Defeating Terrorism Overseas and Civilization Jihad at Home

With regard to foreign policy and issues of war and peace, it’s important to reflect on history to understand how the fighting of wars has changed and what is at stake today for all Americans. Looking back over the last century, World War I and II, had ideological components and but the main events were full-blown military engagements that entailed massive loss of life, property and the destruction of entire cities. What some have referred to as World War III has had more ideological components, and lesser military conflicts -- at least so far.

It turns out that although conflicts may have been and appear to continue to be smaller and more regional, modern warfare has also evolved into two-front engagements that have elements of total war -- the front line of specific military conflicts, like in Vietnam, and the second front waged by the enemy within our borders for the basic purpose of delegitimizing war efforts and undermining the will to fight. The Vietnam War experience showed that we could win on the battlefield abroad but lose in public opinion at home. The specific lessons of that conflict were twofold: 1) War requires clear objectives and an expedient path to victory because the media and public have no stomach for protracted conflict; and 2) Warfighting strategy requires a domestic component to counter the enemy’s sympathizers, supporters and surrogates, who live within our borders and are likely to engage in active measures and propaganda to turn hearts and minds and delegitimize the U.S. war effort.  

As former Romanian spymaster Lt. General Ion Pacepa -- the highest ranking official ever to defect to America from the Soviet intelligence community -- has said, communists have actually preferred to wage war through deception, disinformation, and propaganda so as to influence public perception through the target country’s media rather than to engage militarily. The general goals -- Pacepa points out -- are to promote self-doubt and weaken the political resolve of the democratic country to fight and achieve its objectives.    

The Cold War, sometimes equated to the first stage of World War III, was a standoff between the Marxist East Bloc-led Soviet Union and the Western democracies led by the United States. It started almost from the time the Potsdam Declaration brought the Second World War to a close in 1945 to about 1990, when the Berlin Wall came down and the East bloc countries broke free of Soviet domination. The so-called peace dividend that followed proved short-lived, with increasing Islamist terrorist attacks primarily on the U.S. homeland, military facilities and embassies around the world, starting with the first bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.

As Harvard University’s Samuel Huntington made clear -- a few years after that World Trade Center bombing -- in his 1997 classic, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order: “The twentieth-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxism-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity.”

The fact is that the collapse of Soviet-style communism removed a common enemy of both the West and Islam, at least for a time, which has left those two remaining sides as apparent threats to each other. U.S. and NATO member interventions in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 were naturally perceived negatively among many in the Middle East and Arab world. Yet there continued to be a modus vivendi between the U.S. and the Western democracies with the political regimes of most of the Sunni Islamic countries.

The real threat has been the growing radical Islamist subgroups within countries with Islamic populations -- such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and Hizb’allah, to name only a few -- many of which have been enlarging their bases of operations, committing horrendous human rights abuse -- including genocide -- and threatening regional stability. This is the “War on Terror” that was declared by President George W. Bush after 9/11. And while the threat has grown, President Obama’s continuation of the war against terrorists has been feckless with insufficient resolve. U.S. policies have been guided by political correctness, while the radical Islamists, aka Jihadis, are on a mission and committed to waging war to defeat and subjugate the Christian, but largely secular Western countries led by the United States and also of course the Jewish state of Israel in particular. The recent upsurge of Islamist terrorist strikes in Europe and the U.S. require a new comprehensive approach to the war on Islamist terror.

Some in the U.S. intelligence agencies recognize that Islamists’ strategy to take down the U.S. and the West is a two-front war that includes terrorist strikes on the one hand and subliminal ideological warfare on the other. Islamists have learned from the Marxist-Leninist playbook that emphasized rear guard actions within the target country. Fifth Column initiatives from overt Islamist front groups and from Islamist sympathizers in privileged positions in the U.S. -- in the universities, the media and government -- have proven very successful and have had a disproportionately large impact on the shaping and conduct of U.S. policy.

The Holy Land Foundation terror-funding trial in 2008 should have been a wakeup call to the full scope of the Islamist threat. Through the discovery process associated with that trial, extensive primary source evidence was presented on Islamist front groups operating within the U.S. They were numerous, able to raise significant sums and were ideologically disciplined. One such front group founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) had grown from its first chapter in 1964 to about 120 chapters at the time of 9/11/2001. In spite of the 9/11 attack, by 2008 there was a tripling of the number of college and university MSA chapters across North America.

Contained within an internal Brotherhood document that was presented into evidence during the Holy Land Foundation terror funding trial, was the disclosure that the Muslim Brotherhood understood its main work in the U.S. as “civilization jihad”:  

“The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

What is most astonishing about this -- coming as it did in the last year of the Bush Administration -- is that it had such little effect on Americans thinking and U.S. public policy. As it turned out, the ongoing disinformation, ideology, and influence of pro-Islamic individuals and front groups had more sway over changes to U.S. law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, and military training and operations than did any of the primary source documents from Islamists that came out in the Holy Land Foundation trial.

While the Bush administration was pursuing the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood was pursuing “civilization jihad” in the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report published in 2004 contained hundreds of instances of the use of words like “Jihad,” “Muslim,” and “Sharia.” Four years later, by 2008, with input and influence brought to bear from many sympathetic to and associated with Brotherhood affiliate organizations, all those words and terms were entirely eliminated from the FBI’s “Counterterrorism Lexicon” publication, a key document informing other U.S. government agencies involved with intelligence and defense.

Consider that in the very next year, when self-described “soldier of Allah” Nidal Hassan killed 13 in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting spree, the Defense Department recorded the incident as “workplace violence”’ not an Islamist terrorist attack. In fact, the DOD bureaucracy had already chosen to purge West Point and the Naval War College training of all “vital references to Islamist ideology driving terrorism or conflating terrorism with Islam.”

In 2011 the FBI extended its Counterterrorism Lexicon agenda and systematically purged its counterterrorism training manuals of some 900 pages that were considered offensive to Muslims. By 2012, the other areas of the Executive Branch, including DHS, DOJ and the State Department had eliminated all instructors and training curriculum that associated Islamic terms, doctrine, law, and Quranic scripture with terrorism. In addition, the NSA’s most sweeping digital communication surveillance program, known as PRISM, was revamped to exclude monitoring communication within and from Islamic mosques, rendering them virtual communication safe-houses -- now numbering over 3,000 in the U.S.            

Fast forward to June 2016. Just days before Omar Mateen committed his terrorist slaughter in the name of ISIS at an Orlando nightclub, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s Homeland Security Advisory Council made its “Countering Violent Extremism” recommendations, specifically instructing DHS personnel to once again avoid using any language that might be “disrespectful” to Muslims, including (but not limited to) the words “jihad,” “sharia” and “takfir.”

Of the 2016 presidential candidates, Donald Trump is the one who has committed to a swift military defeat of ISIS and the Islamic State caliphate. His pledge to conduct “ideological warfare” against ISIS articulated in his first major foreign policy speech is encouraging and absolutely vital for success in the long run.

It’s absurd and even suicidal for U.S. intelligence, defense, and the executive branch to continue with a unilateral rejection and blindness to the vocabulary necessary to describe, understand, and counter Islamist terrorist enemies. The evidence that shows just how successful Islamists’ rear guard influence operations have been in affecting the highest levels of U.S. government is a matter of record. It is time to name the enemy and lift the politically correct prohibition on using the words and terms that explain the ideology and intentions of those who are committed to our destruction and subjugation. 

The 2016 presidential election is critical. At stake is not just the security of the United States, but also the values of Western civilization that trace back more than 2000 years.

What is needed is a leader with an unusual combination of both courage to face the facts and an unwavering patriotic conviction to decisively and effectively defeat the clear and present danger on two fronts -- both overseas and within. 

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Seattle-based Discovery Institute and managing partner at RemingtonRand LLC. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org

With regard to foreign policy and issues of war and peace, it’s important to reflect on history to understand how the fighting of wars has changed and what is at stake today for all Americans. Looking back over the last century, World War I and II, had ideological components and but the main events were full-blown military engagements that entailed massive loss of life, property and the destruction of entire cities. What some have referred to as World War III has had more ideological components, and lesser military conflicts -- at least so far.

It turns out that although conflicts may have been and appear to continue to be smaller and more regional, modern warfare has also evolved into two-front engagements that have elements of total war -- the front line of specific military conflicts, like in Vietnam, and the second front waged by the enemy within our borders for the basic purpose of delegitimizing war efforts and undermining the will to fight. The Vietnam War experience showed that we could win on the battlefield abroad but lose in public opinion at home. The specific lessons of that conflict were twofold: 1) War requires clear objectives and an expedient path to victory because the media and public have no stomach for protracted conflict; and 2) Warfighting strategy requires a domestic component to counter the enemy’s sympathizers, supporters and surrogates, who live within our borders and are likely to engage in active measures and propaganda to turn hearts and minds and delegitimize the U.S. war effort.  

As former Romanian spymaster Lt. General Ion Pacepa -- the highest ranking official ever to defect to America from the Soviet intelligence community -- has said, communists have actually preferred to wage war through deception, disinformation, and propaganda so as to influence public perception through the target country’s media rather than to engage militarily. The general goals -- Pacepa points out -- are to promote self-doubt and weaken the political resolve of the democratic country to fight and achieve its objectives.    

The Cold War, sometimes equated to the first stage of World War III, was a standoff between the Marxist East Bloc-led Soviet Union and the Western democracies led by the United States. It started almost from the time the Potsdam Declaration brought the Second World War to a close in 1945 to about 1990, when the Berlin Wall came down and the East bloc countries broke free of Soviet domination. The so-called peace dividend that followed proved short-lived, with increasing Islamist terrorist attacks primarily on the U.S. homeland, military facilities and embassies around the world, starting with the first bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.

As Harvard University’s Samuel Huntington made clear -- a few years after that World Trade Center bombing -- in his 1997 classic, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order: “The twentieth-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxism-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity.”

The fact is that the collapse of Soviet-style communism removed a common enemy of both the West and Islam, at least for a time, which has left those two remaining sides as apparent threats to each other. U.S. and NATO member interventions in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 were naturally perceived negatively among many in the Middle East and Arab world. Yet there continued to be a modus vivendi between the U.S. and the Western democracies with the political regimes of most of the Sunni Islamic countries.

The real threat has been the growing radical Islamist subgroups within countries with Islamic populations -- such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and Hizb’allah, to name only a few -- many of which have been enlarging their bases of operations, committing horrendous human rights abuse -- including genocide -- and threatening regional stability. This is the “War on Terror” that was declared by President George W. Bush after 9/11. And while the threat has grown, President Obama’s continuation of the war against terrorists has been feckless with insufficient resolve. U.S. policies have been guided by political correctness, while the radical Islamists, aka Jihadis, are on a mission and committed to waging war to defeat and subjugate the Christian, but largely secular Western countries led by the United States and also of course the Jewish state of Israel in particular. The recent upsurge of Islamist terrorist strikes in Europe and the U.S. require a new comprehensive approach to the war on Islamist terror.

Some in the U.S. intelligence agencies recognize that Islamists’ strategy to take down the U.S. and the West is a two-front war that includes terrorist strikes on the one hand and subliminal ideological warfare on the other. Islamists have learned from the Marxist-Leninist playbook that emphasized rear guard actions within the target country. Fifth Column initiatives from overt Islamist front groups and from Islamist sympathizers in privileged positions in the U.S. -- in the universities, the media and government -- have proven very successful and have had a disproportionately large impact on the shaping and conduct of U.S. policy.

The Holy Land Foundation terror-funding trial in 2008 should have been a wakeup call to the full scope of the Islamist threat. Through the discovery process associated with that trial, extensive primary source evidence was presented on Islamist front groups operating within the U.S. They were numerous, able to raise significant sums and were ideologically disciplined. One such front group founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) had grown from its first chapter in 1964 to about 120 chapters at the time of 9/11/2001. In spite of the 9/11 attack, by 2008 there was a tripling of the number of college and university MSA chapters across North America.

Contained within an internal Brotherhood document that was presented into evidence during the Holy Land Foundation terror funding trial, was the disclosure that the Muslim Brotherhood understood its main work in the U.S. as “civilization jihad”:  

“The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

What is most astonishing about this -- coming as it did in the last year of the Bush Administration -- is that it had such little effect on Americans thinking and U.S. public policy. As it turned out, the ongoing disinformation, ideology, and influence of pro-Islamic individuals and front groups had more sway over changes to U.S. law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, and military training and operations than did any of the primary source documents from Islamists that came out in the Holy Land Foundation trial.

While the Bush administration was pursuing the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood was pursuing “civilization jihad” in the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report published in 2004 contained hundreds of instances of the use of words like “Jihad,” “Muslim,” and “Sharia.” Four years later, by 2008, with input and influence brought to bear from many sympathetic to and associated with Brotherhood affiliate organizations, all those words and terms were entirely eliminated from the FBI’s “Counterterrorism Lexicon” publication, a key document informing other U.S. government agencies involved with intelligence and defense.

Consider that in the very next year, when self-described “soldier of Allah” Nidal Hassan killed 13 in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting spree, the Defense Department recorded the incident as “workplace violence”’ not an Islamist terrorist attack. In fact, the DOD bureaucracy had already chosen to purge West Point and the Naval War College training of all “vital references to Islamist ideology driving terrorism or conflating terrorism with Islam.”

In 2011 the FBI extended its Counterterrorism Lexicon agenda and systematically purged its counterterrorism training manuals of some 900 pages that were considered offensive to Muslims. By 2012, the other areas of the Executive Branch, including DHS, DOJ and the State Department had eliminated all instructors and training curriculum that associated Islamic terms, doctrine, law, and Quranic scripture with terrorism. In addition, the NSA’s most sweeping digital communication surveillance program, known as PRISM, was revamped to exclude monitoring communication within and from Islamic mosques, rendering them virtual communication safe-houses -- now numbering over 3,000 in the U.S.            

Fast forward to June 2016. Just days before Omar Mateen committed his terrorist slaughter in the name of ISIS at an Orlando nightclub, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s Homeland Security Advisory Council made its “Countering Violent Extremism” recommendations, specifically instructing DHS personnel to once again avoid using any language that might be “disrespectful” to Muslims, including (but not limited to) the words “jihad,” “sharia” and “takfir.”

Of the 2016 presidential candidates, Donald Trump is the one who has committed to a swift military defeat of ISIS and the Islamic State caliphate. His pledge to conduct “ideological warfare” against ISIS articulated in his first major foreign policy speech is encouraging and absolutely vital for success in the long run.

It’s absurd and even suicidal for U.S. intelligence, defense, and the executive branch to continue with a unilateral rejection and blindness to the vocabulary necessary to describe, understand, and counter Islamist terrorist enemies. The evidence that shows just how successful Islamists’ rear guard influence operations have been in affecting the highest levels of U.S. government is a matter of record. It is time to name the enemy and lift the politically correct prohibition on using the words and terms that explain the ideology and intentions of those who are committed to our destruction and subjugation. 

The 2016 presidential election is critical. At stake is not just the security of the United States, but also the values of Western civilization that trace back more than 2000 years.

What is needed is a leader with an unusual combination of both courage to face the facts and an unwavering patriotic conviction to decisively and effectively defeat the clear and present danger on two fronts -- both overseas and within. 

Scott Powell is senior fellow at Seattle-based Discovery Institute and managing partner at RemingtonRand LLC. Reach him at scottp@discovery.org