Focus on ISIS Misses the Bigger Threat

It is shameful that a terrorist massacre is necessary to focus the world’s attention on the threat of radical Islam. Since 9/11, governments have killed one terrorist here only to see another pop up over there. Killing bin Laden hurt, but did not cripple al-Qaeda, and the focus on al-Qaeda led to neglect of the growth of ISIS. Focus on ISIS ignores the ongoing terror perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Mitt Romney stated the problem clearly in a Washington Post op-ed:

We must begin by identifying the enemy. We will not defeat it if we are afraid to call it by its name. These heinous acts of terror are waged by radical Islamists: jihadists. And the Islamic State represents the branch of this ideology that currently poses the greatest threat. Islam is not the enemy, but the enemy lives within Islam.

Even after the carnage in Paris, however, President Obama refuses to acknowledge who we are fighting. Hillary Clinton is no better, refusing to utter the words “radical Islam” when prompted in the Democratic debate.

After years of silence from the Vatican as the Christian population of the Middle East has been ethnically cleansed by the Muslim states, Pope Francis stated what should be obvious when he said the attacks in France are part of a Third World War and that the international community would be justified in using force to stop “unjust aggression” by Islamic State militants.

It is a world war, and for Western leaders to continue pretending that it is just a group of terrorists here and there is a recipe for more massacres. Defeating ISIS will not end the war, just as killing bin-Laden and al-Qaeda’s top leaders represented only a brief battlefield success and not a step closer to victory.

We have to stop worrying about offending the Muslims who have not taken up the jihad against the West, and cease denying the problem by reciting the mantra that most of the 1.5 billion Muslims are not jihadists. Of course they are not, and they should not be treated as if they were; nevertheless, if polls are to be believed, a large number of Muslims hold dangerous opinions. For example, a Gallup Poll taken in 2007, before the Arab Spring and Muslim Winter, which claimed to represent 90 percent of all Muslims, found that 13.5 percent held extreme views. The Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff concluded that according to the study’s authors, a “moderate” Muslim, “hates America, wants to impose Sharia law, supports suicide bombing, and opposes equal rights for women, but does not ‘completely’ justify 9/11.” The authors considered only 7 percent “radicals,” which translates to approximately 90 million Muslims.

The good news is that few of these radicals will act on their beliefs. This is not just a numbers game; however, we saw what just 19 extremists were capable of doing on 9/11. We don’t know for sure yet, but early reports suggest the number responsible for the Paris attacks was not much larger.

Given the evidence of an ISIS connection, the French can be forgiven for focusing their ire, and their firepower, on the Islamic State terrorists, just as we myopically pursued al-Qaeda after 9/11. Hitting ISIS, and even defeating ISIS, might end one threat but a new one will emerge.

Some in the West refuse to acknowledge that radical Islamists with similar ideologies to ISIS, such as Hezbollah, are terrorists. Even Americans have forgotten that Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any other terrorist group excluding 9/11. And while Hezbollah and other radical Muslims that believe in the subjugation of infidels (non-Muslims) are discounted, new groups will inevitably spring up to take the place of ISIS, just as it emerged after al-Qaeda was weakened.

The Third World War is not about particular organizations, or ethnic groups, it is a war waged against non-believers by those Muslims, Shiite and Sunni, who consider themselves faithful to their god. The way they interpret their faith cannot be compromised or moderated.

Islamists consider Muslims who reject their views as apostates who also deserve to be killed. Thus, ISIS and the other radicals based in the Middle East must first conquer their own lands before moving on to build a Muslim Empire that will rule the world according to their interpretation of Sharia Law. In the meantime, they can terrorize the West with handfuls of men and women with box cutters, Kalashnikovs and suicide vests.

Radical Islamists around the world have declared war on the infidels. Up until now, we have fought half-heartedly because of the conviction that we could stamp out individual terror groups without committing ourselves to an all-out war. Maybe, just maybe, the Paris atrocities will arouse the West to acknowledge that we are at war with radical Muslims who must be defeated wherever they are based or hiding. No less important, the Muslims who object to their faith and good name being hijacked by jihadists, must fight against radicalism not only on the battlefield, but in their schools, their mosques and their social and conventional media.

Our enemy believes time is on its side and the jihadists are prepared to fight for as long as it takes to achieve victory. We can be no less committed to defeating them.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.
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