In order to win the war against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, the United States must understand the enemy. Yet the problem of knowing the enemy has never been more acute, and the lack of consensus around this issue has never been more debilitating, for American foreign policy.
Without a clear vision of who the U.S. is fighting, the government and military will not be able to distinguish ordinary Muslims from the extraordinary extremists, will be incapable of devising effective strategies for military and political efforts, and will not know which allies can be safe partners and which need to be avoided for being too close to the extremists. While there are many reasons for a lack of understanding the enemy, one of the most important is a deep disagreement about the role that Islam plays in motivating al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
This event will explore the notion that while a marginal version of Islam is the driver of extremism, it is possible to distinguish the jihadi-salafists from the majority of Muslims. A close examination of the jihadi- salafists’ belief system and methodologies will help the U.S. and allied governments formulate strategies to stop their spread.