Hearing of the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee - Strategies for Countering Violent Extremist Ideologies
HEARING OF THE TERRORISM, UNCONVENTIONAL THREATS AND CAPABILITIES SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: STRATEGIES FOR COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMIST IDEOLOGIES
CHAIRED BY: REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA)
WITNESSES: RAYMOND IBRAHIM, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST FORUM; MICHAEL DORAN, VISITING PROFESSOR, WAGNER SCHOOL OF PUBLIC SERVICE, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, AND FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
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REP. SMITH: (Sounds gavel.) Thank you. We will now reconvene. And we were actually right about the 45-minute thing. That doesn't often happen, so glad that worked out.
I want to thank the panel for joining us today and for the members. I'll make a very, very brief opening statement, then turn it over to Ranking Member Mr. Miller and then take the testimony from our witnesses.
We're joined this morning by Mr. Raymond Ibrahim, who's associate director for the Middle East Forum and also the author of "The Al Qaeda Reader," and Mr. Michael Doran, who is a visiting professor from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University and the former deputy assistant secretary of Defense, support for public diplomacy.
I appreciate both of you being here today.
The purpose of the hearing is to get a little bit of a broader understanding of the terrorism threat, specifically from al Qaeda and accompanying ideologies. What this committee's prime focus is on is on counterterrorism. We do a lot of work with the Special Operations Command, which is the lead command in fighting the war on terror, and we try to take as comprehensive an approach as possible.
There are obviously lots of very small bits and pieces to what we do giving Special Operations Command the proper support. We also have some jurisdiction on cybersecurity and IT issues, and we're very concerned about that -- the broad defense threat reduction efforts of DTRA and other agencies -- and also counterproliferation, WMD. And we drill down in each one of those specific topics on this subcommittee to figure out how we can be most helpful in those areas.
But overall one of the things that we've tried to do under my leadership and under Mr. Thornberry's leadership when he was the ranking member on the committee is try to take the comprehensive approach to truly understand what we are fighting and how to defeat it so that we don't get stovepiped in little different pieces of it and not understand the big picture.
And the main purpose of this hearing is to help with that broader understanding of fighting the threat from violent extremists, to understand -- as the military knows better than anyone -- we cannot win this simply by identifying all of the terrorists in the world and then killing or incapacitating them. That will not work. That is necessary in order to disrupt the existing networks and prevent attacks against us and other Western targets, but it will not ultimately defeat our foe. This is an ideological struggle, and we need to understand that ideology and we need to confront it in a comprehensive way that includes far more soft power than hard power. And that is what we are hoping to learn from our two witnesses today, a little bit more background on what the ideology is that we are fighting and what the best way to confront it is, you know, what we've done right, what we've done wrong, and what we need to do better. So I very much look forward to the testimony and questions.
The final thing I will say is we will adhere to the five-minute rule, particularly on the questioning, something I learned -- I paid you a compliment a moment ago, Mr. Thornberry, so you walked in a second too late, but you can ask people about it later. We have a small group of people here, but I find nonetheless the Q&A flows better if members are mindful of a time limit, so most members will have more than one opportunity.
As far as our witnesses are concerned, we do have a clock. In general I like to keep the statements in the 10-minute area; I find the dialogue works better. So I believe Mr. Ibrahim has asked for the time. I think our clock only has five minutes on it, so we'll wait five minutes and then start the five minute clock to give you some idea of when 10 minutes are up and then we'll go into Q&A.
And with that, I will welcome to the committee as ranking member Mr. Miller. I very much look forward to working with him. I've enjoyed working with him on the Armed Services Committee. And again, I want to just say what an outstanding job Mr. Thornberry did as ranking member during the last two years.
You do have big shoes to fill --
REP. : Okay, okay, okay, okay. We know that the former ranking member was a good guy. (Laughs.)
REP. SMITH: -- but we're confident you will fill them.
With that, I'll turn it over to Mr. Miller.
REP. MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's a pleasure to be back on this subcommittee. I do look forward to continuing the good works of the past years. I have a full statement I would like entered into the record, but, because of the time that we've lost with votes, I'd like to go ahead and give the statement. So thank you very much.
REP. SMITH: Great. Thank you, Jeff.
Mr. Ibrahim, the floor is yours.
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
What I'd like to address today specifically, well, is manifold, and the first thing is ultimately the consideration is how one can go about implementing a strategy to counter radical Islam and its ideologies.
And the fact is it's necessary, I think, to go back and recognize the abysmal failure that has permeated, more or less, all approaches, both, I think, governmental and otherwise. And that, I think, roots back to the academic world and academia, where, of course, many of the future analysts and thinkers come from, which is to be expected, in that the academic world has tended to all but ignore Islamic theology, Islamic doctrine, Islamic history or to minimize it and overlook it and instead present what is more intelligible to the Western worldview, which is, I think, somewhat normal for all humans -- they end up projecting what they believe are norms to other peoples.
And so in academia, for example, where I come from, you cannot discuss this. When we talk about terrorism and radical ideologies, to actually go back and try to demonstrate that there is some sort of body of doctrine that supports it is usually completely -- it can be anathema in certain circles and you can lose your position. And there's actually entire books written about this.
Now why that is and is it because of political correctness or people are in search of tenure is not the point. What I'm saying is ultimately there needs to be kind of a revolutionizing to the academic approach to understanding terrorism and appreciating the Islamic doctrines that make the backbone.
And in connection what's been happening is -- and this is what I mean by people in the West or Americans tend to project their worldview -- is the following concept: Wherever you go, ultimately you will be told that Islamic radicals, al Qaeda, all that they're doing is ultimately rooted in political grievances and they themselves will say that, specifically when they are addressing Western audiences and Americans. They will say we are attacking you because and the list can go on and on from, of course, the usual Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, but you'll even see other accusations, such as Osama bin Laden telling Americans we're attacking you because you failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol or because you exploit women and things of that nature.
Now, the logic behind radical Muslims and radical Islamism in general in doing that is they are smart enough and they're aware to know that by using the language of political grievance they will strike a chord with Westerners and Americans who will immediately assume yes, this is what it's all about. These people are angry and they are articulating their frustration through an Islamist paradigm because that's all they know, but fundamentally, if all of these political grievances are ameliorated, this will all go away.
Now, the problem with that -- and this struck me immediately when I was working on my book and translating it, "The Al Qaeda Reader," is even though I was aware of all of their political statements to the West via Al-Jazeera and other mediums demonstrating this, which is them saying you started the fight, you're doing this and now we're fighting you back -- when you look at the writings that they send to fellow Muslims which discusses this animosity, all of these political grievances disappear and all you're left with is essentially what Islamic law demands, and it doesn't matter anymore if the U.S. does this or if the U.S. does that.
And when you start studying Islamic law -- and by Islamic law I'm not talking about what Osama bin Laden has interpreted; I'm talking there is an entire body and canon of Islamic law also known as Shari'a, which is very well codified and which has existed centuries before Osama bin Laden came on the scene.
So, to give you an example, according to Islamic law or the Islamic worldview the entire world is separated into two divisions. On the one hand you have what in Arabic is called Dar al-Islam, which means the abode of Islam or the abode of peace, and that's the good guys. This is where Shari'a dominates and this is where Muslims thrive. On the other hand you have what's called the Abode of War, and that's where we live -- essentially anywhere in this world where there's a majority of non-Muslims, a.k.a. infidels, who live and Shari'a law is not governing them.
Now, when I say this a lot of people think well, you know, this sounds ridiculous. But the fact is this is as well codified in Islamic law as any of the five pillars of Islam. So a lot of people will tell you, you know, in Islam praying and fasting and going on the hajj and giving charity, these are not open to debate. The fact is jihad, in order to spread Islamic authority and Islamic rule, is in the same category. It is not open to debate. It is considered an obligation on the entire Muslim body.
Now, what I'm talking about now is law, is doctrine. I'm not here to say that every Muslim wants to do this, every Muslim is actively trying to subvert the West and trying to implement Shari'a, and so I always make a distinction between what the law says and what people do. What people do is irrelevant and what they believe in or if they want to overlook that or if they want to reform it, that's one thing, but that also brings a point that if this is the law, if this is the codified worldview, no matter how many Muslims are, quote- unquote, "moderate" or how many overlook it, I believe there will always be a significant few who do uphold this worldview.
And then when you really look at numbers, even if we were to say, I mean, given the benefit of the doubt that 20 percent of the Islamic world are radical, are the sorts who would implement this hostile worldview, that is not very reassuring because the nature of the war -- terrorism -- no longer requires numbers and force because, as we've seen, 19 men were able to create horrific damages on 9/11.
So that's the problem. It's not necessarily which Islam is right. The fact is the traditional form of Islam is such that there are very many intolerant positions vis-a-vis non-Muslims. And this is the problem. When people use the language of al Qaeda and radical Muslims have hijacked Islam, that's simply not true because what they are doing is they are implementing it.
Now, it's true they may try to distort things. They may engage is sophistry, which goes a long way, and I'll give you an example. So I just got done saying that according to the Islamic worldview there's this concept where Muslims must always go on the jihad, on the offensive. So radical Muslims will then come and say look, this is how it is; now, how much more is to be expected of us if we are now defending ourselves in Palestine or in Iraq or in Afghanistan? And that kind of argument ends up mobilizing lots of Muslims because they see the logic. On the one hand, far from actually going on the offensive -- which, I might add, is seen as an altruistic thing; Muslims don't believe that when they go on jihad in order to subjugate infidel lands, they don't see that as, you know, unjust. They see that as pure altruism because we are bringing the light of truth in Islam to the infidels. And I say all this not by conjecture but by reading extensively Arabic books that demonstrate this, and the logic is sound from their perspective.
So ultimately what I'm saying is it's necessary to begin taking the doctrine seriously, not just being content with saying well, Muslims are doing this because they're angry because of Israel or because of this. And one consideration to keep in mind that I think dispels that point of view is that a lot of people in this world are disgruntled and oppressed, but you don't see this sort of behavior from other places. You won't see a Cuban living in a communist regime, driving a truck and saying, you know, Jesus is great and killing people. Or you don't see Chinese in oppressive communist China also retaliating in this way.
So I think there is reason to take seriously these doctrines. And once we take these doctrines seriously and methodically begin to understand them and incorporate them, I believe a more appropriate strategy will come into being, because to sit and say we are combating terrorism in and of itself, anthropomorphizing a word like terrorism as if it's a person or a concept or even an ideology, when in fact it's just a method, it doesn't help us.
And so we know, for example, Sun Tzu, to go back to classical war doctrine, said know your enemy. And that's very important, but unfortunately here it seems that the U.S. is having problems even acknowledging who the enemy is.
And to give you a few examples, maybe you're familiar with the words matter debate, where there was a memo circulated around the government trying to advise writers and thinkers and analysts not to use Islamic leading words such Shari'a or mujahid or even jihad and instead just use the generic terrorist. Now, I think that completely handicaps any kind of approach to trying to formulate a strategy, because you're in effect, by limiting and censoring your language, you've limited knowledge in and of itself because language and knowledge are obviously linked.
And also I ready recently -- and it's one thing, as I know, in the academic, the civilian academic world, to have encountered what I'm discussing, which is this total lack of appreciation for Islamic doctrine, but it seems to have begun to infiltrate even the military. For example, I was reading at the U.S. War College that one of their members or faculty members wrote essentially an apology for Hamas, saying that they are villainized and misunderstood when in fact if you study Hamas and see what they say, they are a complete jihadi organization which upholds all those things that I've delineated, including the offensive aspect towards the world. And they often say forget about Israel, but ultimately Shari'a law needs to eventually, according t our beliefs, be spread around the world.
So in a nutshell that's what it comes down to. I believe that we need to start taking more seriously what they say, their epistemology, their background, their worldview, which is so obvious. And this is the irony. It's everywhere you look. There it is. It's not like they hide it so much.
And when I worked at the Library of Congress, for example, I worked in the Middle Eastern Division and so I had access to thousands of Arabic books. And it seems to me any one of those books that I would read would give you a better insight into their mind than the average American book that comes out because the American book comes out once again colored by a Western philosophy which all but ignores doctrine and theology.
And I think I'm up.
REP. SMITH: Okay. And we'll certainly explore a lot of those themes in our questions.
MR. IBRAHIM: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: I appreciate your testimony.
MR. DORAN: Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Miller -- former Ranking Member Thornberry, Ranking Member Miller, thanks very much for having me again.
Your letter of invitation asked me to come up with recommendations for a whole-of-government approach and I was very excited to see that. I'm working now at NYU. I started my job there on the 20th of January. Before that I served at the NSC as the senior director for the Near East and North Africa and the Department of Defense as the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for support for public diplomacy and as a senior adviser to Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman at the State Department.
And this multiagency experience I had has made me focus like a laser on this issue of the whole-of-government approach. I think your question is absolutely the key question that we face. We can't really put together -- or we can have all the greatest strategies in the world on paper, but until we're organized to deliver it strategically, we're going to find ourselves falling all over ourselves.
So I've written a lengthy statement, which I'll submit for the record, and I'll keep my introductory comments here very, very short.
I basically discuss in the statement where we could put what I call a strategic operational center for strategic communications. I think that countering violent extremism is part of a larger government enterprise, which I'm calling strategic communications.
When you listen to the debates out there, there are basically three options that you hear. Option number one is to put it at the NSC, option number two is to create a new kind of United States information agency or something like it, and option number three is to keep the lead for this in the Office of the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs or State R.
In my statement I come down in the end on the side of keeping it in the State Department because I think that the organization needs to be a strategic operational organization and that kind of militates against putting it in the NSC. You need absolutely -- for strategic communications to work effectively, it has to have a lot of support from the president and from the White House; there needs to be somebody at the White House who is very much focused on it. But there also needs to be an operational center, and no matter how you think about this you keep finding yourself coming up against the State Department. Nothing that we do abroad -- outside of areas where we're in a hot war -- nothing that we do abroad can be done without the support and concurrence of the State Department, so I argue that we should put it there.
But there's a problem there in that the undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs is a weak undersecretary. When they broke up USIA they took the remnants and they put it in the State Department, but they took away a lot of the autonomy that the organizations had. In the old USIA they could conceive and carry out public diplomacy strategies. Currently, if the undersecretary has the lead for countering violent extremism, if he's the commander of the overall effort, he has no troops in the field because all the public diplomacy officers in the field report to the ambassador. They're rated by the ambassador and by the regional bureau back at State, not by the undersecretary's office. So we've given -- in the Bush administration we gave the lead to the undersecretary, but we didn't give him the resources and the authorities necessary to actually carry -- conceive of a strategy and carry it out.
The other factor that I discuss in there as well is the general mission of R. Back -- there was -- USIA came to maturity during the Cold War. In that conflict with the Soviet Union where we had a strategic rival that had a whole different social, political, economic way of life, the key issue for us was to brand America, was to show our way of life to the rest of the world to demonstrate its superiority. That is basically what most of the programs historically in what is now R have done. So there's a general bias in the organization towards those kinds of activities that tell America's story.
The kind of conflict we're in now where we don't have a pure competitor, strategic rival, where a lot of the debates that are -- that have strategic importance for us are not debates about America but debates about the identities of people -- debates that look rather parochial from a distance but end up generating violence. It's no longer as important to tell America's story. Telling America's story is still extremely important, but there's a whole 'nother dimension there that we need to be investigating. And we need that organization -- the strategic organization at the State Department -- to be focused on that to a much greater extent than it has been.
Now, Jim Glassman, f you go back and look at his statements you'll see that he got this completely. He started a number of different programs to try to move the organization in that direction. And he distinguished himself from all of his predecessors, the undersecretaries that preceded him, in that he vigorously engaged with the Department of Defense and with other agencies that have a role in this strategic communications endeavor.
Just having the designated lead say, "I want to coordinate with the rest of you; I want us all to be on the same page and have the whole-of-government effort," have a huge -- a hugely empowering impact on the different communities within the other agencies that are engaged in this. I mean, if you look at the strategic communications communities in the different agencies, you'll see that they're all kind of uncomfortable in each one of their organizations, because in every organization it's always going to be the regional guys who are the heavyweights. And the people who are working on the communications piece are always the kind of afterthoughts. So if you have a powerful proponent who has the all-of-government lead for this who is saying, "I want to work with you," it has a way of elevating all of them.
And I'll stop there, and we can take questions.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much.
I have a lot of questions for both of you, but I am going to adhere to the five-minute rule as well. We'll come back around.
So I'll start with Mr. Ibrahim. And I think you make an outstanding point, that understanding the basis of this ideology and al Qaeda's ideology is core to understanding how to defeat it. And we tend to brush over that. There are two points that I'd like to explore, however.
First of all, the reason, I think, that people brush over it, the reason in particular for that State Department memo that you mentioned was because, you know, one thing we've long understood is the moment those who actively adhere to the ideology that al Qaeda and others advance -- relatively small percentage of the Muslim population.
You can disagree with that if you want, because you know better than I, but I think that's the case. And what we're leery of is, you know, creating an approach to counter al Qaeda that unites 1.3 billion Muslims against us.
And I've learned from firsthand experience in taking about this issue that any time you link what bin Laden is doing to Islam you offend -- I have not met the Muslim who that does not offend. Maybe I will at some point, but I have not yet. So the strategy is to try to separate al Qaeda from the broader Islamic religion and not give them that imprimatur, if you will, to give them that stamp of legitimacy that elevates them in the Muslim world. So I'm curious what you think about how we can sort of split that difficulty.
And then, the second part of that, which is connected -- you seem to be saying that al Qaeda is in fact representative of the entire Muslim world; that is what the Koran says, that is what is says that all Muslims should do, which is a big problem, if that's the case.
And I have read a little bit about this, certainly not as much as you have. But within all religions there is always that tension between, you know, "our job is to make everybody else in the world like us" and the sort of growing reality in the modern world that that's simply, you know, a recipe for mass destruction and death. And so we can't adhere to it, so new philosophies are developed.
Certainly Christianity went through that to some extent, when you look at the Inquisition and other things that happened, where they began to accept that they could be -- they could adhere to their faith and allow others to have a different one. And we have to be able to do that. We have to be able to find some way so that there is a bulk of Muslims who -- they could be very strict adherents to their faith and accept others.
And your testimony seems to imply that there's very little hope for that, that in fact that's just the way it is. There's no other way to interpret the Koran. And this is the only thing that is necessary for a good Muslim.
So the question would be -- how could we explore other options? Because there are moderate Muslims who don't adhere to that theory that everyone has to adopt their religion. Is there any wiggle room in there, in terms of how we interpret that? And how do we do that and deal with the challenge of not uniting the Muslim world against us by condemning their entire religion and dumping them all into one category?
MR. IBRAHIM: All right. Thank you. Very good questions. I might start with the second one, actually.
I don't -- I think one of the biggest intellectual difficulties that many people have is they think there's al Qaeda, which is a radical Islamic group, and then maybe Hamas or Hezbollah, and then mainstream Muslims. And that distinction is, I think, valid. But what needs to be understood is, I believe, for example, if al Qaeda were to disappear tomorrow, that is not going to make their ideology also disappear, because their ideology, as I was saying, is ultimately traced back to all of these doctrinal worldviews that were codified centuries before. And that's why it's almost like, if you'll permit, the hydra monster that the mythical Hercules went and fought; every time he chopped the head off, two more grew up. And that --
REP. SMITH: Granted, but a whole lot of Muslims haven't followed that stream of thought.
MR. IBRAHIM: No, I understand. And --
REP. SMITH: So there is hope there.
MR. IBRAHIM: Yes. The thing is -- and this is the strategy that I would put forth is that classical Islamic jurisprudence and doctrine is very clear-cut. In fact, in Sunni Islam -- mainstream Islam, which 90 percent of Muslims adhere to -- the way every -- the -- and this is why I always stress on this concept of epistemology, in that we can't even begin to understand how they formulate their worldview -- but according to Shari'a, every action that any human being can do is classified as being obligatory or recommended or permissible or discouraged or forbidden.
Okay, now, the concept of jihad -- in Arabic -- (in Arabic) -- "in order to expand" -- this is one of the obligatory ones.
REP. SMITH: And if we may get very specific, the obligatory part of that that is the problematic part of that is the obligation to force everybody else in the world to live under that law.
MR. IBRAHIM: That --
REP. SMITH: And it is your interpretation that that's just black and white?
MR. IBRAHIM: That's black and white.
Now, having said that, I am not -- I do not believe every Muslim believes that. But here's the problem, and this is why I think radicals have a better leg to stand on, because they are better textually grounded, better grounded in doctrine: The logic is, "The Koran is the verbatim word of God," for instance; he Koran says it's to Muslims and so the Koran says, go fight infidels until you subjugate them.
REP. SMITH: Right, I'd be giving you the same look if you said that about the Bible, by the way. So that wasn't specific to the Koran.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right.
REP. SMITH: Go ahead.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right. And then there's the Hadith -- and this is even more important, in certain respects, than the Koran when it comes to articulating Islamic law. And that is even more clear-cut insofar as how Muslims are to do this.
Now, again, will -- does your average Muslim want to do this? No, not necessarily. But this is the strength that the radicals have. And that's why they have a stronger voice, because they can always go back and see, "Well, this is what it says; why aren't you doing it?"
And when you start saying, "Well, I'm trying to make a better fit into the 21st century; I'm trying to reform it," that's considered apostasy, because God's word transcends time and space and so if God said in the seventh century, do X, Y and Z, why now are you going back to say, no, we want to change it?
Now, I'm not -- I know this sounds very dismal. (Laughs.)
REP. SMITH: I just have to cut myself off and let Mr. Miller -- and I understand that. I think, you know, one of the things that all religions as they move into modernity have to sort of accept is that it's a lot more flexible from that, that God contemplated a changing world, that he didn't lock in all of the -- (word inaudible) -- a long time ago. But that's one of the keys, I think, to getting people to --
MR. IBRAHIM: Well, that's fair, but --
REP. SMITH: Yeah --
MR. IBRAHIM: -- tell that to a Muslim. See --
REP. SMITH: We have to.
MR. IBRAHIM: (Laughs.) And then that's the other problem.
REP. SMITH: We have to tell that to Christians, too, with great frequency. But --
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay.
REP. SMITH: I have to get to Mr. Miller.
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay.
REP. SMITH: We can resume this later.
REP. MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Continuing on -- Mr. Ibrahim, you know that the power of rumor is extremely strong --
MR. IBRAHIM: The power of rumors?
REP. MILLER: The power of rumors --
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay.
REP. MILLER: -- in the Arab world, in particular. And what I want to know -- and in Iraq, I guess, in particular -- but, you know, what can we do to combat those rumors?
MR. IBRAHIM: The rumors such as that the U.S. is here to, you know --
REP. MILLER: Sure.
MR. IBRAHIM: -- obliterate Islam and things like that?
REP. MILLER: Sure.
MR. IBRAHIM: Well, the thing is about the Arab world, specifically, is -- and I know this firsthand -- is there's a lot of paranoia and conspiracy theories permeated. And so the concept to your average Arab that these people are here "just to help us," because they're being altruistic is -- might be problematic, especially because you have all these other groups like al Qaeda who'll go out of there way and exploit and say, "No, that's not what they're doing; they're doing 'this.'" And this, ultimately, is better represented with Israel and the Zionists and everything -- I mean, maybe you're aware, but things like "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and "Mein Kampf" are best sellers in the Arab world -- that kind of thing.
So in a way, if you, you know, give olive branches and make concessions, that might be seen in a good way, or that might be seen as, "Well, they have an ulterior motive," or, by the more radical types, that'll be seen as an admission of defeat. And see, that's another thing going back to the different worldview.
When you give in to certain peoples they think that's -- your weak, and this is more evidence that we're right. And so it actually brings on a greater offensive from them.
Now, granted, again, I'm talking about a select group of people, not everyone. And the bottom line is a person can identify himself as a Muslim and that doesn't mean he believes in any of the things that I've just said, because that's like a person who might think he's a Christian or a Jew or whatever, and he just has a very liberal interpretation.
But I'm talking about the core people who fall into just following the straight, black-and-white worldview that Islam teaches. And I think this is the ultimate intellectual barrier for Westerners to understand. Coming from the West -- being that it's coming from a Christian heritage, whether Westerners today practice it or not -- I think have taken for granted the notion of separation of church and state, which actually has precedents in the New Testament when Jesus said, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, render to God what is God (sic)" -- a split. And I think that helped actually let the west develop this thing.
That is totally antithetical to the Islamic world. Islam is all about submitting. That's what the word means. What are you submitting to? You're submitting to the will of Allah, as has been articulated in the Koran and the Hadith, which are the words of Muhammad and his actions and deeds. And so to come and say we want to separate, you know, what the -- what Islam teaches -- and that's the whole thing. Islam is very much caught up in very mundane things, you know. You're supposed to eat with a certain hand. You're supposed to, you know, not wear gold rings. And people take this seriously. And that's why we have to not condescend and think, you know, that's -- you know, they're just reacting that way because they're angry, and they're trying to fall back on something. Maybe some are, but others take this literally because it's been going on for 1,400 years and it's understood that this is how you implement true Islam.
And so, that's -- again, that goes back to the problem, which is -- and so trying to formulate a response -- it's -- I believe the best way is far from trying to tell people -- going back, I think, to Chairman Smith's original question about the memo and trying to separate al Qaeda from mainstream Islam -- while that's a noble endeavor, there's another aspect to it, which is basically -- the Muslim world is not waiting around to see what the U.S. -- what kind of legitimacy the U.S. is going to confer on al Qaeda, because the U.S. is seen as a non-Muslim, infidel entity which is already on the wrong path.
So whether it calls al Qaeda jihadists or not, that's not -- or calls them -- I've read the memo where other words are posited like "moharab" (ph), which means, like, a pirate -- I don't think that's going to go very far in the Arab-Muslim world, because the U.S. is not in a position to actually make an opinion that has to do with Islam in the first place.
REP. MILLER: Is there such a thing as a good Muslim and a bad Muslim?
MR. IBRAHIM: There's good people and bad people. And there's good Christians and bad Christians, and good Hindus and bad Hindus. But see -- and that's the thing. I think a lot of --
REP. MILLER: But are there good Muslims and bad Muslims?
MR. IBRAHIM: But that's the thing. If you think of --
REP. MILLER: My question was -- you just said there were good and bad Christians. You just said there were good and bad -- but are there good Muslims and bad Muslims?
MR. IBRAHIM: There's good and bad Muslims. But we have to understand what we mean by the word Muslim. I think a lot of people think by the word Muslim -- they conflate it with a certain race or certain culture or a certain ethnicity. But to me a Muslim is literally a man who -- or a woman -- who is, as the word means, submitting to the will of Allah. That's a true Muslim.
REP. MILLER: I'm just trying to find out, you know -- Pensacola, where I come from, we have what I would call some pretty radical Christian beliefs in regards to bombing of abortion clinics. I don't think that's right and I'm willing to speak out against that.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right.
REP. MILLER: My question is, you know, are there Muslims that are out there speaking out against those that I think ought have hijacked -- and my time's run out -- would you think about that and then -- you -- give a quick answer to that to me.
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay, well, basically the abortion thing -- which I hear a lot about -- it ultimately, to me, comes down to --
REP. MILLER: By the way, I am pro-life.
MR. IBRAHIM: (Laughs.)
REP. MILLER: When I say that --
MR. IBRAHIM: No, I understand. You're -- okay.
What it comes down to -- to me, anyway -- is, can this person who claims to be a Christian find precedence in the Bible that tells him to go and, you know, bomb an abortion clinic? I would argue, no, at least not in the New Testament.
Now, compare that with -- the last time I did a survey -- several thousand statements, direct by Muhammad, saying go and wage war and subjugate infidels.
Okay, so this is what I mean. And so, yes, people can say I'm a Christian or whatever religion and do bad things. And people can say I'm a Muslim and do great things. And so, I really -- I try to not get into the realm of human will but more what doctrine teaches. And as long as the doctrine is there and this is the problem, there will be those who will take it seriously, even if they're the minority. And I'm not saying the majority of Muslims believe this, because I think the majority of Muslims don't even know about these doctrines.
But -- and that's what makes the radicals more powerful, because they're able to go and delve into these arcane doctrines, bring them out, bring out the classical jurisprudence and then show these things. And then how's a moderate who wants to be a moderate going to actually have a leg to stand on to counter all that without being accused of apostasy, which, by the way, according to Islamic law brings the death --
REP. SMITH: Punishable by death.
MR. IBRAHIM: -- yes.
REP. ROB ANDREWS (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to the gentlemen, the witnesses.
Mr. Ibrahim if I were in the Iraqi parliament and I wanted to make the argument that people should use any means necessary to expel the American occupiers of our homeland, and I used as the textual basis for that the Judeo-Christian that -- in which Christians and Jews are instructed that there is only one God -- "Thou shalt have no other god but me. I am the only god. And I cited that as authority for the proposition that Christians and Jews have a responsibility to expel others from the realms of power, and that's why the Americans are occupying my country. Would I be on legitimate ground, theologically?
MR. IBRAHIM: I would argue no. And I think I can give you a better example from the Bible.
REP. ANDREWS: Why don't you take mine?
Why would I not be on valid theological ground?
MR. IBRAHIM: Because -- where exactly in the Bible does it say that?
REP. ANDREWS: Well, the Ten Commandments instruct Christians and Jews that they should believe in one god. And that's the God of the Judeo-Christian heritage.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right.
REP. ANDREWS: So if you believe in some other god then you're an apostate, right?
MR. IBRAHIM: But there's no imperative in the Bible as opposed to the Koran and the Hadith saying -- or inciting Christians to go and subjugate the rest of the world.
REP. ANDREWS: Well, it depends on what we mean by "imperative." You could make the argument that most of the Old Testament is a chronicle of wars waged by the Israelites in order to gain territory because it's God's -- because they are God's chosen people.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right.
REP. ANDREWS: So even though there may not be an explicit command to go to war, there's book upon book that says you should wage war to claim what God has promised you.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right. And that's especially --
REP. ANDREWS: Wouldn't that be consistent with what the Iraqi dissenter would say about us?
MR. IBRAHIM: Not really. And there's a very subtle reason. And in fact, the Old Testament wars are the examples that I was going to go to, because those are the ones that are cited as showing how the Old Testament can just be interpreted as being a religion of conquest as much as Islam. And I'll give you -- the simple anecdote is the Book of Joshua where Joshua is commanded to go and -- essentially it's almost like genocide -- and he kills everyone, including animals -- you know, every human, beast --
REP. ANDREWS: Right.
MR. IBRAHIM: -- and just totally purges.
The difference between that imperative -- and, you know, anyone can make a moral decision about that, whether it was right or wrong or whether it happened --
REP. ANDREWS: No, I'm not interested in making moral judgments. I'm talking about doctrinal --
REP. SMITH: He's -- he's going to get to it.
REP. ANDREWS: Yeah. Go ahead.
MR. IBRAHIM: So, but the difference between that and what you have in Islamic text is that if you look at it -- and I've looked at it closely -- there were very temporal, in-the-now commandments from Yahweh, or God. Basically, if you read it, it's -- it commands the Hebrews to go and kill the Jebusites and the Yebusites (ph) and the Philistines --
REP. ANDREWS: Right.
MR. IBRAHIM: -- until you get this piece of land, okay.
REP. ANDREWS: Right.
MR. IBRAHIM: It was not, as opposed to the Islamic doctrines, an open-ended command. And if you look at the very language in the Koran --
REP. ANDREWS: But couldn't one argue that God's word in the Old Testament isn't temporal, just as God's word in the Koran is not. And if in the time of Joshua the command was to dominate a particular piece of land on the west side of the Jordan River and the command in global times is to command the whole globe, including what we now call Iraq --
REP. SMITH: I'm sorry, if I could dive in here. God's word is temporal if he says it's temporal.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right. But if he says do this until --
REP. SMITH: If he says it's not, then it's not. That's the distinction.
MR. IBRAHIM: That's what I'm saying. In the Koran it says fight them -- the key word you always see is fight them until they're subjugated. Fight them -- and so these are -- this is why it became codified into the Islamic worldview as a perpetual warfare between the abode of Islam and abode of war until the latter has been subsumed into
REP. ANDREWS: I actually think this discussion, which I appreciate very much, goes to the point that I was trying to implicitly make. History is replete with circumstances where people interpret the meaning of religious commands as they see fit. So for example, one could argue that the Koran's mandate to go evangelize -- to mix cultural references -- but to go do so, has -- is really more of a cultural and educational command and not necessarily a violent one.
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay.
REP. ANDREWS: Now, I think you would disagree with that, but the hypothesis I am asking you to respond to is that couldn't a good Muslim be someone who uses the tools of the arts and culture and persuasion to try to convince others to submit, rather than means of violence? Is violence necessitated by the Koran?
MR. IBRAHIM: No. Actually, you're not supposed to go on an offensive jihad until first you invite people to Islam. And if you can do it peacefully, that's fine. But jihad is the last means if they refuse. And this is how it's been historically.
You have to remember, for example, to Muslims the golden era of Islam is Muhammad and the first what are called righteous caliphs which thrived for about four or five decades.
In that period alone, Islam burst out of the Arabian peninsula --
REP. ANDREWS: My time is running out, but I would ask you this: Was the crusade a Judeo-Christian jihad -- offensive jihad?
MR. IBRAHIM: The crusade was a belated response to 400 years of Islamic depredations and annexing Christian lands.
REP. ANDREWS: Was it offensive or defensive?
MR. IBRAHIM: It depends on how you look at it.
REP. ANDREWS: It does. That's exactly right.
MR. IBRAHIM: It was for Jerusalem. And Jerusalem was annexed by force by Muslims from the Christian Byzantine Empire by force and so the crusaders were going to get it back. So is that offensive or defensive?
REP. ANDREWS: Your testimony was terrific. Thank you very much.
MR. IBRAHIM: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much.
REP. BILL SHUSTER (R-PA): Thank you both for being here, again. I'm going to start with Mr. Doran first. Then I do have a question for Mr. Ibrahim.
Our strategic communications counter ideology of al Qaeda and those extremists out there. In the U.S. -- would you talk a little bit about that -- what can we do better? You mentioned the U.S. Information Agency and establishing that. Can you, sort of, go into more detail as to what you think we should do, what we've done well and what we haven't done well?
MR. DORAN: Let me start with what we've done well. I think that in Iraq we learned a lot of lessons. The successes with the tribes of Al Anbar, this is tremendous reversal very quickly. And if you look at counterinsurgency doctrine that was used to -- that informed our policies -- our successful policies, you see that information operations and communications is a huge part of it.
So what I'm saying is when we see a success like that, obviously that's in an area where the Department of Defense has total control, what mechanism do we have in our government to look at successful programs and say, ah, how do we replicate this program in another part of the world? Or how do we take it and maybe -- maybe if we want to take it out of an area where we have a hot war to an area where it's -- where the Department of Defense is not in the lead, how do we take it and massage it and change it so that we can apply it to these other areas?
In order to do that there has got to be a thinking, learning, strategic center in the government that is looking at all these different programs that are going on out in the field and adopting best practices and applying them elsewhere. And that currently doesn't exist; that's the problem.
We got to the point under Glassman in the last administration where we could start to see what right looked like, about how you would pull these things together. There's still -- don't get me wrong -- there were still lots of obstacles to creating a kind of a unified all-of-government team that was working together, but we had a community of people from all the different key agencies who were working together and we had a central locus where they could at least be brought together to discuss these issues.
That's what I think is sorely lacking. There are lots of things we're doing out there that are very effective. There's no doubt about that. The greatest, sort of, all-of-government cooperation that you see -- the greatest example of it is really at the country team level. If you've got an ambassador at the country team level who's interested in this, he's got all the representatives of the agencies right there and they're coming up with innovative programs. That works very well.
We've got a big, broad interagency coordination at the NSC level. But all the kind of planning and operational cooperation at anything above the country team level is extremely difficult and that needs -- someone needs to, I think -- not someone, the president has to focus on that, put somebody in charge of it, demand that they achieve results and follow up on it.
REP. SHUSTER: And you'd place that at the State Department instead of the NSC?
MR. DORAN: I would. There's a deep -- throughout the government there's a deep fear of an operational NSC. And there's something about this strategic communications influence that goes operational very quickly. So it's hard to run things like that out of the NSC. I think the NSC should be engaged oversight and should be pulling the team together at various intervals, but there's got to be a strategic operational center.
Also, it has to be resourced. I mean, things happen that, you know, priorities change. You have to have an organization that has money, resources that it can move to affect the perceptions of everybody else as well. And the NSC can't do that.
REP. SHUSTER: Thank you.
And my final question, which I'm sure is going to be a big question, Mr. Ibrahim --
MR. IBRAHIM: Sure.
REP. SHUSTER: -- where's the hope? I know what your testimony is. It sounds awfully bleak.
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay.
REP. SHUSTER: So if you can --
MR. IBRAHIM: No, I understand.
REP. SHUSTER: -- give me a piece that I can smile about.
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay. (Laughter.) I present all this, and I understand that it doesn't offer much hope. But the reason I do it is to essentially show that there needs to be a radical shift in the intellectual approach to the problem. And I believe that if that is done, everything else will fall into place. And I don't -- by saying that, I'm not talking about a, you know, Armageddon-type war.
I believe that once people start taking this seriously, then they'll be able to implement something. For example, I'm a firm believer that a lot of people always discuss interfaith dialogues and bringing Christians and Jews and Muslims together to talk about their commonalities; I think it's time to bring them together to talk about their differences and for them to be open and for, you know, non- Muslims to essentially put Muslims in the hot seat and say, look, you've got this entire body of doctrine which is not ambiguous in the least, you've got all this history which is just -- essentially manifests that doctrine and we know it. What's the deal, essentially? I mean, in other words, put the ball in their court.
But as long as we, you know, go around saying no, that's not the problem and, you know, this and that -- but to be objective and just -- and not in a condescending or insulting way -- and just simply say, look, you've got about a few thousand texts that you all say are authoritative from the Koran to the Hadith to the words of Muhammad to the words of the Islamic scholars, theologians and jurists, and they all say X, Y and Z. Okay, now what's the deal? How can you tell us this is not the facts?
I think by doing that, one of the important things is they for the first time will see, well, you know what, these people actually have, you know, a reason to be the way they are or to be skeptical or to be cautious. I mean, that goes back to saying a lot of Muslims don't even know their own texts. And so by bringing it to them and throwing the ball in their court and showing them your own religion teaches lots of violence and intolerance vis-a-vis the other, and show us how that's not the case.
I think that would go a long way into creating some sort of inter-religious, on the international level, debate that might help, for instance.
But as long as we ignore it --
REP. SMITH: Thank you. We have to move on.
REP. JIM COOPER (D-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks to the distinguished witnesses.
It's my understanding that one of our admirals has said the most signal successful U.S. effort in the war on terror was the tsunami relief in Indonesia -- humanitarian aid, temporary involvement. That worked.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the world we've been engaged in over the last 20 years in rebuilding, what, six Muslim nations, and almost no gratitude. In fact, a lot of hostility provoked. No understanding on the Arab street that we're helping these folks, even though in Iraq and Afghanistan alone just in existing outlays we've paid for -- you know, we could have hired every man, woman and child of both countries for about 40 years.
So in terms of an effective strategy to reach out to folks, don't we need to kind of bypass ideology and deal with humanitarian and time-limited and non-geographic -- and that seems to work if recent history is any guide, and side-step these doctrinal issues?
Yes, sir, Mr. Doran?
MR. DORAN: If I could just say a couple words about the doctrinal issues. I disagree with Mr. Ibrahim on a couple of key points. He mentioned the "words that work" memo. I actually was very supportive of that memo and pushed it around the government as much as possible.
What we found in extensive polling was that when Americans talk about Islam and use Islamic terminology, there's what we say and then there's what Muslim audiences hear, and it's one of those cases where the minute we use Muslim terminology, audiences turn off and they hear, "Ah, you've got a problem with Islam." It's very much what the -- what you were saying, Mr. Chairman --
REP. SMITH: And I tried that from a dozen different understanding angles with a bunch of different audiences, and I discovered exactly what you just said.
MR. DORAN: Yeah, anytime you talk to Muslim audiences you have that -- you have that experience.
REP. SMITH: We are non-Muslim presuming to understand their religion, and they are offended by that at first blush. But go ahead, sorry.
MR. DORAN: Yeah, and so it has the unintended consequence of validating al Qaeda's ideology, which says that the United States is at war with Islam. So we just find it more effective that we talk about interests, we talk about -- we talk to people in terms of categories of identity like tribes of Al Anbar and Iraqis and so on that doesn't put the religious question forward.
It's one of those things like the old question about, you know, when President Nixon said, "I am not a crook." You know, when you deny the frame, you reinforce the frame, so people don't hear "I am not a crook," they hear "crook." So we sort of want to change the dialogue and get it off of religion.
And that's not an argument about theology; it's saying to the extent that we have any control over the tenor and the subject matter, lets move it off of the theological, and I would still stand by that. I think it's quite a good idea.
On the tsunami relief, the question is, what is our strategic goal in all of this? And that goes to what I was saying about the State R and telling America's story. We have an interest out there in seeing to it that certain ideologies are weakened. What people think about the United States is not always the primary, and obviously -- usually not the primary factor that's going to weaken or strengthen those ideologies.
So yes, we do want people to have a good view of the United States and we want to carry out actions that they find completely compatible with their own interests, but we have -- there are groups out there that we want to strengthen and there are groups that we want to weaken, and we need an information system and we need an influence system that can target those enemies and create information flows that weaken them.
And that doesn't necessarily have to do -- those information flows don't necessarily have to have anything to do with the United States and its actions.
REP. COOPER: The most effective information flow might be medicine or a new American president whose middle name is Hussein, or avenues like that that kind of defuse the controversy.
Is there a more failed position in all of federal government than the R Bureau with all the mismanagement and ineptitude?
MR. DORAN: Well, I don't think the R Bureau is a failed bureau. I think that the problem is one of leadership.
REP. COOPER: It's been about 12 leaders in recent years. I can remember Charlotte Beers.
MR. DORAN: Yeah, the R Bureau has had -- I think it's four in the last eight, but if you look at the -- I don't have the numbers in front of me, but if you look at it, about half the time there's been no leadership there. So the position has been -- the undersecretary's position has been empty quite a lot.
When I say "leadership," it has to -- it really has to come from the top. There has to -- you have to -- the White House has to decide that it wants to create the all-of-government team, and then it has to put somebody in charge of creating the team and demand results.
I mean, we haven't had that yet. There are huge -- all of the communities that are -- even the communities within the Department of Defense that are tasked with influence and information were carrying out a radically different kind of role before 9/11. So you've suddenly taken what are basically tactical communities or communities that were directed toward mission acts and you suddenly said, "Ah, you have this strategic communications mission."
But we haven't stepped back and said, "How do we need to revamp all of this in order to pull it together for that mission?"
REP. SMITH: We're going to have to pause on that and we'll revisit that issue.
MR. IBRAHIM: May I also briefly respond to the words matter?
REP. SMITH: Very quickly. Go ahead.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right now?
REP. SMITH: Yes, please. And then we'll go to Mr. Thornberry.
MR. IBRAHIM: About this whole "words matter" memo, the points that I like to stress, first of all, is -- like I said, I don't think the kinds of words we use are going to either estrange Muslims or win them over, but I do think they need to be used carefully, and this goes back to what I'm saying about learning and getting a better doctrinal education of what these words mean, and then using them properly.
So for example, I remember in that memo, words like Shari'a were not supposed to be mentioned; words like caliphate were not supposed to mentioned; even words like umma. Now these -- as long they are being mentioned in a context that's applicable and legitimate, I don't see why a Muslim would be so estranged by that.
On the other hand, and like I'm saying, whatever words we use I don't think are going to make a dramatic difference there, but I do think they make a dramatic difference here in the U.S., because if we do away will all these words which carry so much meaning and then just instead supplant generic words, then the people who talk who need to know what's going on won't have the necessary knowledge, because it's just a generic concept.
REP. SMITH: I think we're talking about two slightly different things between the two, which I can explore minute, but I want to get to Mr. Thornberry.
REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Doran, I've always believed the first step is to really understand not only the enemy but the culture of the religion that we are dealing with. You've been in at least three different positions. How would you rate today our government's understanding of what we're facing -- the religious background that has been discussed here, as well as the culture, the tribes and so forth when you deal with various countries?
MR. DORAN: I think that the understanding has increased exponentially.
REP. THORNBERRY: I know it's better, but on a scale of one to 10, where are we?
MR. DORAN: You see, you're asking me to have perfect knowledge, so -- I would say 7.5. I would say very -- you know, if you look at the quality of analyses about the FATA, it's -- I watched as it got better and better and better so that we understood down to the tribal level the motivations of individuals, the motivations of the tribes.
The intersection and one of the important things -- this is another area where I disagree a little bit with Mr. Ibrahim -- the problem we've got, we have people who are motivated by the ideology, who believe the theology as understood by al Qaeda, and then we have other groups that ally with them for reasons of their own self- interest, who calculate for whatever reason that they benefit from the violence of these guys. You saw this in Iraq.
So our job is to separate out, to drive a wedge between the global jihadis and the others who are aligning with them for whatever reason, but more and more I see that we understand that better.
REP. THORNBERRY: You have to have that deep understanding in order to have effective strategic communications in order to drive that wedge and separate them off.
MR. DORAN: Absolutely.
REP. THORNBERRY: You made -- in your comments at the beginning, you made a comment about having the R Bureau kind of the leader of where the government comes together. One of the concerns I've had is that too often, strategic communications is an overlay to what we are doing, rather than a part of the strategy from the beginning, an integrated part of the strategy, so that rather than spin some sort of kinetic operation to make it look as good as it could, maybe you shouldn't do it at all because of the implications of it.
Can an R bureau, or anything else, integrate strategic communication into the planning of what we do, not just try to spin it after it's already done?
MR. DORAN: Yeah, that's a -- that's a huge problem. It's a huge problem in terms of military operations, it's a huge problem in terms of policy. I think you have to -- the key isn't R Bureau, the key is a strategic proponent for all of this, so that if you have the -- if the undersecretary of R that I'm talking about that would be the strategic proponent would be a much different R. You would shift the balance between the regional bureaus and the R Bureau, and you would have an empowered undersecretary with access to the president. So you would have an individual there on all of the key meetings who would be reminding everybody that they need to think about the effect of our actions on perceptions out there first. And that's the only way I can think about doing this. I always come to the organizational piece and to the creation of a powerful proponent in the government who can make all of these arguments. Absent that, I don't know how we do it.
REP. THORNBERRY: When Secretary Gates was before the full committee a week or two ago, I asked him about an incident, just as an example, where there was a firefight in Iraq. Before our guys got back to the base, they had rearranged the bodies to make it look like we had shot -- our soldiers had shot Muslims as they were praying. This was on the Internet, and we didn't respond for a week. So part of what you're talking about -- isn't it speed of making decisions -- they can't come over to Washington and be thrashed out at the -- at any level; you've got to be fast and you got to have tactical control over that, else a tactical operation becomes a strategic issue. Is that not part of what we're dealing with?
MR. DORAN: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And that -- let me give you some, you know, grist for your mill. We have an enormous amount of combat camera -- combat camera footage that can show what we're doing, but it's very hard to get all that declassified. Once things go into intel channels, they get locked away. And because we don't have a powerful proponent saying from the beginning, all right, lets -- look, the enemy's narrative is pretty easy to see; it's you're killing babies, you are killing innocents. That's their narrative; it's as simple as that. So we know from the outset, no matter what we do, that's what's going to be claimed against us. So we have to say, what's the counter-story that we're telling? Right now, the counter- story that we're telling is, "Oh, we did that by accident" or, "We don't know, we'll get back to you in two weeks." And that doesn't work. We have to -- but that -- knowing the counter-story is one thing, but then setting up the processes to make sure that we have the information going out immediately that supports our narrative is what's lacking.
REP. SMITH: I want to follow up on that because I'm totally with you and Mr. Thornberry on the need for the strategic approach here and how we organize it and coordinate it and the fact that that is, I think, what really what we've been lacking in the last six or seven years, a comprehensive approach to defeating these violent ideologies. And it's not a war on terrorism, and I think it's important we understand that. It is a war, you know, on the ideology that Mr. Ibraham's described and how are we comprehensively trying to counteract that, down to the tactical level, as the example that Mac mentioned, you know, up to the strategic level of what our message should be. And we don't have any sort of comprehensive strategy, and I'm with you on that.
Where I part ways, and what I want to explore, is with the notion that the undersecretary for public diplomacy should be the person to lead this effort. Lots of arguments here. I mean, the first one is, that's what we've been trying for the last six years or so, and it's been a complete failure, in terms of the sort of broad strategic planning. Second, undersecretaries do not, almost by definition, have access to the president. They just don't because their most direct boss wouldn't want that to happen. So if we imagine that we're going to create an undersecretary position that's going to have access to the president, then I think that's just a very faulty premise from the start.
All of which is a long way around to my thinking that the NSC is where this has to be because the national security adviser does have access to the president, most specifically; also, within the current NSC, there's a gentleman who is on the NSC staff who has access to the president, had access to him for two years, who has been charged in this general area amongst others, and that the only way to get sort of the comprehensive approach is to put that responsibility there, because even if we fix the problem that you mentioned within public diplomacy, we are left with -- you know, which is, you know, the fact that they went regional and they -- even if you do that, all that brings in, all that does, is it unifies State. The comprehensive strategy that we're talking about requires many different agencies to do that. I mean, we could tick through all of them and State's just not going to have that type of influence over it.
With that, I apologize. I got riled up by Mr. Thornberry's question and I wanted to explore that. I'll let you respond, and then I have to go to Mr. Langevin.
MR. DORAN: Okay, a couple of points. First of all, NSC has to be deeply engaged; there's no doubt about that. My point is there has to be has to be a strategic operational center, somebody who's following day to day what's going on on the ground, moving resources from here to there, and so on.
REP. SMITH: Across agency lines.
MR. DORAN: Yes. It doesn't -- now, you can't -- because of the Economy Act, you can't move -- you can't move resources across, but you can --
REP. SMITH: You can talk to them.
MR. DORAN: You can talk to them. And you can say: "Hey, you're doing X, I'm doing Y, and our friends over here are doing Z. According to your authorities, couldn't you actually do Y?" And they can say, "Yes, we can do that." And then that frees up -- that frees me up to take Y, to take the money from Y and put it somewhere else.
Now, we got to that stage under Jim Glassman. That's the first time that ever happened, where we all sat in a room, said, "Here's the goal we want to achieve in region X, here's what we're doing," and we started horse trading like that. That's the first time -- that's the first time it ever happened. That kind of thing has to -- that kind of thing has to go on.
You ultimately -- as I said at the beginning: To me, all roads lead to the State Department because they have the lead for foreign policy, they're out there -- they're out putting together our strategy and every other -- in every other realm. And so they've got to be deeply involved --
REP. SMITH: They have to be deeply involved. And I'll close. I will exercise my prerogative to take the last word, though I will revisit this in a second, to say that all roads do not lead to the State Department in this issue because there's a huge military component to it; there's a huge intelligence component to it. So the roads do lead in slightly different directions. I'll let you stew on that for a second -- (laughter) -- and come back at me in five minutes.
REP. JAMES R. LANGEVIN (D-RI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is certainly been a fascinating discussion.
I really do thank you for your testimony -- to both our gentlemen here today.
Let me ask you this: In terms of how we do communicate, not wanting to, you know, inflame the situation, making any worse -- I mean, we all speak to various groups and when we speak about this issue, how do we speak about it in such a way that we, you know, we refer to the terrorists, who or what they are, but not, you know, communicate in such a way that we offend those people in the Muslim world with whom we need to rely -- people that do want peace, and that we need to work with -- against those people who want to cause death and violence.
The other -- let me stop there, and then I'll go to my other questions.
MR. IBRAHIM: So how do you speak, you mean, to the more moderate elements, without alienating --
REP. LANGEVIN: Sure. Right. How do we let them know that, you know, that we have no conflict or issue with Islam, but we do have a problem with violent terrorists?
MR. IBRAHIM: Well, I think you just -- more or less the way you put it. You can say we, per se, have no conflict or issues with Islam, but we have these terrorists who go around quoting from your core texts and who reveal, usually, a greater appreciation -- a lot of the terrorists are usually top graduates from theological schools. And so the question would be, we're not out to have a crusade or anything against you, but your guys are saying that this is what your religion teaches and that's why I'm saying to have a real debate without -- I'll give you an example where debates normally end. Someone will say, "Well, you know, the Koran has verse X, Y, Z which says, 'go fight infidels,'" and then the person, whoever it is, who would respond and say, "Yeah, but also the Koran says, there's -- you know, live in peace, and this and that, and so it's open to interpretation."
But what most people don't know is that again, going back to the juridical roots of Shari'a law, a system was created which is called abrogation, which means, basically, anytime in the Koran there's a statement that contradicts the other -- and there are many -- for example, live in peace with your neighbors; go and subjugate them. The rule of thumb is always you go with what was revealed to Muhammad later, okay? And so when you look at the Koran, the vast majority of the most violent verses were the ones revealed to him later, and so, according to Islamic theologians, they have abrogated the more peaceful ones.
So my point is not to sit there and say, you know, "Well, you have violent verses," and they say, "Well, we have peaceful ones." And then we say, "Oh, okay, it's open to interpretation." Take it to a further scholarly level and introduce this concept and kind of tell them, you know, this is where you're going.
So all I'm saying is to actually bring it out into the open without being offensive and just -- from an inquisitive point of view, saying, we are now so closely -- we've been studying your own scriptures, your own top authorities, and this is what they're telling us. And then when you say a moderate response, this is also how they come back and also from a doctrinal point of view, so how are we supposed to understand? I think that would go a long way if for no other reason than showing Muslims that, hey, our own religion does have these issues and maybe we need to start addressing them, as opposed to us ignoring them and going out of our way to tell them, "Oh, that is a matter of misinterpretation," and then no one wants to address it.
REP. LANGEVIN: I want to go to Mr. Doran in just a minute, but getting back to Mr. Shuster's question: Where is the hope, and where do you see this going? What's the ultimate end game because it's pretty depressing what you're --
MR. IBRAHIM: It is depressing.
REP. LANGEVIN: -- but it would be great if in small groups we could sit down with, you know, 1.5 billion people, the billions of people of the world who live on both sides, and try to work this out, but it ain't going to happen. So what's the end game?
MR. IBRAHIM: Right. It's depressing, I mean, but it's almost -- and I'm not at all trying to liken Islam to Nazis or anything like that, but if I were to come in and say, you know, Nazis and Hitler believe X, Y and Z, so what is the hope, how do you deal with that? And sometimes there really isn't. But I do believe there's hope, which is not going to be mass war or anything like that. And the hope lies in exposing the truth and making the truth available for all parties to address and to talk about without political correctness or any other kind of intellectual restraints, but just objectively address these issues and bring them out in the forefront. And I think -- and that has not happened; that's the whole thing. So you have a group, the radicals who believe this, who are gaining recruits because they make very strong arguments based, again, on doctrine. Then you have the other side of -- the West or the Americans, who are going out of their way to ignore that and say that's not part of it.
So I'm saying to actually say, okay, this is part of it; this is your argument. Now we want to ask moderate Muslims to actually explain to us all of this and have them -- go to a moderate Muslim and say, your religion unequivocally demonstrates, according to all these, you know, sources and all these -- (word inaudible) -- and scholars that when you can, you should go on the offensive. What are we going to do about that? How do you propose to -- and then they say, "Oh, no, it's a matter of interpretation," it can't end there, because, like I said, there's a lot of different meanings and methods of jurisprudence which have already addressed these things, and so it's not open to interpretation, and then that has to be brought up. And then when the ball's in their court, I think a lot of Muslims will, A, see, you know, these people have a point; we need to start actually addressing this. And I think that would actually result in a good thing, not necessarily some kind of, you know, Armageddon war. But as long as no one's addressing the facts and we're ignoring it, you know, I think it just gets worse and gets bigger.
REP. LANGEVIN: Thank you.
MR. IBRAHIM: And I understand that's not exactly the most hopeful response -- (laughs) -- but --
REP. SMITH: I want to touch a little bit more on that in a second, but I want to give Mr. Doran the chance a little bit more about who should be in charge of the strategy and how we do the interagency piece and all the different elements, put together all of our resources so that they're coordinated.
MR. DORAN: With regard to the things that you left me to stew about, I'm -- the NSC is often a recipe for gridlock. I think that's important to see. When you elevate -- when you elevate things up to that level, they become intertwined with the high political debates. So I saw very well when I was at the NSC -- anything to do with Iran, the most mundane things to do with Iran, would become proxies for policy arguments. And I think that we've seen it in the Pentagon as well, when we grappled with the whole question of strategic communication within the Pentagon. There's been a very clear -- a very clear pattern in the Pentagon over -- since 2003 to push the communications authorities down out into the field because there was a recognition that these -- that -- debates about what we should be messaging, they interact with policy debates in a way that's very unhealthy and they also interact with turf issues in Washington; that's very unhealthy.
You get down to the country team level and you -- I was just down in Afghanistan recently and I -- the interaction between DOD public affairs, DOD information operations and the State Department public diplomacy people on the ground in Afghanistan is absolutely exemplary. And you look at that and you think, what kind of organization do we need back in Washington that can support those kind of efforts that go on, learn from them, have two-way communications with them and expand them when they're successful?
Up at the NSC it's all about high policy so it's kind of counterintuitive. The minute you put something in the White House, you think you're going to get a quick turn on it. Well, often it sits there for six, eight months and goes absolutely nowhere.
So we've got to find a way to push the authorities out to the field, but have two-way comms with Washington. That's why I go back to strategic operational.
REP. SMITH: I would agree with that. I think ultimately the model -- and from all the people that I've talked to, you know, one of the centerpieces of all of this is going to be the country team and is going to be the State Department and it's going to be the ambassador in the various different places where we are engaged in this. And I think that is absolutely true. We need to do, I think, a better job of empowering them, though. You're right. We have taken steps in that direction. But on the sort of big picture meta-approach to what we're doing, all of the players on the national level are going to feed into that, you know, what the secretary of Defense says, what the secretary of State says, what the NSA says, president, vice president. There's got to be sort of a strategic top line: okay, here's what this country team is doing in Nigeria and here's what they're doing in Pakistan and the Philippines and we want them to do this. Someone's got to sort of develop that and send it out on that level.
MR. DORAN: Yes, but that is --
REP. SMITH: And resource it.
MR. DORAN: Those top-line messages, that's absolutely the NSC's business, but the -- but what goes on -- and they need to be -- they naturally need to be focused on that and engaged with the operational elements. But putting the lead for the operational bit in the NSC, I think, is where it starts to go wrong. You then get -- you get guys at the very top level who --
REP. SMITH: I get what you're saying. I don't want to interrupt you, but I think you're going to repeat what you said earlier and I understand that is they get caught up in those sorts of debates.
What I'm most concerned about is the interagency approach to basically make sure that all the people on this very complicated flowchart are understood by somebody. I mean, the way we're doing this it's like, you know, it's like we're playing a football game and the coach has half the players out on the field that aren't getting any message from him. And they're doing stuff. They may be talented. They may be important, but they're not part of the overall plan.
Now, obviously this is more complicated even than football, because you have more than 11 people on the field at the time. It's in the dozens if not the hundreds when you think about all the different agency and all the different resources. But somebody in this whole operation -- somebody really smart and with good experience -- has to understand that entire playing field, has to have in their mind, okay, we've got this problem and you know what? Gosh, you know, we need the national geospatial folks involved on this piece. I'm going obscure there. You know, but that's what I mean, to understand -- because right now we're losing pieces of that.
We're also, some of those pieces, are off running their own play -- running their own program and there's nobody really to control them. And if it can be the undersecretary for public diplomacy, I guess that's okay. I just -- you know, it's -- and I've seen it work before where somebody within one branch was able to do the interagency piece with, you know, presidential authority and pull folks together. It has worked.
So I guess it's conceivable. I could be persuaded of that, but whoever it is, that's the vision we have to have. It can't just be country team by country team or State Department piece or this piece. It's got to be someone who says, here is everything that we have at our disposal to win this battle and we all, to some degree, got to keep them on the same page.
That's what we're trying to accomplish.
MR. DORAN: It's incredibly difficult, and you know, what we also need to do, we have to develop mechanisms for cross-agency cooperation beyond just the leadership -- mechanisms that are new. So we need leadership from the top to say, "Hey, we're entering into a new whole- of-government era."
REP. SMITH: Goldwater-Nichols.
MR. DORAN: Yeah, we need the equivalent of that. It doesn't necessarily have to be new legislation, but there has to be a really strong demand signal from the top.
REP. SMITH: I think it should be new legislation. I think it should be exactly what you just said.
I got a couple more things for Mr. Ibrahim, but I want to turn it over to Mr. Thornberry.
REP. THORNBERRY: Following on that, have you looked, Mr. Doran, at the National Counterterrorism Center as a possible example? You know, one of the commissions recommended that the NCTC have operational planning authority. It didn't end up with that. But is that maybe another model to at least consider?
MR. DORAN: Yes. Well, we developed under Glassman a hybrid where one of the things that he did -- I said, you know, he distinguished -- his predecessors saw the job as a PR job. He saw it as a national security position. And one of the things that he did is he worked closely with the NCTC.
The problem with the NCTC is that it's only, you know, it's working on counterterrorism, and the problem -- which is fine as long as we're on a hard terrorist messaging issue. But when you -- a lot of the issues that we need to confront are where the policies of pure competitors, strategic rivals -- Iran, you know, is a -- does the NCTC avenue --
REP. THORNBERRY: (Inaudible) -- for strategic communications in --
MR. DORAN: Yes. Look, there -- I think we're all in agreement of what's missing. The reason I'm -- there are lots of problems with the R model that I laid out. The reason I went for the R model is for two basic reasons. Number one, State Department has got to be a major player and we've got to bring them on board. And number two, I just don't see creating a new agency at this point.
REP. THORNBERRY: Okay. Let me ask you one other thing, and we may have talked about this before: Do you see a role for private sector input into whatever is created? And I hearken back to a Defense Science Board study several years ago that said there's lots of expertise out there in the country that can be brought to bear and taken advantage of, but there's no way for them to plug in at this point.
MR. DORAN: And that's another area where I'm in 100 percent agreement with you. The private sector has an enormous amount to offer on many different levels, but, you know, at the risk of really sounding like a broken record, without the strategic center to plug in, we can't tap into it appropriately.
So I don't think it's an alternative. It's another arm that we need to be using. In my written statement I make reference to a book by Kenneth Osgood, "Total Cold War," about the Eisenhower era. It turns out that Eisenhower understood all of this, set up the government to deliver it, including outreach to the private sector. I don't think we need to go back exactly to the Eisenhower model for a lot reasons, but it's great to hold up and say, hey, we did this once, we can do it again.
REP. THORNBERRY: Finally, Mr. Ibrahim, how much of this is a struggle within Islam that we have no influence over?
MR. IBRAHIM: Sorry, that we have no --
REP. THORNBERRY: That we have no influence to sway one way or another and how much room is there for us to have some positive influence if we do everything perfectly?
MR. IBRAHIM: Right. I think there is a legitimate struggle within Islam over these interpretations. I've, of course, indicated the difficulties that reformers will encounter. Insofar as how we can help, very little, or at least not visibly, because the moment you have a non-Muslim, specifically an American, trying to reinterpret Islam for Muslims or even visibly supporting moderate Muslims, they're immediately completely discounted as just being puppets.
So there is, I think, a debate. You know, if you want to be -- if you want to do it in a literal sense, the literalists kind of have an advantage because it's a traditional thing and they have the law on their side, but if we can help, perhaps if it can be done clandestinely or behind the scenes by supporting this sort of thing, but once the U.S. or the West is visible, they lose credibility.
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
Jim, I have a couple more questions but I want to give Mr. Langevin another shot at this. I know you had some follow-up there that I think we ran out of time on.
REP. LANGEVIN: I did. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Joe Nye, the former dean of the Kennedy School of Government and former assistant secretary of Defense for national security affairs, has written extensively about the need to supplement our military might with our self-power assets, if you will -- efforts to win the world's hearts and minds with our values and culture, successfully exercising the type of power that requires that we pursue many fronts, including international diplomacy, democracy building, culture exchanges, economic development, education initiatives, communication about our values and ideals, and while we won't be able to influence that, you know, that hard-core center like the bin Laden's of the world, we may be able to reach out to those gray circles that are outside of that.
So Mr. Ibrahim, do you believe that it's possible to reach out to those gray areas in which self-power assets have an influence in at least dissuading the people from going toward that hard-core center?
MR. IBRAHIM: Right. I do believe that. I think one of the conceptual differences that we have when we talk is that I'm often looking at the long term. And I think in the long term it's always going to be a problem.
In the short term what you say makes sense and that can be done in that, you know, by reaching out and strengthening and all that. But, see, I always try to think as a Muslim and, you know, I've come from the Middle East and I know the mind-set. And when you think as a Muslim, I mean, it's a different paradigm completely from what we're accustomed to do or to thinking about the worldview.
And so when you're left with -- and again, I stress, by Muslim I don't mean 1 billion people. I mean the people who literally, by the word Muslim, have submitted themselves to this codified worldview. And so it's -- to me, I just don't understand how, if you believe God told you X, Y, and Z, this is not open to interpretation, this is how it's been done for 1,400 years -- how a person can get beyond that.
Now, usually most people get beyond that by actually deflecting out of Islam and becoming moderates, which is really secular Muslims, which, you know, that obviously helps, too.
So in the long term, I don't know how strategic these are; in the short term, they can help and they can make differences, but as long as that codified worldview exists, it's always going to come back.
And I think one of the problems is people overlook history and they often just start looking at the Islamic world and its interaction with the West, Europe and America from the last 200 years and they just see it always as the West on the offensive, with colonialism and with all these sorts of things, but they don't appreciate the earlier history, and the fact is that when Islam from strong from the beginning, it did implement these doctrines. They were not -- so it was always there until, if you look at it from the 7th century until the Ottoman Empire, which annexed a big chunk of Eastern Europe by the jihad and that's how it was explained, again in Ottoman documents -- that's the way it was, that's the norm -- until they got beaten.
So I think an intellectual or conceptual failure is people -- they often tell me, if what you're saying is true, how come in the last 2(00), 300 years we haven't seen Muslims en masse invading and waging jihad? And the fact is, in the last 2(00), 300 years there's been a great disparity between what the Muslim world can do vis-a-vis the West. And so just because they have not been implementing these doctrines does not mean that they annulled them and overlooked them. They're just -- it can't be done anyway. But that's the problem. People think, well, if anyone's been the aggressor in the last 300 years, it's the West. And so they're not taking the historical context and the capability factor into play.
REP. LANGEVIN: Thank you.
Mr. Doran, you know, in your testimony, you rightly conclude that interagency coordination is really a necessary step in combating extremist ideologies. One of the things that I've called for and Mr. Thornberry and I have co-sponsored legislation calling for a quadrennial national security review, very similar to the Defense Department's QDR, but we require that cross-agency cooperation in developing the strategy as we go forward better inform the national security strategy. Do you think something like that would work, should work, and how do we best implement it?
MR. DORAN: I think anything -- you know, the main signal coming from Congress to the agencies to pull together and think about these problems in a common fashion is always a good thing, but in terms of the thing that is most important, I think -- even the discussion we're all in agreement that there's -- that institutionally there's something that's -- there's something missing. It's all of the connective tissue that can pull all of these different teams together. And that's where I would put the emphasis is demanding from the various agencies that they set up the different nodes that will pull it all together and that the leadership will demand of the people who are in charge of this that they do so.
REP. LANGEVIN: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: If I could pick up on the conversation, Mr. Ibrahim, about how we deal with the doctrinal issues. And I think you very correctly identified the problem. I think the problem does exits to some degree in other religions.
Within the Jewish religion, while it is more specific, that's certainly one of the problems they are having in Israel, you know, is the strict interpretation is "here's the land we're supposed to have." And there is some percentage of the Jewish population that adheres to that, most of them do not, but that too creates a problem. It's in the Bible. It's what we have to do. Of course, where the Bible is concerned, you know, there's a whole lot of things to adhere to in there -- the whole shellfish, on down the line -- a whole bunch of rules that don't seem to have much modern applicability.
Of course, within the Catholic religion as well, they have no end of rules. And adjustments have been made and we've gone through those battles in the U.S. -- well, you're not a good Catholic if you don't follow all the rules. And a lot of Catholics have said yeah, but a lot of those rules were kind of made by man, so there's a doctrinal defense there.
And that is sort of, as you describe it, and I think accurately, where the Muslim world is at. There has to be an interpretation of their religion that gets around their doctrinal challenges. And I think you're right, you know, confronting that and having, you know, within the Muslim world a conversation that comes up with that.
I want to explore one piece of that, and then I got two other areas. Let's walk down that road for a moment.
If you are a Muslim, it seems to me that there isn't any other way to do that, other than to -- and I'm a Christian and my own interpretation of the religion is that God wants us to think in advance, that there was no one time at any point in human history when it was all written down and all we have to do is memorize it like a calculus test and then we're good to go. That is completely antithetical to human experience -- to me -- that what God wants us to do is think and reason and move forward and understand the broader world and its context, not go back to some, you know, math problem. And as you can tell from my tone, I feel fairly strongly about that. Whatever your religion, it's hard for me, you know, to imagine going in the other direction. It just doesn't make sense based on human experience.
But be that as it may, that is -- there is another way to go and that is, look, it's black and white and, you know, we've got big problems with the world and the only reason we have problems in the world is because we didn't adhere to that black and white. And that comes into problems certainly within the Jewish religion and the Christian religions as well. You'll find many people who'll say that, and of course, they have a fairly wide-ranging difference on exactly what it is that we're supposed to be doing exactly, what laws we're supposed to be following.
But as you describe within the Muslim religion, the Koran is relatively straightforward and relatively interpreted. So if you go down that road -- if you put yourself in the Muslim shoes for the moment, just for the purpose of this room, accepting your argument that we should never do that publicly, what do you do? How do you make an argument, that, you know, this is the moderate approach, with the key cornerstone of that being other people can have different faiths and we can live with them and it's all good; we don't have to be focused on everybody converting to our way of thought? You know, how would they sort of confront that doctrinal problem in the straightforward honest, up-front way that you've described?
MR. IBRAHIM: Well, I've seen moderate Muslims posit that, you know, approach that you just mentioned, and the radical response is always the same, which is --
REP. SMITH: I know what the radical response is. You've been clear on that. What I'm searching for is how you then counter that radical response and win.
MR. IBRAHIM: Well, that's the difficult part, because ultimately we're talking about a religion. We're talking about truths. This is how it's understood. And we have to always remember whatever we may think Islam is, to Muslims this is the eternal truth. And so, if I'm a Muslim and I have, like you were saying, X, Y and Z, black and white, codified, been practiced that way always, and then I get someone who says well, we need to reform this, because, you know, it's the 21st century and we want to get along with people, and then they go and just give you a bit list of how Prophet Muhammad did not do that, how Prophet Muhammad subjugated people, and so that's the problem. This is the fundamental problem. How -- I know you want to see how to get over that, and that's why people haven't been able to get over that, at this point. Now, of course -- and then again, you have Sufis --
REP. SMITH: Right. That's the other thing -- the other thing about this that I think -- if I may help answer my own question -- one of the ways to get around that is it's not really as doctrinally black and white as you described it. For instance, at one point when you mentioned that well, from the 7th century to the 16th they adhered to these rules and it was all good. No, they didn't. They adhered to some of them. They were drinking. They weren't doing with the poor --
MR. IBRAHIM: Oh, yeah. Sure.
REP. SMITH: -- what they were supposed to be doing. If you ever go back and read that history, there's simply no way that from the 7th century to the 16th century they came within a country mile of adhering to everything that was in the Koran.
MR. IBRAHIM: But that was the rule. That's sort of like we saying we have a Constitution but we break it. But that is --
REP. SMITH: Understood. But there's a critical point that I'm making there, because there's a critical part of the argument that carries the day for the radicals in the Muslim world is when we were doing it right, we were ruling the world.
MR. IBRAHIM: Exactly.
REP. SMITH: Then we abandoned it. But that's crap. Okay?
MR. IBRAHIM: From your perspective, not theirs. (Laughs.)
REP. SMITH: No, no, no, no, no. We're off perspective now. It is -- I'll use a different word as I describe this -- but it is factually, incontrovertibly untrue. In the same way that your doctrinal argument about what the Koran says is absolutely factually true, it is untrue to say that from the 7th to the 16th century they adhered to the Koran. They did not, and you don't have to be very smart to prove that. It is just a matter of historical fact.
MR. IBRAHIM: I was specifically addressing the obligation of jihad. And that's why Islam was able to spread from the Arabian peninsula to Spain and India in about a century.
REP. SMITH: Understood. But you can't cherry-pick. That's the whole point. That's what you're saying is the strongest argument that bin Laden and those guys have is that you can't cherry-pick, and you just did.
MR. IBRAHIM: Cherry-pick in what sense?
REP. SMITH: Well, you said we follow jihad, but we didn't follow all the other stuff in the Koran.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right.
REP. SMITH: It's a package deal, as bin Laden describes is. So I think we can make that argument and say that, no it was not followed. It did not lead to the successes as they were --
MR. IBRAHIM: Fair enough. But to them, there is this golden age myth, which is basically the era of Muhammad, how he lived, which we have a lot of documents, is what we need to follow.
REP. SMITH: All I'm saying is that we can factually contradict that myth.
MR. IBRAHIM: And that would be a good strategy.
If people actually, actively and in a scholarly way went to prove that that was wrong, I believe that that would be a good strategic point, to try to do that. But then again, coming from Westerners --
REP. SMITH: Oh, I'm not saying that should come from us. Absolutely shouldn't come from us.
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay. If it does, then it's just conspiracy and --
REP. SMITH: Within the Muslim world how we have to be aware of this, per your own argument. We have to be aware of what the best doctrinal argument is to go, because the other thing that is possible is that, you know, if the doctrine just sort of ties itself in knots, then you do -- you might conceivably be better off not confronting these hard truths and relying on the argument that there are things in the Koran that talk about peace and therefore that's the direction we need to go in.
MR. IBRAHIM: But like I said, to them there's -- this is -- these -- see, this is the problem. To non-Muslims, they sort of approach the Koran and Islamic scriptures in general almost the way they do to the Bible, by saying well, hey, there's a lot of interpretations. But this is why in Islam, it's a very different -- it's not a metaphysical religion. It's very much grounded in the here and the now and how you live with each other. And that was already explained and defined.
REP. SMITH: Ignorance can occasionally cut in your favor from a broad policy standpoint. And I'm suggesting that it's possible that we can use that. The analogy that occurs to me is the situation with Taiwan.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right.
REP. SMITH: Is Taiwan part of mainland China or isn't it? Okay. It's -- so we keep it very fuzzy, it's all good. As long as we don't sit down and have that very hard-core, confrontational discussion, which seems to be where we're going now, then it's all fine, as long as we can maintain the myth, yeah, we're one China. At some point in the future we'll get there.
MR. IBRAHIM: We're maintaining the myth amongst ourselves, but they're not. They already know better.
REP. SMITH: Sure. In my example, we're maintaining they are maintaining the myth within Taiwan and China.
MR. IBRAHIM: Okay.
REP. SMITH: And it's working for them. And I'm just asking; I don't -- I could totally be wrong about this, but if you're saying that most Muslims don't know the sort of doctrinal specifics, then there is certainly a pretty big myth out there as well. They're not into the down -- they don't know, for instance, that the later interpretations are more important than earlier, that -- you know, rather than going up to them and saying, "Hey, did you realize this?" You know, you may be creating a bigger problem for yourself.
MR. IBRAHIM: But that's what the radicals are doing and that's where they're getting a lot of -- so -- and that's what I'm saying. They're doing that and they're showing it and they're getting recruits, and that's why -- and that's part of the Wahhabi movement with the Saudis who are just spreading all of their literature everywhere, which states all these things. And so to me, it might not be very productive to have them mobilizing themselves with this, whereas we kind of, head in the sand, say, "No, that's not what it is." And they've been doing that.
REP. SMITH: Right. You understand the basic "rock and a hard place" here.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right. I understand that.
REP. SMITH: You can't rely on the ignorance argument that I just described, or, you know, it's hard to rely on the factual argument.
The one question I do have from all this is we -- admitting that we shouldn't talk about this, that it's not something that we can resolve -- we still have to have a big-picture message. We still have to say what it is that we're fighting and how we're confronting it.
MR. IBRAHIM: Right. I totally agree.
REP. SMITH: And in that regard, I think that the memo you mentioned that has been talked about much is spot on, because, if we get into it, I don't see a path in the maze that doesn't simply create more trouble. And I'll draw one distinction.
You're saying that we -- you know, the memo said don't even talk about Shari'a. I actually don't think that's what it said. You can talk about Shari'a, you can talk about the stuff -- don't link it to what we're fighting; don't use it to describe what we're fighting; don't say they're Islamic terrorists or Islamist terrorists or jihadists; don't describe our enemy in those Islamic terms. Not don't ever, you know, say Shari'a, just don't use it as a way to describe what we are fighting. And within that narrow band, based on sort of the box you've constructed for us, it seems to me that that's the best of a series of difficult choices.
MR. IBRAHIM: Except that in that it misleads Americans by not understanding what it is. It's hard to think you're -- until you find the body of knowledge, or the body of doctrine, that is fueling your enemies and you just kind of dismiss it and say, "They're just bad guys," I don't think you'll be able to properly address it. And that's what I was saying about -- earlier about education. Until we actually understand this body of knowledge and then use that as a base to implement strategies or to come up with it, I think that -- and the strategy will not necessarily be one of violence, I don't think. I just think you're handicapped when you don't bring in what they say, what they believe, what they circulate amongst each other.
REP. SMITH: One final argument on that. I may turn out to be wrong about that; there may be another argument. But my argument would be that you -- first of all, I'm not saying that our policymakers shouldn't be aware of this; they absolutely should. The question is whether or not they should use it as part of their argument, as part of their approach. And as you have described it, you know, as a number of my colleagues have said in their questions, if in fact we take this approach, if in fact we send this message out to the broad American public -- accepting for the moment that this is an open public hearing -- but if we send that message out, you wind up up against a brick wall, basically. I think that you, in a certain sense, have contradicted your core argument in the rather brilliant way you have described it. If in fact we lay this out and if this is the argument, then you come up with a religion that basically we have no choice but to fight, because they will fight us, because we loose the doctrinal argument.
MR. IBRAHIM: No. No. What I'm recommending is being blunt and up front about it, but not saying this is what you teach. (Inaudible) -- saying look, we have a concern because theologians and doctrinal people, both Christians and Jews and Muslims, are seeing this thing in your text. Now, we're not saying that's what it is, but we want a clear and straightforward answer. We're not -- in other words, we're not taking --
REP. SMITH: Forgive me, but you are saying that's what it is.
MR. IBRAHIM: No. We're saying this is what -- we're saying this is what your guys have said, al Qaeda. And they've --
REP. SMITH: Do you think they're wrong?
MR. IBRAHIM: Who?
REP. SMITH: The al Qaeda. This is what they're saying, this is how they --
MR. IBRAHIM: Do I think their interpretation is wrong?
REP. SMITH: Yeah.
MR. IBRAHIM: In certain respects -- I'll give you an example. One of the things that everyone will tell you, you know, killing women and children is anti-Islamic.
I've heard that, I mean, from growing up, till now. It's in -- and everyone will tell you that. Now again, this overlooks how Islamic jurisprudence articulates who and who not to kill.
REP. SMITH: So you think they're right? That's my point. I mean, if you think they're right, then that's not something we should be broadcasting.
MR. IBRAHIM: No, no. I'm not saying I think they are right, I think they have a doctrinal base. That's all. Now, if other -- and that's what I'm saying. It'd be better to get other Muslims, or whoever, to try to counter it. But see, as long as it's buried, no one's going to be able to address it. I believe there may be a good way to address it, and in a doctrinal way, and actually combat it, and maybe even supplant it. But if we don't even acknowledge it, who's going to be able to start taking it seriously to try to formulate a counter response? If it's just ignored, and only, you know, amongst the Muslim world it's getting recruits and we totally ignore it, how can anyone start actually coming up with a counter interpretation, which really may be valid and may end up severely --
REP. SMITH: Just to be clear, you don't have one at the moment.
MR. IBRAHIM: I'm not Muslim, and I don't consider myself a theologian. I'm a student of Islamic law. But I think -- I've talked to some who have come up with very clever interpretations. But you're always going to have a problem with the core who are known as the Celiphies (ph) and these are the people who just -- all we want to do is the way Muhammad lived his life in the first three generations of Muslims. That's all there is to it. Now, there is no way you're going to get beyond those people.
And as I was saying, the problem is, even if 99 percent of the Muslim world doesn't agree with these doctrines, the nature of the war now is that a handful of people can do what 9/11 was. And so that's what's going to happen. So even if the majority of the Muslim world doesn't agree, as long as you have a few people who are radical, and no one is able to really study their body of doctrine to come up with a better interpretation, a couple of people are enough to create havoc. It's not like --
REP. SMITH: Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting in the least that we not study it. And I actually, based on my work with people at the NCTC, at NSC, the State Department, I think they are very much aware of what you just described.
MR. IBRAHIM: Good. That's reassuring.
REP. SMITH: They're figuring out what the best way to counter it is.
MR. IBRAHIM: And I'm not saying that this should be broadcast to the American public. I may have, you know, misspoke. I'm not saying, you know, that we should tell the American public that, you know, these people want to kill us. I'm saying it in an internal kind of environment this needs to be made open and made available and not suppressed or censored or just, you know, ignored.
REP. SMITH: Yeah. And in my experience it's really not -- I mean, this is a discussion --
MR. IBRAHIM: It's not. Okay.
REP. SMITH:-- of this committee that we've had, difference of interpretation in what do you do about it. You've described how difficult that is.
Well, thank you for indulging me on that.
MR. IBRAHIM: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Do you have anything further, Mac?
Thank you both very much. Certainly on both of these subjects I think this stuff is very critical to what our subcommittee is doing, to what our national security strategy is. One, we've got to figure out what the best way to confront this ideology -- however we describe it, it is clearly an ideology that threatens us. And then also, in terms of how we structure it, I think we need to -- we need to continue to do better about how we strategically implement a counter strategy.
So I thank you very much. It's been very helpful.
MR. IBRAHIM: Thank you.
MR. DORAN: Thanks.
REP. SMITH: And we are adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)