WASHINGTON — Terrorism has “metastasized” and the only way to stop it is to prevent the spread of radical ideas to young Muslims, according to former CIA director Leon Panetta,
Panetta appeared alongside former British Prime Minister Tony Blair Tuesday at the release of the new Center for Strategic and International Studies report on countering violent extremism.
“We have had some success,” Panetta said. “We’ve been able to go after the key leadership of al-Qaida and Bin Laden. Problem is, terrorism has metastasized into ISIS and Boko Haram.”
Panetta said the country has amped up its defense resources, but not enough to impede the spread of terrorist ideas among young people who feel bereft of an identity. Panetta said the government should allocate another $1 billion to help stop the spread of radical ideas.
“We can’t kill our way to victory here,” Panetta said.
Success on the battlefield, he said, has to be combined with efforts “to reach out to all of those young people — we have a billion young people who are Muslims…”
Blair said the countries like the U.S. and Great Britain need to “target and win the battle of ideas, not just the battle of arms.”
The best way to combat terrorism is through local and community outreach efforts to make Muslims and other religious groups feel included in society, Panetta said. The U.S. “wants to use local efforts aimed at trying to build community support systems,” he said.
“As we go after them, there are newer generations coming up that feel the world hasn’t treated them right,” Panetta said. “We know how to beat them, we know how to confront them, but do we really know how to win and what produces terrorists in the future?”
The recent election of president-elect, Donald Trump, has changed the landscape of dealing with terrorism. Panetta joked that the country “needs to pray a lot.”
The former secretary of defense in the Clinton administration said Trump has been too resistant to using hard power.
“He has basically said we shouldn’t have gotten involved and we want to be a little more careful about military power,” Panetta said. “But if you’re going to be careful you also have to be aggressive about how you’re going to address the root causes.”
Panetta and Blair were co-chairs of a commission overseeing the CSIS paper, called Turning Point, A New Comprehensive Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism. “Continuing to address extremist ideologies sporadically and on the cheap guarantees that terrorist attacks – and related bloodshed – will continue indefinitely,” the report said.