To eradicate terrorism, using military force and lurching from one crisis to the next is a doomed approach. Just look at who we have considered as terrorists or sponsors of terrorism at different times over the last 30 or so years: Iran, the Mujahedeen (MKO), Iraqi Baathists, Shia fanatics, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and its many franchises, Boco Haram, and today the mother of them all, the so-called IS or Daesh. Terrorist ranks are growing the world over. The way things are going, it is a sure bet that the world will see increasing numbers of displaced families and refugees from Muslim countries engulfed in civil war, who will overwhelm Europe and the world, leading to a backlash against Muslims, and, in turn, further emboldening terrorist ranks.
To eradicate terrorism, movements must be assessed comprehensively and destroyed where they breed--in failed Muslim countries and in the ghettos of the Western World.
Three immediate initiatives would at least stem the tide: (i) Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for funding extremism in all its forms--madrassas where the young are indoctrinated with hate and false interpretations of the holy Quran must be shut down, textbooks that preach extremism must be destroyed and direct or indirect funding of terrorists must end without delay. (ii) Western countries can and must do a much better job in assimilating their Muslim communities and understanding what Islam teaches in the Quran. Extremists gain recruits when the young live in ghettos, have little hope for a better future and live marginalized lives, in communities where Islam is misunderstood and condemned. (iii) Total cooperation from Iran and Russia must be demanded in return for welcoming them back into the community of nations with its attendant economic benefits. Specifically, a peaceful solution must be found to the Syrian Civil War, one that offers security to the Alawites with a transition to representative rule in Syria.
While these three initiatives will stem the tide and may even win a battle or two, they will do little to win the war and extinguish the terrorists' flame. For this we need a fourth and fifth initiative that will be much harder to adopt and implement.
The world must put politics aside and address Palestinian and Kurdish aspirations. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict underlies much of the Arab anger toward the West. Israel and the Palestinian Authority must be cajoled into reaching a peaceful two-state solution within five years. Arab governments should be pressed to provide the needed financial resources for a successful transition. While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grabs the headlines, Kurdish suffering gets much less attention. The Kurds are the largest ethnic community, roughly 35 million, without a country of their own. Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria--where nearly all Kurds live--may be reluctant to cede territory for an independent country of Kurdistan, but the Kurds were promised their own country at the Treaty of Sevres, in 1920, and it is high time to find a solution to their plight.
The critical issue facing the world in the war to eradicate terrorism is the failed state of most Muslim countries, where the majority of Muslims suffer with little hope for a better future. To succeed, all countries require effective institutions. Inspired by Adam Smith, Western economists have recognized that effective institutions, especially the rule of law, are essential and are the bedrock of flourishing societies. Institutions are essentially a collection of rules that are monitored and practiced. Islam is a rules-based religion, wherein rulers gain their legitimacy by being more rule-compliant than the citizenry, a legitimacy that is glaringly absent in most Muslim countries today. Discussion of the philosophical foundation of Islam is necessary for establishing the clearly defined institutions envisaged in Islam--institutions that are also compatible with the writings of Adam Smith but with a heavier dose of morality and justice. Yet, most Muslim rulers obstruct just and effective institutions that would enhance economic, social and political justice and progress, but would undermine their illegitimate rule.
To affect change, Western leaders must come together and adopt a unified approach toward rulers in Muslim countries--an approach that might undermine perceived short-term Western interests but would be the foundation for eradicating Muslim terrorism. Western democracies, as a unified entity, should not support dictators that contradict the teachings of the Quran and undermine Islam and its institutions. Instead, Muslim leaders must be pushed into embracing the institutions that Islam recommends for flourishing societies--freedom, representative governance, equality, poverty eradication, and above all the rule of law and justice. If they don't, terrorists will fill the void, promise a better future through Jihad (if not in this world at least in the hereafter) to end Western support of un-Islamic rulers.