In the first 100 years after the death of Mohammed (a.d. 632)`, Islamic jihad conquered most of the known world except Western Europe. Christian forces blocked the first century of Islamic conquest at the very bloody Battle of Tours on October 10, 732. Islamic jihad continued to threaten the very existence of Christianity throughout the next millennium. October 7, 1571, marked the destruction of Islamic jihad’s massive fleet by the Holy League fleet in the Aegean Sea.
More than a century later, Islamic jihad, having conquered the Middle East and most of Eastern Europe, had surrounded and besieged the crown jewel of Western Christendom, Vienna. If Vienna fell to Islam, all of Western Europe would be likely to follow. After a two-month siege of Vienna, relief forces from Poland and Germany arrived.
The battle for relief of Vienna began on September 11, 1683, and ended with the rout of the Islamic forces the following day. On September 11, 1697, Prince Eugene caught and routed a large Islamic army and delivered a decisive blow at the Battle of Zenta.
In keeping with the September 11 theme, the British established a mandate for Palestine on September 11, 1922, and at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, eleven Israeli athletes were killed on September 11. Millions of Islamists remember the humiliations of September and seek to humiliate the “Great Satan,” the United States. Thus the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
Islamic jihad can be defeated, and it can be done in less time than it took to defeat the USSR in the Cold War. Our strategy, however, must be tailored to the times and circumstances.
Islamic jihad is our enemy. It has declared war on us and will kill us anywhere it can. No American is safe anywhere in the world until this suicidal ideology is defeated. It is not impossible to defeat an ideology. Within a span of half a century, Western civilization has defeated at least four ideologies. Nazism, Italian Fascism, and Japanese imperialism all went down literally in flames in the face of a superior culture. Next in line was the far more stubborn Russian Communism, which struggled through 45 years of cold war before succumbing to liberty and free enterprise. Islamic jihad can be defeated, and it can be done in less time than it took to defeat the USSR in the Cold War. Our strategy, however, must be tailored to the times and circumstances.
Cyber warfare: Islamists are not innovative but do have a history of borrowing technology and deploying it against their enemies. ISIS, for example, is using the Internet to inspire, recruit, and direct terrorists around the world. We have the capabilities to scramble their communications and cause them to doubt the sources of instructions. It’s time to launch cyber warfare against them both offensively and defensively and to do so worldwide. They will stop using the Internet only when they no longer trust the communications network. With a smart cyber-warfare system, we can watch them close down their most important recruiting tool.
Financial warfare: If all its resources could be shut off, ISIS would atrophy. The U.S. has a powerful global financial reach, giving us the capability of cutting off almost all funds flowing to ISIS. We need to shut off the flow of exported oil from the ISIS regions and shut off payments going to them. Banks that deal in transactions with Islamic jihad or with their suppliers can be singled out to be the target of special disincentives that raise the transaction costs well above the financial benefit of doing business with jihadists.
Education: The next and most difficult task is to shut down the elements of their educational system that teach Islamic jihad. Millions of young boys are indoctrinated daily with the ideology of Islamic jihad. The madrassas are a breeding ground for violent jihad and serve to identify and recruit the most zealous. Countering this indoctrination will require a worldwide effort and may well be endless, but it is necessary to make the attempt, because reduction in the teaching of intergenerational hatred is the foundation for a peaceful future.
Humint: Human intelligence remains limited in the Islamic world. The Western world had not engaged fully with the Middle East to the extent that our intelligence sources were ready-made or fully developed. Our humint began to change after September 11, 2001, as Americans saw the need to expand our network. We are still making progress, but this administration has demonstrated an unwillingness to gather strategic information. If we are to have success in defeating Islamic jihad, our intelligence community must expand significantly. It is essential to the principle of nosce hostem (know your enemy), which will require time, resources, commitment, and, most of all, leadership.
Strategic alliances: Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all have demonstrated a willingness to fight Islamic jihad. Our relationships with these countries have been badly damaged. The U.S. foreign-policy establishment clumsily found a way to be on the wrong side of each Arab Spring event, demonstrating an astonishingly dogmatic fidelity to the Muslim Brotherhood. Our credibility in the region has been badly damaged. Nonetheless, these countries are poised to take on a good share of the fight. First, our relationship with each will need to be restored. Then a strategy will need to be developed with them at the table.
Egypt: Egypt is key to ultimate global success against Islamic jihad. Al-Azhar University in Cairo is the world’s premier center of Islamic theology. It is where Obama gave his speech to the Muslim world in 2009, and where Egyptian president al-Sisi delivered his own address to the Muslim world. Sisi made clear his opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood, to the imposition of sharia law, and to Islamic jihad. Sisi is positioned to become the modern-day Ataturk, someone who will bridge the gap between East and West. The United States needs to embrace Sisi and coordinate a strategy of diplomacy coupled with the right balance of kinetic activity.
Kurdistan: The Kurds are loyal allies. At our encouragement, they rose up against Saddam Hussein after Desert Storm. They are likely the largest ethnic group in the world without a country. Millions of Kurds live in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. They have for years demonstrated their willingness to defend themselves. We should directly arm the Kurds with all the weapons and supplies they can use and send our special forces to them on the ground. The Kurds will not go into Baghdad or Damascus because they have no civilian population base there to support them. They will push ISIS out of Iraq, with the help of many Sunni Iraqis, and they will provide one jaw of the vise that will crush ISIS. An independent Kurdistan is likely to be the result. A perpetual ally replacing the ISIS caliphate would be strategically priceless.
Syria: Assad must go. Syria’s terror-fomenting alliance with Iran will breed ever more violence in the Mideast until a pro-Western government replaces the regime. However, Assad has a certain utility until ISIS is destroyed in Syria. He becomes the other jaw of the vise that, with the Kurds as the other, will crush ISIS. When that day comes, the U.S. may have a commander-in-chief who thinks strategically.
We are dealing with the complexities of a long and difficult history of conflict. Religious friction has been at the heart of conflicts in this region since the time of Mohammed. The conflict between Shia and Sunni is complex enough without the overlay of the history of conflict with Christianity.
Russian-sponsored regimes must be defeated. The wealth of and need for oil fuels the fight. Anti-Semitism, with notable exceptions, dominates the region of the Middle East. We are in an increasingly global conflict as jihadists use Western technology and exploit cultural vulnerabilities to invade through peaceful migration, recruit through the Internet, indoctrinate through their mosques and madrassas, and radicalize and direct Islamic jihad.
We can defeat this ideology because we are a superior civilization. We have the ability to reason, develop new technology, grow our economy, and control the events described above. Islamic jihad has no real capacity to compete. History is on our side. Culture is on our side. Economics are on our side. Military capability is on our side. We lack only a strategy and the will.