Muftic: Our struggle with ISIS is about twenty-somethings
Many familiar with ISIS and international terrorism call the battle with the rest of the Muslim world and modern civilization a generational one, taking years to play out. Others claim the Obama foreign policy is a failure because it has been unable to stop ISIS or terrorism within his term in office or he has no strategy. His critics do not have a strategy either that differs much from what the White House is already executing. Instead, they argue over the President’s definition of terms. Semantics will not defeat terrorists. Actions which take into account the long term nature, the cause, and communication methods of this generational movement will. A new President that does not understand this could even increase threats to our national security.
What both the San Bernardino and the Paris attacks had in common is that they were carried out by twenty something year olds from a generation, some of whom will have those violent values in their psyches for years to come. They use special means of communication that can inspire and instruct lone wolves, sleeper cells, and coordinate attacks. Terrorists do not communicate by phone so metadata collection has intelligence gathering limitations in preventing attacks. They use encrypted internet sites and social media. So far the purveyors of those services have taken little action against these hidden methods.
There is a force against ISIS that is also generational. They are uneasy bedfellows over which no government has control. The battle of the 20 something nerds has begun with a group of secret, controversial skilled hackers who work outside the law world- wide like modern Robin Hoods. They call themselves Anonymous and the Paris attacks that victimized mostly 20 somethings mobilized them to focus their weapons on ISIS. They claim they have the ability to crack encrypted messages, and sabotage social media and websites. Unlike Silicon Valley, they have the will to do it.
Some GOP candidates for president try to exude personal power, telling us they will stop the spread of terrorism with domestic policies that make hash of the principles and values of the Constitution. This is as much of a war against ideologies requiring tactical finesse as it is a physical one.
Lowering ourselves to ISIS’ method of torture and fear or trampling civil rights of Muslims in the US is fighting fire with gasoline. It puts us in greater danger of turning more young domestic Muslims against us in anger and resentment, increasing self -radicalization and loan wolf attacks.
We may have the firepower to stamp out the Caliphate within their land borders if we choose to do an Iraq style invasion, but we will not stamp out the spread of their ideology and copycat tactics to other countries. As the President noted, we cannot bomb ideas from these young peoples’ heads.
What we also know is that Western boots alone on the ground only gave rise and continuing fuel to ISIS. We must undertake a delicate dance of balancing multinational military and police force with ideological appeal to those who just want to get on with their day to day lives and find our values give them that opportunity.
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