As the United States continues to fight on multiple fronts to disrupt the efforts of al Qaeda and its affiliates, the U.S. government has slowly come to realize that military force alone cannot defeat radical Islamist extremism (hereafter “radical extremism”). Today, there is a growing consensus that countering the ideology that drives this extremism is a critical element in the overall effort to prevent extremist acts of violence. Despite this greater realization, developing a precise strategy to counter extremism effectively and empower mainstream alternatives has proved challenging. This issue posed a difficult challenge to the Bush administration and remains a daunting and urgent task for the Obama administration.
Reviewing Terrorism, Freedom, and Security: Winning Without War, by Philip B. Heymann
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, shortly after Air Force One touched down at Offutt Air Force Base, President Bush began a teleconference with senior national security officials by proclaiming, “We’re at war.” The war, the President elaborated, would be “global in nature.” During a meeting of the National Security Council the next day, the principals labored to flesh out the parameters of the conflict. In particular, they discussed a proposal to frame America’s objective not merely as the destruction of al Qaeda but as the “‘elimination of terrorism as a threat to our way of life,’ an aim that would include pursuing other international terrorist organizations in the Middle East.”