Between, on the one hand, the Obama administration’s vague catch-all of “countering violent extremism” and the Bush administration’s overly broad “general war on terror” and, on the other hand, declaring war on Islam as such, Eran Lerman presses for a clear definition of America’s current conflict:
It is in the interests of all the key players to latch onto a coherent interpretation of who the enemy is and how to defeat it. That war could be called by the shorthand DIT, or Defeating Islamist Totalitarianism.
Modern Islamist totalitarianism draws on traditional elements in Islam, including the notion of jihad, the idea of Islam as a religion of conquest, and the central role of political power . . . in shariah. But it also draws on 20th-century models of political action from Lenin to Hitler. . . . This distinction has several implications.
First, modern political movements—unlike ancient religious affiliations—can be tested and broken on the field of battle. Their legitimacy flows from their success, not from the validity of their arguments, and will ebb with failure.
Second, drawing a clear line helps mobilize moderate and pragmatic Muslim forces that are elements of stability within the existing power system. These include Sufi mystics violently targeted by Islamist Salafists, as well as those, like the Egyptian president Mohammed Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, who speak the idiom of Islamic modernist “enlightenment” (tanwir) and rationalism (emphasized, for example, in the preamble to the current Egyptian constitution). All of these forces have a vested interest in the defeat of Islamic State (IS), Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Third, it suggests a workable agenda rather than a millennial war. IS and its ilk can and should be “eradicated” (to use President Trump’s term from his inauguration). Attention should then turn to the Iranian regime and its proxies, notably Hizballah, and subsequently to the Brotherhood and its offshoots, like Hamas.