Small Wars Journal

Fighting Islamic Extremism: Making Muslims Partners and Not Enemies

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 2:48pm

Fighting Islamic Extremism: Making Muslims Partners and Not Enemies by Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies

A new Administration that came to office with clearly defined intentions to change many key aspects of U.S. policy, and to do so as soon as possible, can be expected to try to act as quickly as possible. There are times, however, when quick action can do more harm than good. The way in which the United States deals with violent Islamic extremism and terrorism is a case in point.

A recent study by the Burke Chair at CSIS addressed these issues in detail, examining the recent trends in violent Islamic extremist terrorism and violence, the causes of such violence, and the critical role played by America's strategic partners in the Muslim world. This study is entitled Rethinking the Threat of Islamic Extremism: The Changes Needed in U.S. Strategy and is available on the CSIS web site at

It shows that a successful U.S. strategy—and U.S global posture in dealing with such threats —cannot be dependent on singling out Muslims. Instead, it critically depends on working with moderate Muslim governments as partners in both counterterrorism and regional security. It is also dependent on winning the support of Muslims living in the United States and the West—rather than alienating them and pushing some into the hands of extremists as a result.

Focusing on given Muslim countries may be better than adopting truly dangerous concepts like banning all Muslims. Improving the vetting for entry and visas may be better than barring entry on the basis of religion and national origin. At the same time, all of the Muslim countries the United States can single out because of unrest and extremist threats are also countries where the U.S. needs partners and allies. It is also far too easy to turn "extreme vetting" into entry impossible…

Read on.