It has been more than twenty years since the first Gulf War hauled awareness of the Arab world across the screens of American homes. An entire generation has been born and grown in that time. The Internet has gone from being a dark den of techno-academics to the utility of knowledge defining civilized existence.
Twenty years ago it may have been true that force was the only way to deal with geopolitical threats like Saddam Hussein. Ten years ago it may have been true that force was the only way to deal with festering extremist threats like Al Qaeda. But today we live in a world where we can attack the very soil that violent intolerance and extremism rise from. We can rob it the pestilential conditions it needs by encouraging environmental conditions where opportunities provide hope to the Millenials who are preparing to take over from their Cold War parents.
Events of the past decade – and the past month – have shown the limits of kinetic tools in combating violent extremism. The time has come to drain the swamp with infrastructure rather than explosives.