In their new book, The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right, co-authors Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon argue that the United States is losing the war against radical Islam. They assert that Washington does not fully understand the ideology that drives its enemies and that this could pave the way for the next attack. Furthermore, they argue that the war in Iraq has not only created a breeding ground for terrorists but it has also fueled anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world.
Daniel Benjamin, a senior fellow in the International Security Program and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, says the “military tool” is a poor one for combating terrorism. Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Press Conference USA, Mr. Benjamin says that’s because terrorism is first and foremost an intelligence and law enforcement problem. Even though he opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq, Daniel Benjamin says it may be necessary for U.S. forces to stay for a while to “avoid a bloodbath.” However, ironically, as long as the United States is perceived as an occupier, he says it will have a difficult time getting its story out and winning over the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims. Mr. Benjamin notes that, although America is slipping “strategically,” at the “tactical” level it has had a number of successes, and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi illustrates that point. He suggests that, if Washington were more vigorous in its efforts in the Middle East or in helping to come up with solutions in Chechnya, Kashmir, and parts of Southeast Asia, it might have greater credibility and success in the overall war against terror.
Daniel Benjamin suggests the reason there has not been another attack in the United States is that it is a “harder target” now than it was before 9/11. And unlike in Europe, Muslims in the United States have not been affected by the “jihadist virus.” Nonetheless, Iraq has become a “kind of lodestar” for a lot of very angry individuals in the Muslim world – for example, the London bombers and the conspirators who blew up train stations in Madrid. He says that a core principle of counter insurgency is that you need to “isolate the extremists and give the moderates a reason to want to be on your side.” In the case of natural disasters, such as the tsunami in Indonesia and the earthquake in Pakistan, the United States has been effective. He suggests that being on the “side of democratization” in the Muslim world involves “much more than just holding elections,” which in the case of the Palestinian territories may have actually backfired.
Daniel Benjamin says that an enduring success in Iraq could make a positive difference, but it would have to include an improvement in the situation of the Sunni Arabs there. Another complication, he suggests, is that in a U.S. election year, it is probably not possible to forge a “bipartisan policy” on Iraq.
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