Defeating the Islamic State and Preserving American Values In The Wake Of The Brussels Attack.
This morning’s horrific attacks in Brussels, which left at least 34 dead and hundreds more injured after multiple massive explosions at the airport and inside the metro system, have left the world reeling yet again. A third bomb was found at the Brussels airport and safely detonated around noon local time. The attacks come just days after the arrest in Belgium of Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected of helping carry out the Paris attacks last November and have refocused global attention on the fight against the Islamic State. While the exact details of the events are still developing, just hours after the attacks the Islamic State claimed responsibility.
World leaders have expressed solidarity with Brussels and the victims of the attacks. Speaking from Cuba this morning, President Obama said the United States is committed to helping bring justice to those responsible for this morning’s attack and reinforced the need for allies to unite in the fight against the Islamic State. “This is yet another reminder that the world must unite,” he said. “We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.”
In the wake of tragic attacks such as those in Brussels and Paris, there are additional steps we can take to work alongside our European allies to make the world a safer place. Today’s attacks serve as a reminder that the U.S. must continue to deepen, not weaken, cooperation amongst allies and friends to lead international efforts in the fight against the Islamic State. The Center for American Progress has outlined detailed recommendations to do so, including:
- Increasing intelligence cooperation with allies. A key component of the efforts to blunt the Islamic State must involve expanding intelligence resources and sharing, namely through a new intelligence fusion center established under the NATO umbrella and devoted to disrupting the ISIS terror network.
- Restructure the U.S.-led international efforts to fight the Islamic State. Strategies for revamping international efforts to fight the Islamic State include implementing a formal structure to better organize and prioritize coalition activities; encouraging Saudi Arabia to refocus its attention to the fight in Iraq and Syria; and establishing an increased role for NATO against the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.
- Staying true to fundamental American values. Although the U.S. needs to be unyielding in its fight against terrorism, it must never compromise the values of freedom and openness that make it great. Isolating communities through Islamophobia is first and foremost discriminatory against Muslims. Furthermore, dividing Muslims from the rest of society only helps enable the Islamic State to achieve its goals. But contrary to offensive anti-Muslim rhetoric, Muslim Americans are essential in America’s fight against the Islamic State.
- Authorizing the use of military force. Passing a new authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, and confirming key national security officials in Congress—both the responsibility of Congress—would greatly facilitate U.S. involvement in the fight against the Islamic State and its growing network.
Instead of putting forth legitimate strategies for fighting the Islamic State, Republican Presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz recycled their old, anti-Muslim, fear-mongering rhetoric that plays directly into the enemy’s hands. Trump once again called for surveillance at mosques: “Frankly, we’re having problems with the Muslims. These attacks are not done by Swedish people. That I can tell you. We have to be smart. We have to look at the mosques and study what’s going on,” he said. Trump also said would support breaking international law to waterboard suspected terrorists. Ted Cruz, for his part, invoked Islamophobia saying, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
That kind of divisive, anti-Muslim rhetoric puts our national security at risk by playing into terrorists strategies. Isolating entire communities through Islamophobia helps the Islamic State achieve its stated goal of using violence to instill fear and provoke hostility toward innocent Muslims in Western society.
BOTTOM LINE: This morning’s cowardly attacks on Brussels refocused global attention on the fight against the Islamic State. There are additional steps to be taken to strengthen the efforts against ISIS, but today’s attacks highlight the need to deepen cooperation among our allies and friends in combating terrorist organizations and condemning the xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric that plays into the strategies of terrorists.
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