Defeat Al Qaeda by Bringing the Battle Back Down to Earth

How in heaven's name does the U.S. win a war of the imagination? By not fighting one, says Reza Aslan.


How do we get out of this cosmic war?

You change the rhetoric. You step back from the good versus evil, battle over civilization, clash of Islam versus the West concept that has come to define this struggle. It is really significant that the Obama administration has discarded the term "war on terror." Words can sometimes be the most effective weapon that you have in fighting a war of ideas. The larger issue is how do we address these grievances that fuel and give sustenance to this jihadist movement. We need to deal with the fundamental socioeconomic and political issues that fuel this cosmic impulse. And until we do that, we're always going to be dealing with this problem. The Obama administration hasn't gotten there yet. I think they will. What else is important in this?

Global jihad...might have an antidote. And that antidote, which will surprise a lot of Americans, might be these religious nationalist groups, these so-called Islamist groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, even like Hamas and Hezbollah. Because while we may find these groups odious, while we may disagree with their agenda and their tactics, and while we may be at odds with their interests in the region, these groups want something very specific. They want political autonomy; they want to be a part of the political process. The nationalists you can talk to, the globalists you can't, because what they want is impossible. So, in a sense, our greatest weapon against these global jihadist movements like al Qaeda just might be these local Islamist movements.