To Prevail Against Violent Extremism, the U.S. Needs Universal National Service

To Prevail Against Violent Extremism, the U.S. Needs Universal National Service
New AmeriCorps volunteers are sworn in during a ceremony at the White House, Washington D.C, Sept. 12, 2014 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

America’s conflict with violent Islamic extremism is now 15 years old, with no end in sight. While the conflict does not pose an “existential” threat to the United States, both political and military leaders have warned that it will be a multigenerational effort. There is still much killing to come; persistent violence is the new normal.

This is not war in the traditional sense where victory means defeating enemy forces on the battlefield. All of the bombing in the world and even the deployment of American ground combat units to Iraq, Syria or Pakistan would only shift the conflict to other venues. Driving the extremists from their lairs is necessary but not sufficient. Similarly, shutting down the movement of people from the Islamic world to the United States would have minimal effect on the broader conflict. The strategic costs of such an action would far outweigh its benefits. What, then, should be done?

For starters the United States needs to abandon fantasy solutions like bombing al-Qaida or the so-called Islamic State into submission and recognize that, while America cannot be defeated by these groups in the normal sense, its effort to defeat or contain them can fail. One way this could happen is if the American people simply lose their stomach for the conflict.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.