In my view, what is taking place since September 11, 2001 is neither a war on terror nor a clash of civilizations. It is, rather, a war against militant Islam.
"War on terror" makes no sense. One cannot declare war on a tactic. It is akin to declaring "war on weapons of mass destruction" or "war on the AirLand battle." It's as though, after Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on surprise attacks. This is a euphemism that has the unfortunate effect of confusing matters: if terror is the enemy, why is there no mention of such major terrorist problems as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka or the Shining Path in Peru? And only one out of the "axis of evil" trio (Iran, not Iraq or North Korea) pose a problem having primarily to do with terrorism.
Nor is this a clash of civilizations. Yes, Islamists seek a confrontation with the West, believing that their vision of Islam can achieve a global supremacy. Yet their violence against Westerners (and non-Muslims more generally) is complemented by an equally important Islamist enmity toward Muslims who disagree with their extremist outlook, as seen in the depredations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, as well as its counterparts in Bangladesh, Iran, and Sudan. This same pattern of targeting fellow Muslims is also apparent in countries where militant Islam has yet to take over (such as Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Indonesia). Militant Islam is an aggressive totalitarian ideology that hardly discriminates between those who disagree with it, Muslim or non-Muslim. The problem is not between civilizations but between different political views.
I propose seeing the war not against terrorism nor against Islam but against a terrorist reading of Islam. Militant Islam derives from Islam but is a horrible version of it – anti-human, anti-modern, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-Hindu, anti-women, as well as millenarian, jihadistic, and suicidal. It appeals to only a portion of Muslims (which I estimate at 10-15 percent of the whole). This implies that the war on militant Islam can and must draw heavily on Muslim participation. The key is to see the enemy not as a tactic nor a religion but as a radical utopian ideology. Like its earlier versions, the fascistic and the Marxist-Leninist, this one too will be defeated.