- - Friday, October 3, 2014


Many Americans living through the 9/11 attacks were dumbfounded that such unimaginable events could happen to our country. Well my fellow Americans, get ready for even more horrible disasters in the future and on a continuing basis unless our government adapts hard-nosed strategies and initiates firm leadership to destroy this monstrous ideological movement that threatens our security and rejects the foundation of Western civilization.

The Islamic State (ISIS), a jihadist movement that now controls large parts of Iraq and Syria and has threatened to destabilize much of the Middle East region, has made it clear that targeting of America is its eventual goal. Meanwhile al Qaida and its affiliates are resurgent across the globe according to a recent Rand study.

Current U.S. strategy–with its emphasis on a U.S.-led international coalition and a primary reliance on air strikes against enemy forces and strongholds–is sound strategic logic. But recent media leaks indicate the White House is starting to micromanage air campaigns in Syria and Iraq, which is a recipe for failure as we experienced in the Vietnam conflict. An aggressive air campaign can seriously and promptly disrupt ISIS mobility and tactical flexibility, but not spontaneously and lethally if not left to the on-scene commanders to orchestrate.

Make no mistake about it, the enemy Islamist extremists are at war with us, and we need to act accordingly to protect the security of our country and citizens and our democratic way of life.

While pressing forward with our current coalition strategy, President Obama should also launch a major diplomatic initiative to convince the Muslim world, allies and adversaries that America is ready to take the lead in creating a more positive and mutually rewarding political and economic relationship between the U.S. and the West, and the greater Middle East, while simultaneously cooperating together in curbing terrorism.

But this goal can only be achieved if the widespread ideological support for terrorism found in much of the Muslim world can be transformed into condemnation.

President Obama should take a cue from the late former Indonesian President and distinguished Muslim leader Abdurrahmann Wahid. He should be forthright and challenge Mideast political and religious leaders to launch a concerted effort that unequivocally banishes the fanatical ideology of hatred that underlies the fundamentalist terrorism that now threatens the very foundations of modern civilization, and agree on a compelling alternate vision of Islam as a true religion of peace.

Until then, an extreme and perverse ideology in the minds of Islamic extremist fanatics will continue to fuel their ultimate goal of establishing world-wide rule of their brand of authoritarian Islam, slaughtering all infidels who stand in the way as well as intimidating and subduing mainstream Muslims who do not share their extremist views. The vast majority of Muslims are not part of the terrorism but also do not stand up against it, thus joining in the complicity of silence.

Mr. Wahid has described the situation as a “crisis of misunderstanding of Islam by Muslims themselves (which) is compounded by the failure of governments, people of other faiths and the majority of well- intentioned Muslims to resist, isolate, and discredit this dangerous ideology……Muslims themselves can and must propagate an understanding of the ‘right’ Islam and discredit extremist ideology.”

Implicit in this condemnation are such barbaric practices as beheading, the indoctrination and training of suicide murderers, funding of terrorist organizations, and export of hatred of America and the West via a network of Islamic schools worldwide that propagate Islamic extremism.

President Obama should make clear that only when Muslims themselves turn against such extremist ideology and initiate actions to put their civilization on a path to restoring the old glory of the Muslim world as a multicultural zone of tolerance, intellectual, and scientific achievement — will it be feasible to create an enduring, productive new era in Middle East - Western relations.

But that will take time — and we cannot simply wait for it to develop. The United States can work jointly and in parallel now, to help form a coalition of countries, from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, to address and develop feasible solutions to such volatile issues as nuclear proliferation and embryonic terrorism – while also forging a framework for a new mutually productive era of economic and trade relations.

This is an extremely ambitious and complex undertaking, comparable to the post-World War II era when American leaders reacted with a burst of creativity to resolve crises. Working across party lines, they created alliances such as NATO, launched the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine to rebuild war-torn regions, and established the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to help rebuild economies.

Those of us in “the Greatest Generation” remain proud of our country. We are confident that the world’s only diplomatic and military superpower, with strong and decisive leadership, still has the inner strength — and credibility — to achieve this noble cause.

Rear Admiral L.R. “Joe” Vasey USN Ret. is founder of Pacific Forum CSIS, an internationally prominent non-profit foreign policy research institute based in Honolulu and affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International studies in Washington D.C.



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