Many Americans think that extremism abroad is not America’s problem. But is that really the case?
Trump’s central foreign policy platform is “America First.” In other words, the United States should focus on what benefits America, not what benefits other countries.
Fair enough. But where does that leave counter-extremism? Why is it America’s issue when most terrorist attacks are happening abroad?
Here are four of the biggest reasons why Americans should care about extremism abroad.
The first goal of combating extremism is to make sure that no terrorist attacks take place in the United States. Our security forces work tirelessly to prevent attacks from taking place, and they are successful the vast majority of the time.
This includes attacks from both Islamists and other extremists. Yet despite the best efforts of the American police, terrorist attacks, such as the April shooting at a synagogue in Poway California, still occur.
The threat will never be eliminated while the ideology of extremism persists.
Counter-extremism is necessary to make sure that new terrorist recruits stop joining extremist movements and posing a threat. Finding out why people join such movements and drawing them away is essential to keeping America’s streets safe.
Domestic terrorism is not the only national security threat posed by extremism. A record 93 million Americans traveled abroad last year to destinations around the globe.
Any of them could have been a target of terrorist groups such as Hamas, Al Qaeda or Hezbollah.
America also has commercial interests worldwide. It’s in our national security interests to make sure American citizens can travel and business anywhere without fear.
But national security is bigger than terrorist movements.
As the recent tensions with Iran have shown, entire states can become hijacked by an extremist ideology and pose a serious threat to the United States.
The Strait of Hormuz, adjacent to Iran, is one of the largest shipping routes in the world. Twenty percent of the world’s oil supply flows through the strait.
If Iran decides to be aggressive, they can create serious trouble for the American economy.
This is not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan. Both countries are riddled with Islamist extremism — the Taliban in Afghanistan and various Shiite militias and Sunni jihadi groups in Iraq. Both countries are full of U.S. troops. To bring the soldiers home, those countries have to be made stable, which means eliminating extremism (among other things).
If the U.S. wants to continue to enjoy the kind of peace and security it does today, it should prioritize making sure enemies which hate its values and way of life are not allowed to get powerful.
Race baiters on both sides of the aisle are use extremism to further their goals. Right-wing extremists use the threat of radical Islam to further advance their cause, portraying a Christian civilization under threat from foreign hordes.
Left-wing extremists portray the fight against Islamism as motivated primarily, if not entirely, by racism.
Late last year this issue blew up when Women’s March organizers Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour were condemned for refusing to disavow the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan.
The ensuing media storm brought to the fore a collection of “intersectional” issues – from racism, Islamophobia, misogyny and post-colonial civil rights struggles – all manipulated by shameless grifters with a political axe to grind.
Eventually Sarsour disavowed Farrakhan, but reiterated her support for the anti-semitic BDS movement, which seeks to deny the Jewish people their right to a homeland.
(Ironically, anti-Semitism seems to be in vogue for all types of extremists from Islamists to the Far-Left and Far-Right.)
Disentangling these overlapping issues is difficult if not impossible. Addressing extremism and its ideological and psychological roots would go a long way to moving on from America’s racially problematic past.
Isolationism Hasn’t Worked
Like it or not, the world is interconnected. Anything that happens on the other side of the world can eventually get to and threaten America. In the last century, two extreme ideologies started in foreign countries and eventually came to threaten the United States.
The Russian Revolution took place in 1917, but the country did not fully fall to Communism until 1921, after a brutal civil war. The resulting atrocities carried out by communist regimes in Russia and China killed around 100 million people.
The communist powers dragged the United States into a decades-long struggle which took the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.
On the right, extremist nationalist movements were able to seize control in several countries, dragging Europe and the world into two vicious world wars. An estimated 16 million people were killed in WWI and a further 60 million died in WWII. The combined death toll of Americans was over a half a million.
Both of these movements started in the mid-19th century. Yet at that time, the United States was engaged in a policy of isolationism. Because communism and extreme nationalism were not countered effectively early on, they were able to grow and grow until they became a serious problem for the U.S. as well.
Contemporary forms of extremism are no different and must be equally countered.
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