Breaking the Cycle: Treating Radical Fundamentalism like a Medical Problem

  • Colonel Stephen A. Miller

The West is in a rut after fighting radical Islamic fundamental terrorists since 2001. We use medical analogical thinking to reset an approach to this complex, challenging problem. The West has been fighting the symptoms, avoiding the root causes. By asking “what?” questions, instead of “who?” questions, we can shift the West’s approach from a mostly military interventionist strategy to adopt the medical analogy of “gateway drugs.” The paradox of the root cause analysis is that America is a guarantor of religious freedom yet it is an extreme form of religious fundamentalism that is the threat. A counter narrative is needed that targets fundamentalists who have not yet turned to violent extremism. To do this, the West’s security apparatuses need to collaborate with social scientists and other experts to develop such counter narratives. The successes of Human Terrain Teams and the Minerva Research Initiative can serve as exemplars to create such strategic narratives.