[June 13, 2016] Yesterday morning a Muslim extremist opened fire inside a Florida gay club killing at least 50 people and injuring many more. Across much of the Western world, Islamic terrorism has steadily grown to a point that governments are now on notice to “do something.” That leads us to a crucial leadership question; are we serious about terrorism?
Yes, most of the world is serious about it (if we listen to what they say) but not enough to take crucial steps to undermine the effectiveness of terrorism. We know this because there is no Western government that has a strategy to effectively deal with the issue of Islamic terrorism irrespective of a number of internal policies that work the edges of the issue. Unless every nation’s terrorism strategy is a “state secret” – and that would be a mistake – there are none for us to see. If there were, I’d link to them here.
Neither is there a grand strategy1,2 that involves the Islamic world, where the majority of terrorism originates. Certainly there are many other forms of terrorism and none should be pushed aside while all resources dedicated to Islamic terror but the current focus of any strategy should be on the Islamic world, exporting of extremism, the Shia-Sunni conflict, and the migration of Muslims to the West.
That simply has not occurred. For example, U.S. President Obama, being the leader of the most powerful nation, has not even brought himself to admit that “Islamic terrorism” is a problem or to even use the words “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same sentence. His reasoning is not completely clear and such lack of precision in his words creates its own set of problems. Certainly he doesn’t want to offend anyone but his critics will challenge that stance by saying better to be offended than dead.
Are we serious about terrorism? Most people would argue persuasively that we are not really serious. A number of Band-Aids have been applied to the wounds of terrorism but no real cure has even been tried. The first step is to recognize the problem, prioritize key objectives, determine methods to fix the problem, and establish a realistic end-state. In the U.S. military we call this establishing the ends, ways, and means. The West has failed to do so.
Will there be a change? That all depends on the levels of increased violence and the moral courage of the political leadership of each country. This is when nations need strong leadership and right now they don’t have it.
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- Having a grand strategy is necessary; more so for a powerful nation. The reasons for strategy are straight forward and have been commented on before (see Leadership and Grand Strategy). Any strategy, especially grand strategy, allows us to:
- Prioritize objectives & goals.
- Align resources.
- Provide a guide for all activities.
- Clarify the unknowns and risks.
- Establish a realistic end-state.