Radical Islamic leaders teach that martyrdom in the process of killing non-Muslims promises a trip to heaven. And, recent reports say that a 17-year-old was a key participant in the Barcelona attacks.
This is also a unique and essential part of the “weapons systems” deployed by Islamic fundamentalists and is used in their most violent attacks.
Specifically, those who embrace this idea become the cheap “precision guidance systems” for airplanes, trucks and cars — the otherwise innocuous tools of mass murder. As such, they are the 21st century equivalent of the Japanese Kamikaze pilots of World War II.
Understanding and countering this is essential to protecting and preserving the modern world from one of the more insidious dangers from radical Islam.
Compare the cost of the Sept. 11, 2001 precision attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to a “traditional” military attack. The Sept. 11 attack cost its sponsors in the thousands, while a military attack on a military objective, using high-tech precision-guided weapons would cost millions.
The modern world has reasonably adequate defenses against most other violent intrusions of radical or militant Islam — and enforcing existing laws in the developed world limits nearly all these practices. For example: So-called “honor killings” are simple murder and there is a perpetrator to be prosecuted.
Suicide bombing is different — there is no one left to prosecute.
We could go after the bomb maker as an accessory to the crime, but who’s actually guilty of the mass murder? It’s the suicide bomber. Perhaps we could prosecute the “guidance system programmer” — the people who convinced the martyr to kill infidels and die in the process.
The better approach is to counter the evil message itself: There are passages in the Koran saying that the taking of innocent life (including one’s own) is sinful. And ideally, the “messengers” would be the more enlightened and moderate Islamic opinion formers.
Here are a few more suggestions:
The overall public policy theme from the West should be the need for a general Muslim “reformation” — to address these and other issues that conflict with radical Muslim assimilation into Western societies. In this respect, Western societies must not be reticent to take on the political aspects of Muslim ideologies that encourage violence.
The bipartisan Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act was incorporated into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and signed into law in 2016. It charters a new interagency center to coordinate and synchronize counterpropaganda efforts. Unfortunately however, past efforts toward this goal have failed because of petty bureaucratic competitions with the “public affairs” parts of our government.
The covert action sections of the National Security Act — originally passed in reaction to Iran-Contra — should be revised to enable the intelligence community to proactively address these categories of issues.
There must be a major worldwide information and public diplomacy theme — and the emphasis should be in social media and other places that attract fighting-age Muslim males, although there are recent reports that young Muslim females are being recruited as suicide bombers — to insure their parents go to heaven.
Perhaps most important for us in the West is to shake off concerns that we are somehow interfering in a religious activity — we’re not. We’re countering the “precision guidance” for asymmetric death and mass mayhem — all under the pretense of redemption.
• Roger Gallington is an aerospace engineer. Daniel Gallington served in senior national security positions.