Robert Agostinelli – Response to “Our Plan for Countering Violent Extremism”, by John Kerry, WSJ, February 19, 2015
Our Plan for Countering Violent Extremism by John Kerry, WSJ, February 19, 2015Show the world the power of peaceful communities, and tackle bad governance that breeds frustration.
Throughout our history, we have faced threats from aggression, genocide, chaos and dictatorship. Today we are asked to wage a new war against a new enemy. The battlefield is different, and so are the weapons that we need to overcome that enemy and triumph.
The rise of violent extremism represents the pre-eminent challenge of the young 21st century. Military force is a rational and often necessary response to the wanton slaughters of children, mass kidnappings of schoolgirls, and beheading of innocents. But military force alone won’t achieve victory. In the long term, this war will be won only by deploying a broader, far more creative arsenal.
A safer and more prosperous future requires us to recognize that violent extremism can’t be justified by resorting to religion. No legitimate religious interpretation teaches adherents to commit unspeakable atrocities, such as razing villages or turning children into suicide bombers. These are the heinous acts of individuals who distort religion to serve their criminal and barbaric cause.
A safer and more prosperous future also requires us not to be distracted by divisions grounded in hatred or bias. There is no room in this fight for sectarian division. There is no room for Islamophobia or anti-Semitism. Violent extremism has claimed lives in every corner of the globe, and Muslim lives most of all. Each of us is threatened, regardless of ethnicity, faith or homeland. We must demonstrate to the terrorists that rather than divide us, their tactics unite us and strengthen our resolve.
Toward that goal of unity, and of action, President Obama has been hosting a summit in Washington this week that is bringing together leading figures from local and national governments, civil society, and the private sector around the world. This summit at the White House and State Department will expand the global conversation and, more important, adopt an action agenda that identifies, shares and utilizes best practices in preventing and countering violent extremism. And when world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly next fall, a key topic of discussion will be the steps we’ve all taken to fight extremism based on the agenda we outline this week.
Put simply, we are building a global partnership against violent extremism.
Success requires showing the world the power of peaceful communities instead of extremist violence. Success requires offering a vision that is positive and proactive: a world with more concrete alternatives to the nihilistic worldview of violent extremists. Success requires empowering leaders from Los Angeles to Lagos, Paris to Peshawar, and Bogotá to Baghdad to take the reins in this effort—because terrorists don’t exist in a vacuum. They require acquiescence from the broader population, if not outright support. They recruit among the disaffected and disenfranchised, but also among those of all backgrounds on a misguided quest for meaning and empowerment. They exploit anger, ignorance and grievance.
Eliminating the terrorists of today with force will not guarantee protection from the terrorists of tomorrow. We have to transform the environments that give birth to these movements. We have to devote ourselves not just to combating violent extremism, but to preventing it. This means building alternatives that are credible and visible to the populations where terrorists seek to thrive.
The most basic issue is good governance. It may not sound exciting, but it is vital. People who feel that their government will provide for their needs, not just its own, and give them a chance at a better life are far less likely to strap on an AK-47 or a suicide vest, or to aid those who do.
We must identify the zones of greatest vulnerability, the places that could descend into the chaos that breeds terrorism—or that could turn the corner and be the hotbed of growth or innovation. And then we must tailor our efforts and target our resources to meet the specific needs of those places. It may be training young people so they can get jobs and envision a future of dignity and self-reliance. It may be working to eliminate corruption and promote the rule of law, so that marginalized communities can enjoy security and justice. It’s very likely both, and of course much more.
There are precedents that can lead us. We’ve combated violent extremism before. We know there are tools that work. We also know the power of the international community to make positive progress when we’ve come together to combat other challenges, such as when we combined our efforts most recently to fight Ebola. We need to funnel more resources, creative ideas and energy into the fight against extremism and work closely with effective local organizations and governments to make sure those resources are used properly.
This week’s summit won’t solve all these problems, but it can catalyze a global effort. But let me be clear: We are in this for the long haul. We can send a clear signal to the next generation that its future will not be defined by the agenda of the terrorists and the violent ideology that sustains them; we will not cower, and we will prevail by working together. Indeed, there are roles for everyone, from religious and government leaders to academics, NGOs and the private sector. Our collective security depends on our collective response.
The 20th century was defined by the struggle to overcome depression, slavery, fascism and totalitarianism. Now it’s our turn. The rise of violent extremism challenges every one of us, our communities, our nations and the global rule of law. But the extremist forces arrayed against us require that we charge forward in the name of decency, civility and reason.
Roberts responseWe are pleased to read this outline from Secretary Kerry on the “Plan for Countering Violent Terrorism”. For It states clearly that this Administration remains unwilling to identify the enemy and second has absolute no concrete plan to defeat the enemy.
First Mr. Kerry must start with the predicate identity of the evil the West is now confronted by. It is not some amorphous collection of misguided individuals who have desperately fallen prey to trickery. Nor is it a collection of people who have turned to terrorism for lack of opportunity. OBL was an extremely wealthy man as exhibit A.
This is yes, a War on Terror. To be precise it is a War on Islamist terror waged against us in the first instance by them in their various guises ( Al-Qaeda,Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Hamas,ISIS, ISIL and many others). It also should include their state sponsors.
These warriors may be diffused but they are very clear on their intent in this long war to destroy Israel and/or conquer eventually all of the West at large.
They are equally clear on their shared religious beliefs and the teachings of their Prophet as the legitimate predicate for their Jihad and its soft and hard forms.
Attempts to avoid this reality or obfuscate the truth simply provide reassuring illusions of comfort that conferences and dialogue and openness can reeducate these “way wards” of the error of their ways.
This is the classic pitfall of the pacifist left and merely serves as a simultaneously flint and incubator for more terror. It simply emboldens the enemy and those who might be swayed.
War is war and the objective of war is to destroy the enemy first and foremost to break their will and to send a message to the layers and waves of soft supporters that we have the will and the means to insure that they will be absolutely defeated.
Islam implicitly understands and respects only one thing that is power and strength as much as it disrespects weakness.
Likewise state sponsors of terror must know that The United States will act in defense of its interests and that they risk the tip of our sword if they don’t recede.
Yes Islam, unmentioned in the diatribe from Mr. Kerry must seek better governance and establish a rule of law based on modern values along with democratic institutions which support universally held values of freedom of the individual but again this tension is within Islam for this suggested secular spirit runs counter to the tenants of Sharia which implicitly reject modernity and it’s secular values.
Mr. Kerry, and its likes point to some societal drawbacks which created these misguided individuals. What it is and the evidence for it only remains in the recesses of the liberal mind’s denial to dare identify the reality of this enemy for to do so runs against their life long mantra that grievance and societies inability to educate and care for these poor lost souls is a how terror comes about.
While satisfying to the leftist desire for “job training programs, eliminating corruption ” and comparing this war to controlling Ebola are all symptoms of the West’s contribution to the problem by ignoring the root problem that lies at its heart.
The insipid and gutless plea by Mr. Kerry could apply to any tough adversary because in the rose colored world of his kind it is societies fault, never any religion or the individuals.
Robert F. Agostinelli
Palm Beach , Florida
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