Monday, January 18th 2016
“When we fail to recognize the global Islamic jihadist movement, we lack the ability to understand the history, goals, and objectives of this enemy who consistently articulates its designs, only to be discarded or dismissed by U.S. leadership,” wrote a retired Army lieutenant colonel in the January-February, 2016, issue of Military Review. His article, sure to be controversial, was “The Future of Warfare against Islamic Jihadism: Engaging and Defeating Nonstate, Nonuniformed, Unlawful Enemy Combatants.” The author, Allen B. West, was a member of the House of Representatives, and he is now president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis. The article discussed both strategy and tactics, and West included comments on “the information war.” Here are a few excerpts:
- Though some feel that identifying the enemy is unnecessary, failing to do so puts us at a clear disadvantage in achieving victory, as Sun Tzu would postulate. Even the moniker “war on terror” is a horrible misnomer. A nation cannot fight a tactic, which is what terror is—a means to an end. It would be the same as if we referred to World War II as the “war on the blitzkrieg” or the “battle against the kamikaze.”
- The venerable DIME model tells us there are four elements to a nation’s power—diplomatic, information, military, and economic.
Win the information war.
- The third strategic imperative involves the second element of national power—information. We must win the information war. Our reticence in the West to castigate an enemy such as ISIS is confounding. Our own media sources spent more resources droning on about Abu Ghraib in Iraq than focusing on what ISIS is and the atrocities of Islamic jihadism. We cannot be victorious against this enemy if we lack the intestinal fortitude to simply declare who they are and what they do as evil. Yet, we continue to use the worn out excuse that “we do not want to offend Muslims.” We do not have to do that, but we cannot abdicate the responsibility to win the war against extremist propaganda. This means denying the enemy a new sanctuary on the twenty-first century battlefield, the domain of social media.
- The most important aspect of an effective information operation against ISIS and others is to document success on the battlefield. However, when we are reluctant to take the enemy on in this domain, they turn it into positive propaganda for their purposes. In turn, some young people living under the liberty and freedom of the West find the enemy’s messages attractive, and they seek to join with jihadist groups. This is unconscionable.
- . . . let’s stop referring to jihadist detainees as “prisoners of war.” They are not; they are unlawful enemy combatants and do not deserve either constitutional rights or the rights afforded under the Geneva Convention. An important aspect of the information war is that, while our kindness and benevolence may be in keeping with our principles and values, to the enemy they indicate abject weakness.
- Sadly, we are not effective in disallowing the promulgation and proliferation of Islamic extremist ideology. And, here in the United States, we are mistakenly allowing this ideology a base of operations under the guise of freedom of religion, not wanting to recognize that this ideology is in conflict with America’s fundamental principles and values.
- ISIS and the global Islamic jihad can be defeated and its ideology delegitimized, but someone has to lead, and that responsibility falls to the United States.