And the question then is ‘does bombing people over there really tackle that?’ I don’t think so. I’d far rather see a much stronger handle on the ideological battle than the physical battle.”
Even President Obama, who spends much of his energy insisting that Islam is a religion of peace and that ISIS has nothing to do with real Islam, acknowledged that ideology might have some role here. In his September 24 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, he said, “It is time for the world — especially Muslim communities — to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al Qaeda and ISIL.” But as Bill Gertz points out in a recent article, in fact the Obama administration is not engaging in the ideological war. They simply refuse to engage the Islamists on the battlefield of ideas. Gertz quotes Quintan Wiktorowicz, an architect of U.S. counter-extremism strategy, who blames this failure on Constitutional constraints:
Written by KATIE GORKA
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