The tragic attack in Brussels yesterday are yet another sad reminder that we live in a fallen world where foes would take up arms against innocent citizens like you and me. Unsuspecting Belgians woke up and went about their days as they normally would. Some of them lost their lives. Some of them lived, but will never be the same. Yet the reminder that terrorism is real is still the same, sadly. 

Despite the fact that a terrible tragedy in Brussels sends ripples across the international community, it doesn’t stop some from turning the day’s events into source material for scoring political points. As always, the line holds: fear, hatred, and rhetoric. And, that’s from the politicians. The irony that these are the very same tactics the terrorists use should not be lost on us. But, it’s very tiring that tragic events such as these do get used to score those all important political points. 

Yesterday, Republican presidential nominee, Ted Cruz, banded about his opinion that law enforcement should be targeting “Muslim neighborhoods” and that the NYPD should also be ratcheting up their surveillance initiatives. The debates have provided the same fodder, that we should wipe them off the face of the earth, or carpet bomb them back to the Stone Age. The sad reality is that while there certainly is the need to stop the physical advance of extremist regardless of geography with a military option, history should tell us all that the military option as the only option simply doesn’t work in wiping out extremism. Men like Osama Bin Laden were birthed out of war. Groups like ISIS and many more before are born out of skirmishes involving bullets and bombs. If you want to stop extremism, you will have to defend yourself and others, but that’s not how extremism is wiped out. That option is simply a battle. The war, by contrast, is over ideology, and if you defeat the ideology, you win the war. 

This is why it’s so frustrating to see men and women who wish to be leaders of the free world talk in such obtuse terms; they don’t even understand the war they want to lead. Extremists aren’t born with a gun in their hands, no, they’re converted by an idea. It isn’t until later that someone puts a gun in their hands or a bomb under their tunic. The fact, however, remains that it’s the ideology that serves as the catalyst to act in violent ways. The instrument of death is merely a means to an end, not the catalyst itself. 

It also is worth stating that extremists are often birthed out of a groups who have been targeted, marginalized, or otherwise made to feel inferior in some way. So many who convert to ISIS do so because A) it’s that or death, or B) their circumstances, be it social, economic, or other, leave them with a burgeoning sense of frustration, and extremism plays upon their angers and fears. So to further marginalize or target those groups only serves to feed the beast even more. The truth is that those neighborhoods are our best options for combatting the spread of extremism here at home. The tactic should be one where law enforcement seeks to form meaningful relationships with those individuals who abhor extremist causes and teachings, and empowering to be active in their communities. Instead of putting them under the microscope, find the individuals who are willing to publicly speak out against extremism and empower them to help you provide a counter-ideology to stem extremist ideology. Pushing out law enforcement in those communities to keep and eye on them only marginalizes and creates a divide that could actually perpetuate radicalization. 

As I said before, there will be battles fought involving bullets and bombs, there just will be. And, you have to win them. But if the bigger push isn’t towards combating an extremist ideology, then we’re bound to continue fighting the same wars over and over and over again. Here are a few documentaries to watch. Take some time, get some insight. 

The first is a short video from Vox. The video illustrates that although ISIS is losing ground at home, it’s only forced them to start carrying out attacks in Europe in hopes of bolstering support for their cause. It proves to you that toxic ideologies aren’t limited by geography.

The next video I’ve actually posted before, but is profitable for gaining a better perspective into the motivations behind ISIS. It also proves my point that violent extremists aren’t born with guns in their hands, but rather ideas in their heads. 

Lastly, this is a documentary that came out not long ago regarding the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent war and occupation that ensued. The cast of characters in the documentary are all top-level officials in the government and it’s various agencies, all of whom were intimately involved in that engagement. And, almost all of them paint a very troubling picture of how the U.S. government approached that conflict. If you care about the men and women who serve us with honor and distinction across all our branches of military, as I do, then this documentary should make your blood boil.