Mr. King’s Hearings and America’s Strategic Objective

A wise Marine of our acquaintance wrote in response to the last JINSA Report:

A wise Marine of our acquaintance wrote in response to the last JINSA Report:

More episodic US policy! Is the survival of Qadaffi’s regime a strategic objective? Do we have a discrete concept for Libyan sovereignty that is aligned with any significant Libyan domestic political forces? Is our strategic objective aligned with any of our principal NATO allies (since we have no treaty allies in the Maghreb or sub-Saharan Africa), the Egyptian military leaders (junta?), Israel, the Kingdoms of Jordan or Saudi Arabia? If not, are our policy objectives existential to the US so that we would go it alone? This talk of “acts of war” is beside the questions of national interests and objectives. We established no-fly and no-drive zone equivalents before without this chatter from our Cabinet leaders.

We need to stop making policy by speechifying in reaction to newscasts and other nations’ political leaders’ remarks… We have many leaders, few followers and aimless direction.

It is with the notion of episodic and reactive policy, and with the question, “What is our strategic objective?” in mind that we consider Rep. Peter King’s hearing on the radicalization of some number of American Muslims by jihadist groups and their leadership. The strategic objective should be to understand the process by which radicalization occurs and where intervention can be important. The objective should be to enable American Muslims and law enforcement authorities to cooperate in addressing a situation that has already led to incidents of homegrown terrorism and at least one death in Somalia, where a young Somali-American returned to that country under the influence of a radical imam.

We’re sorry Mr. King didn’t invite the authors of the 2007 NYPD report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.” Experts studied 11 cases of homegrown jihadists, isolating specific factors that appear to move some people – primarily young men – to radical, violent activity even as most American Muslims remain unmoved by or even repulsed by the idea of violence committed in the name of religion. Among the NYPD’s findings:

  • Salafist ideology combines Islam with a determination to solve problems through violence. Salafist institutions and literature are readily available in the West.

  • Al Qaeda provides inspiration, but generally not operational assistance.

  • Susceptible people seek an identity or a cause and often self-identify before finding compatriots. Radicalization has proceeded more slowly in the U.S. than in Europe, where even second and third generation immigrants have trouble assimilating into the local culture – but more quickly since 9-11.

  • The Internet is an enabler, providing an anonymous virtual meeting place. Sites other than mosques can provide the sense of community otherwise isolated people may be seeking.

  • A “spiritual sanctioner” and an “operational leader” are necessary to move people from the ideological phase to an operational terrorist cell.

  • Not everyone who begins the process of radicalization becomes a terrorist; there are several points at which people drop out.

Four years later, these are largely unexceptional propositions. At the time, however, the same people who now castigate Mr. King vilified the NYPD as racist and anti-Muslim.

JINSA wrote then, “The NYPD has performed an extraordinary service to law enforcement organizations coming to grips with the potential for homegrown terrorism. For refusing to gloss over the inconvenient fact that Islamic extremists seek out young Muslim men and entice them toward violence, and for seeking to understand who might in fact be susceptible and why, the NYPD deserves our kudos, our gratitude and our unwavering support.”

So does Mr. King.