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Identifying Ideology Versus Tactic

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The terrorist attacks in Brussels this past Monday, claimed by the Islamic State, are a clear indication that the West has a lot of work left to do to defeat radical Islam. The attacks, which left more than 30 dead, were carried out by three suicide bombers -- two brothers, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 30, and Khalid el-Bakraoui, 27, and another man, who has yet to be identified.

According to the New York Times, the brothers "were both Belgian and had a criminal history, but they had no known links to terrorism until the authorities conducted a raid on March 15 on an apartment in the Forest district of Brussels as part of the investigation into the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.

"Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and another man blew themselves up at the airport at 7:58 a.m. -- in two explosions, nine seconds apart -- and then Khalid el-Bakraoui carried out a suicide attack at the Maelbeek subway station around an hour later."

Clearly, a well planned and coordinated attack.

Terrorism is a tactic used by people and groups to achieve their political, social or religious goals. It is not in itself a belief system. Christian Whiton, former diplomat, lays out in his 2013 book, "Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War," a critical error made by the Obama administration that "two distinct but overlapping elements" were neither clearly identified nor articulated to the American public. He identifies them as Islam and Islamism.

"The former is a religion of nearly a quarter of the world's population; the latter is a political ideology whose central tenet is unifying government, and Islam and is advocated by a small subset of Muslims." Without our awareness of the situation, it is not possible for us to create a strategy to win.

According to Whiton, "Successful political warfare against this ideology could involve three broad steps: First, we should tell the truth about radical Islam and adopt a policy of opposing Islamism globally. ... Being honest about this threat is not anti-Muslim. In fact, political warfare ideally would involve getting Muslims to turn decisively against the Islamists.

"Second, we need to focus on nonviolently undermining Islamist governments like Iran's. While ISIS may earn headlines, Iran's theocracy has tentacles throughout the Middle East and may soon be armed with nuclear weapons.

"Third, we should work with allies to suppress radical Islam culturally. ...We should support institutions that give power to modern Muslims who believe in separating mosque and state."

We have to use all of our sources of support, power and influence to prevail over Islamism. Even if we defeat the terrorism of ISIS, there are other radical Islam groups ready to move in and focus on the end goal of Islamism.

What the New York Times left out of the article about the Brussels bombings was a discussion of the ideology driving the attack. Instead they refer to "the terrorists' end, which is to weaken Western society by spreading fear and panic, turning citizen against citizen, feeding xenophobic sentiments and further alienating and radicalizing Muslim youths." What the New York Times identifies as their goal is only a midpoint.

The end goal of radical Islam is to unify government and Islam, a goal which is inconsistent with Western democracy.

Americans' belief system runs counter to theirs, regardless of the tactics that they use. Our system embraces freedom and diversity; theirs embraces adherence and purity.

There are those who are beginning to understand that our current strategy is not working. Roger Cohen in his column Tuesday in the New York Times titled, "In Brussels, Europe Is Struck at Its Heart," noted that Obama's policy regarding the Islamic State "is a very high-risk policy -- too high in my view. It allows the Islamic State to strut its pure evil in and from Raqqa. The Obama approach posits that ISIS can be beaten before European and American societies are undermined. Again today, speaking in Havana today, he said, 'We will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.' But the president does not say when victory will come against these forces he declined to identify, and time counts ... But today at least the West's ponderous wait them out approach to the murderous fanatics of the caliphate looks like capitulation."

It will continue to be capitulation until we understand and name who is at war with us, and understand that a political ideology that encourages adherents to journey on suicide missions is a different worldview than we understand with our western viewpoint, and requires a different approach that the current to win.

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