You can destroy an ideology on the battlefield

You can destroy an ideology on the battlefield by @GraySargeant

Too often the old adage ‘you cannot destroy an idea’ is used as an excuse to do nothing when liberal values are confronted by extremism. The phrase has been resurrected once again to rebut those advocating increased military action against Islamic State. But history shows us that ideas can be beaten when the people that promote them are challenged.

There is no single explanation for the rise and fall of ideologies but they do come and go. The days when Marxism-Leninism inspired leaders in the Third World are long gone. Its fate tied to the Soviet Union which rapidly fell apart in the later part of the 20th century. The collapse of the USSR and its ideology shows that no matter how repressive a state might be or how enduring its ideology may seem at the time, ideas can quickly become extinct. Let’s hope that political Islam will soon join Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history.

The nature of Islamic State’s ideology makes it more difficult to discredit due to its religious dynamic. The ideas behind Islamic jihad are deeply rooted in the history of one of the world’s major faiths. The appeal of this extreme and politicised interpretation of Islam is unlikely to disappear in the near future.

However, one of Islamism most recent manifestations, Islamic State, can be beaten on the battlefield. Pushing Islamic State’s forces back will weaken its appeal. The military defeat of the messenger can shatter the credibility of the message. Prior to political Islam, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser spread Arab Nationalism across West Asia and North Africa. Nasser’s ideology was hugely discredited after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Israel’s pre-emptive strike landed such a military blow that Nasser prestige and his pan-Arab would never fully recover. We can ensure Islamic State’s message sees a similar fate.

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