Islamists Winning Elections Is Good for Democracy and the War on Terrorism

The majority of terrorists come from countries where civil liberties and political rights are suppressed. They choose violence over votes to achieve political outcomes because it is the best (and often only) strategy available. Given this reality, the single best way to reduce terrorism is to convince terrorists that they can achieve their goals and gain power using the ballot box instead of bombs.

 Islamists, the vast majority of whom are not terrorists, will choose politics as their battlefield if they believe they can win elections, and winning the first elections after an armed struggle will convert many of the terrorists to politicians. Once they enjoy the trappings of political power (including lining their pockets through corruption) they are unlikely to return to violence.

Carl von Clausewitz called war “politics by other means.” The reverse is also true. Politics is war by other means. It is also far more profitable and potentially successful than terrorism. Second, Islamists are unlikely to remain in power beyond a few election cycles. Following an Arab Spring revolution the people’s expectations are unreasonably high and whoever wins the first elections will fail to meet those expectations and be voted out of office. Libyans were complaining about the NTC providing basic services once Tripoli fell, and the war wasn’t even over yet. It is far better for Islamists to take the fall as the first elected party and pave the way f…

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