Radical Islam may be as totalitarian and as morally bankrupt as any of these past or mostly defunct “isms,” but its current appeal isn't hard to figure out. Unlike fascism or communism, radical Islam is locally grown, and not plagued by charges of foreign contamination. Indeed, Islamists claim to wage jihad against the modernism and globlization of the outside, mostly Westernized world. Such a message resonates in stagnant, impoverished Muslim countries.
Of course, while the people of the region may be poor, the Islamist movement isn't. Huge oil profits filter throughout the Muslim world, allowing Islamists to act on their rhetoric. In today's world, militias can easily acquire everything from shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to rocket-propelled grenades. With such weapons, and on their own turf, Islamists can nullify billion-dollar Western jets and tanks.
There is still another reason for the rise of Islamists: They sense a new hesitation in the West. We appear to them paralyzed over oil prices and supplies and fears of terrorism. And so they have also waged a brilliant propaganda war, adopting the role of victims of Western colonialism, imperialism and racism. In turn, much of the world seems to tolerate their ruthlessness in stifling freedom, oppressing women and killing nonbelievers. So how, aside from killing jihadist terrorists, can we defend ourselves against the insidious spread of radical Islam? Here are a few starting suggestions:
Bluntly identify radical Islam as fascistic — without worrying whether some Muslims take offense when we will talk honestly about the extremists in their midst.
At the same time, keep encouraging consensual governments in the Middle East and beyond that could offer people security and prosperity, while distancing ourselves from illegitimate dictators, especially in Syria and Iran, that promote terrorists.
Establish that no more autocracies in the Middle East and Asia will be allowed to get the bomb.
Seek energy independence that would collapse the world price of oil, curbing petrodollar subsidies for terrorists and our own appeasement of their benefactors.
Appreciate the history and traditions of a unique Western civilization to remind the world that we have nothing to apologize for but rather much good to offer to others.
Finally, keep confident in a war in which our will and morale are every bit as important as our overwhelming military strength. The jihadists claim that we are weak spiritually, but our past global ideological enemies — Nazism, fascism, militarism and communism — all failed. And so will they.