Former Trump aide: We can win the war on terror

Former Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States: Are we winning the war on terror? Can it be won? What will it take?

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Mordechai Sones,

Gorka speaking at IDC Herzliya conference
Gorka speaking at IDC Herzliya conference
Kfir Bolotin

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Former Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States, spoke at the 17th annual International Conference of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya.

Dr. Gorka addressed the question of whether we are winning the war on terror, whether it can be won, and what it will take.

Gorka points as evidence that the West is in the process of winning to the fact that there hasn't been a second 9/11. The largest attack since was in Orlando, in which 49 people were killed, as opposed to 3,000 on 9/11. The conclusion flowing from this is that "mass casualties is no longer ISIS' objective". Instead, they export irregular warfare to the US and Britain, with tactics known in Israel such as the knife intifada.

Another tactical adjustment Gorka elucidates is moving away from bringing foreign jihadists to US soil in favor of taking nationals and radicalizing them. Home-grown terrorists are hard to locate and don’t apply for visas.

"Whether the war is actually won does not necessarily present as rosy a picture. Jihad as global phenomena is increasing, there have more plots in recent years, increasing in frequency, with the rise of Islamism having become a global phenomena."

Dr. Gorka explains that Islam is not monolithic, thus we are not fighting "Islam". According to him, the more extreme tradition of Islam is increasing while "modern" Islam is decreasing.

Dealing with the question how the United States, which he terms not a mere superpower but a "hyperpower", is unable to achieve a decisive victory over terror, Gorka touches on two key issues:

The last three US administrations shared a focus on a military model for counter-terrorism. Gorka points out the inadequacy of this approach with an adversary who, when you kill him, 50 people aspire to replace him, creating endless cycle of violence. The task is to stop people from wanting to be terrorists.

"We have invaded countries and killed terrorists" but a more appropriate antidote is needed, says Gorka. "We must engage in the domain of undermining ISIS ideology. Totalitarian ideology cannot be negotiated with"; their method of statecraft is to enslave or kill. "We must make sure that the minimum number of people follow them."

The second key issue Gorka stresses in the struggle against terror is an operational concern, "to always identify the enemy's center of gravity". It is not strategically sound to go after individuals; "it is more important to identify the individual who doesn’t perpetrate the attack but is followed by 1,000 people on Twitter; the ideologue who, if you neutralize him you neutralize one thousand people". This is a challenge in a democratic society where freedom of conscience and freedom of speech allow terrorists to propagate and thrive.

Dr. Gorka says the West needs to have a broader strategic understanding, America being "very astrategic". What is the real threat to America? "We will crush them but I became convinced there is a bigger problem than Sunni jihadists. Shiite jihadism is the bigger problem. A nation-state that is using proxy war; a nation-state that may acquire a nuclear weapon."