BY DIANE DIMOND
My friend Nancy and I were talking the other day about the terrorist attacks in Paris. Nancy, you should know, is retired law enforcement and one of the most interesting thinkers I know. She has a way of cutting through all the bull to get right to the heart of an issue.
The Muslim terrorists who commit atrocities in the name of Islam, Nancy said, “only speak and understand one language — violence.” We agreed that we should leave the actual war planning to the experts. Airstrikes versus boots-on-the-ground? We defer to the Pentagon on that.
But then Nancy added, “If we don’t step up our response, we’ll never stop this infestation.”
Infestation. What a perfect word to describe those radicalized marauding bands of mass murderers. An infection on humanity. A festering pustule on civilization. And now world leaders say they are devising a strategy to deal with the scourge. Odd that at this late date there is no firm strategy to eradicate an enemy that’s been attacking for years.
Nancy and I make a habit of discussing how we would change the world if we were in charge. We decided the fight against Islamist evildoers should include steps other than just military force. Think further down the road and maybe one day we won’t have to keep going back with guns blazing.
First, give all good people across the world a safe place to report what they know about simmering terrorist plots. Combine the concepts behind the confidential Neighborhood Watch program and the Crime Stoppers program, and take it global! Give hefty cash rewards to anonymous tipsters who report verifiable information. There’s no way to put police near every spot where terrorism might hatch — but there are always good people nearby who hear and see things and abhor violence.
Second, call on all leading Muslim clerics to begin a series of simultaneous and hearty sermons calling acts of terror what they are: mass murders that must never be supported. All parents and religious leaders should be actively offering their young people a courageous alternative to joining the bloody crusade.
Third, let’s nip the perpetually blossoming bud of anti-Western hatred at the source: Those radical Islamic religious schools that teach only two subjects — the Koran and hatred for non-Muslims. Launch a coordinated worldwide campaign aimed at impressionable children to finally counter the zealots’ indoctrination. Teach children that life is full of choices, both good and evil.
Propaganda, you say? You bet. As Nancy put it, “Call it brainwashing if you want. But that’s what we need to do” — convince young Muslim kids (all kids, really) that their worst enemy is hatred, not people of other faiths.
Fourth, since Islamic extremists plant their secret terror cells within our borders and try to recruit our young people over the Internet, we should fight fire with fire.
Drawing on her law enforcement experience Nancy says bluntly, “We have to infiltrate their organization like they have infiltrated our communities here in America.” It’s the only way — short of exploiting disaffected members — to get reliable information about their plans.
Please tell me Washington has already approved this kind of action — even if it means sending U.S. agents into American mosques. And let’s hope U.S. cyber-intelligence agents are actively on the trail of those radical Internet recruiters, erasing their messages and going after them in their lairs.
Let’s cross our fingers that the intake process for the expected tide of Syrian refugees will include aggressive procedures and intensive questioning including fingerprinting and facial and voice recognition comparisons with Interpol’s terrorist watch list.
Back to the inevitable war ahead: Does the U.S. have the will to engage? Everyone knows it will be a massively complicated task to try to eliminate the newly constituted Islamic State. It will take determination, time and international coordination. And the devil will be in the complicated diplomatic maneuvers that will be needed to get everyone on the same page.
This Islamist enemy, unlike the others that came before it, is vastly different. The Islamic State now holds territory in both Syria and Iraq, land it occupies for its caliphate’s headquarters. And it has lots of money, billions of dollars stolen from banks and businesses and oil fields that got swept up in their land grab and reign of terror.
Over all these years, the U.S. battle — indeed, the world’s battle — against Muslim extremists has had no effect. The radical menace has only gotten bigger, stronger and more deadly. ISIS loyalists have kidnapped, tortured, beheaded and murdered countless thousands of people, including fellow Muslims. And the rest of the world looks like a goofy giant unable to swat away the ants crawling up its legs.
This infestation of terror is spreading full steam ahead, and they will not change their behavior until we do. What we do next is crucial.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net