Skip to content
Opinion
The Editors

How to De-Radicalize Terrorists

President Barack Obama is right to urge a global effort to track and arrest foreign fighters in Islamic State. It's not too soon to think about what to do with them once they're in custody.
President Barack Obama secured UN help in tracking foreign fighters.
President Barack Obama secured UN help in tracking foreign fighters.

U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to the United Nations this morning may have attracted more attention, but his chairmanship of the UN Security Council later in the day may have the more lasting impact. The council unanimously agreed to adopt his proposal for a more coordinated global effort to track and arrest so-called foreign fighters -- thousands of whom have joined Islamic State and other jihadi groups. Now it's time to start thinking about what to do with them once they're in custody.

The challenge is immense. At least 2,000 Westerners are thought to be among the 15,000 foreigners estimated to be fighting in Syria and Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Not all of them pose a direct danger to their home countries: No more than 1 in 9 such fighters have usually sought to conduct attacks after returning home. They can easily radicalize others, however.