This piece appeared in The Hill Times on December 18 – War with an ‘ism’ is a bad idea.
Last December, I was invited to a conference in the UK hosted by the Henry Jackson Society, a US-UK think tank that looks at a variety of issues. At this particular conference, entitled ‘A wake-up call for all: creating a trans-Atlantic network to battle radical Islam’, there were a host of speakers from both sides of the ‘pond’. The general tone was that liberal, secular democracies are at war with a phenomenon known as (political) Islamism. By this is generally meant a deliberate campaign by our adversaries to transform Western societies into Sharia-compliant states.
”Common nouns never surrender: in fact they cannot as they are not agents (they are phenomena).”
”We really have to stop seeing nouns as enemies. Aren’t there enough wars against actual foes already?”
This approach is also counterproductive in that it displaces our attention from where a true threat (albeit not an existential one) lies: Islamist extremism (i.e. terrorism). We need to identify and neutralise those who intend to use violence and try to destroy our way of life. And we need to use all our resources- security intelligence, law enforcement, government, communities – to do so as these individuals do pose a real menace.Allowing our focus to stray to a much ballyhooed but significantly over exaggerated threat helps no one. Yes there are some who hew to a very conservative and intolerant form of Islam and who would love to see that interpretation imposed on the rest of us but they are a tiny, yet noisy, minority within Western Muslim communities. Telling them we are ‘at war’ gives them credit they do not deserve.
We really have to stop seeing nouns as enemies. Aren’t there enough wars against actual foes already?
We really have to stop seeing nouns as enemies. Aren’t there enough wars against actual foes already? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. Phil worked as a strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community for over 30 years, including 15 at CSIS, with assignments at Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police. He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism. firstname.lastname@example.org