For the first time in its history, the United States is trying to wage and win a war without accurately identifying the enemy or its motivations for seeking to destroy us. That oversight defies both common sense and past military experience, and it disarms us in what may be the most decisive theater of this conflict: the battle of ideas.
Such a breakdown may seem incredible to veterans of past military conflicts. Imagine fighting World War II without clarity about Nazism and fascism, or the Cold War without an appreciation of Soviet communism and the threat it posed.
Yet today, the civilian leaders of this country and their senior subordinates - responsible for the U.S. military, the intelligence community, homeland security and federal law enforcement - have systematically failed to fully realize that we once again face a totalitarian ideology bent on our destruction.
That failure is the more worrisome since the current ideological menace is arguably more dangerous than any we have faced in the past, for two reasons. First, its adherents believe their mission of global conquest is divinely inspired. Second, they are here in the United States in significant numbers, not just a threat elsewhere around the world.
What, then, is this ideology? It has been given many names in recent years, including political Islam, radical Islam, fundamentalist Islam, extremist Islam and Islamofascism. There is, however, a more accurate descriptor - the one its adherents use. They call it "Shariah."
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Shariah is that it is authoritative Islam, which presents itself as a complete way of life - cultural, political, military, social and religious, all governed by the same doctrine. In other words, this comprehensive program is not simply the agenda of extremists hunkered down in caves in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Neither can its directives be attributed to deviants hijacking Islam.
Rather, Shariah - which translates from Arabic as "path to God" - is actually binding law. It is taught as such by the most revered sacred texts, traditions, institutions, top academic centers, scholars and leaders of the Islamic faith. Fortunately, hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world do not wish to live under a brutally repressive, woman-demeaning, barbaric and totalitarian program. Such Muslims are potentially our allies, just as those who do adhere to Shariah are our unalterable foes.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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