We are in a war driven by ideology. “Violent extremism,” which is the label the government and the commentariat prefer to put on our enemies, is not an ideology — it is the brutality that radical ideologies yield. Our enemies’ ideology is Islamic supremacism. To challenge and defeat an ideological movement, you have to understand and confront their vision of the world. Imposing your own assumptions and biases will not do. Islamic supremacists do not see a world of Westphalian nation-states. They do not distinguish between Russia and America the way they distinguish between Muslims and non-Muslims. Their ideology frames matters as Dar al-Islam versus Dar al-Harb: the realm of Islam in a fight to the death against the realm of war — which is everyone and everyplace else.
The fact that you think this is nuts, or that I’m nuts for saying it out loud, has nothing to do with whether they believe it. They do — and they don’t care, even a little, what you think.
You do not defeat an ideology by hoping it will change or disappear. You have to challenge it, to make it defend its baleful tenets in the light of day. You cannot protect yourself from its violent outbursts absent understanding its teaching, reluctantly accepting that its teaching will inevitably lead some Muslims to strike out savagely, and committing to a pro-active, intelligence-based counterterrorism strategy — one that scraps political correctness and ferrets out the jihadists before they strike.
Asked about his “outlook,” Dzhokhar Tsarnaev offered a pregnant response, “Islam,” that raises more questions than it answers. There are all kinds of Islam, including the supremacist kind that is far more widely held than we’re comfortable acknowledging. Until we get beyond that discomfort, until we are prepared to ask, “What Islam?” — and until we are prepared to treat Islamic supremacism as the pariah it should be — Boston’s hellish week will remain our recurring nightmare.