from Middle East Program

How We Win

How Cutting-Edge Entrepreneurs, Political Visionaries, Enlightened Business Leaders, and Social Media Mavens Can Defeat the Extremist Threat

Farah Pandith argues for a paradigm shift in our approach to combating extremism, one that mobilizes the expertise and resources of diplomats, corporate leaders, mental health experts, social scientists, entrepreneurs, local communities, and, most of all, global youth themselves.

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

There is a war being fought, and we are losing it.

Despite the billions of dollars spent since 9/11 trying to defeat terrorist organizations, the so-called Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and other groups remain a terrifying geopolitical threat. In some ways the threat has grown worse: The 9/11 hijackers came from far away; the danger today can come from anywhere—from the other side of the world to across the street. Unable to stem recruitment, we seem doomed to a worsening struggle with a constantly evolving enemy that remains several steps ahead of us. Unfortunately, current policies seem almost guaranteed not to reduce extremist violence but instead to make it easier for terrorists to spread their hateful ideas, recruit new members, and carry out attacks.

More on:

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Radicalization and Extremism




We actually possess the means right now to inoculate communities against extremist ideologies. In How We Win, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Farah Pandith presents a revolutionary new analysis of global extremism as well as powerful but seldom-used strategies for vanquishing it. Drawing on her visits to eighty countries, the hundreds of interviews and focus groups she’s conducted around the world, and her high-level experience in the Bush and Obama administrations, Pandith argues for a paradigm shift in our approach to combat extremism, one that mobilizes the expertise and resources of diplomats, corporate leaders, mental health experts, social scientists, entrepreneurs, local communities, and, most of all, global youth themselves.

There is a war being fought, and we can win it. This is how.

More on:

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Radicalization and Extremism




Reviews and Endorsements

Comprehensive and expansive in scope. . . . An inspired, intensively focused examination of issues of and solutions about extremist ideology, sure to inspire spirited debate.

Kirkus Reviews

Essential for anyone who cares about security and the resilience of democratic values.

Leon E. Panetta, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense; Former Director, CIA

Drawing on her decades of experience, Pandith unweaves the tangled web of extremism and demonstrates how government officials, tech CEOs, and concerned citizens alike can do their part to defeat it.

Madeleine K. Albright, Former Secretary of State

How We Win shows us exactly what we need to do, and can do, to turn the tide.

The Honorable Stephen J. Hadley, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Board Chair, U.S. Institute of Peace

As former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, I was on the front lines of the war against violent extremists. . . . I wish I’d had Farah Pandith’s groundbreaking book then, and I hope that everyone concerned with stopping extremist violence and destruction will read it now.

Admiral James Stavridis, U.S. Navy, Ret.; Former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO

Farah Pandith draws on her wide-ranging experience as a diplomat and communicator to lay out a comprehensive strategy against violent extremism. A timely book for government and civil society leaders.

Michael Chertoff, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Cofounder and Executive Chairman, Chertoff Group

The private sector has a vital role to play in stopping violent extremism. Farah Pandith’s revelatory How We Win is the playbook we’ve been waiting for. Read it and join in. Farah has much to tell us. The world will benefit from her insights.

Shelly Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy & Mather

[Pandith] has written a vitally important book on an incredibly important topic that for too long has received short shrift. Every policy maker involved in national security and foreign affairs needs to focus on how we still face a generational ideological challenge.

Michael Leiter, Former Director, U.S. National Counterterrorism Center

Farah Pandith offers a much-needed critique of nearly two decades of failed American efforts to counter violent extremist ideology. More important, she charts a thoughtful alternative course that demands the attention of policy makers and practitioners in the United States and around the world.

William J. Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

When the threat of terrorism triggers our instincts to lock ourselves down or shout each other down, Ms. Pandith tells us to suit up and open up. Having survived from the frontlines of bureaucratic infighting, she optimistically calls us to be outgoing.

Matthew Barzun, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Sweden

No one knows more about the appeal of ideology on Muslim youth than Farah Pandith. . . . I wish I’d had How We Win as a resource during my critical leadership efforts against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic State.

General John R. Allen, U.S. Marine Corps, Ret.; Former Commander, NATO International Security Assistance Force

Sharp, incisive wisdom from someone who had a front-row seat at one of modern history’s great inflection points. . . . How We Win should be required reading for anyone interested in harnessing new ideas to tackle some of the world’s toughest international security challenges.

Jared Cohen, Founder and CEO, Jigsaw; Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

For decades, policy makers, academics, and community leaders have struggled with the question How do people of good faith stop extremism in their midst? Pandith doesn’t just ask the question but provides—for the first time—a concrete, detailed, and engaging answer.

Juliette Kayyem, Former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Faculty Chair of the Homeland Security Project, Harvard Kennedy School

In this indispensable book, Pandith sets forth a detailed and comprehensive approach to countering violent extremism that serves as a call to arms for governments, businesses, and communities alike.

Matthew G. Olsen, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center

In How We Win, Farah Pandith offers fresh thinking, both profound and practical, on one of our most vexing challenges—combating violent extremism. . . . Pandith gets to the root causes of the problem and, as important, offers a clear, feasible path forward to solve it.

Eric J. McNulty, Associate Director, National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, Harvard University

For more than a decade, Farah Pandith has been on the front lines of the battle against extremist ideologies across the world. . . . Now that expertise is available in this remarkable and timely book. This is the new paradigm in the fight against global extremism.

Reza Aslan, Author, God: A Human History and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

It is hard to think of anyone more knowledgeable than Farah Pandith when it comes to countering violent extremism. . . . This book is full of wisdom about how to deal with one of our great challenges.

Joseph S. Nye Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Harvard University; Author, The Future of Power

How We Win is a smart, original, and timely look at the ground reality of extremism in the Muslim world and, more important, how an unlikely alliance of entrepreneurs and technologists could provide the antidote.

Vali Nasr, Dean, Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies; Author, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat

How We Win is surely the best book about how the U.S. government and others need to think about how best to counter violent extremism and also how to act to curb the spread of extremist ideologies.

Peter Bergen, Author, United States of Jihad: Who Are America’s Homegrown Terrorists, and How Do We Stop Them?

Farah Pandith was a pioneer for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. . . . She illuminates in this indispensable book how America and her friends and allies can defeat the extremist threat.

Nicholas Burns, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School; Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs

There is no more important voice on how we should recognize and confront these morphing ideological threats; how we can enlist social, corporate, and economic power—including millennials and new technologies—to confront the underpinnings of terror globally; and ultimately how we win through the power of our ideas.

Juan Zarate, Former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism

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