Opinion: With each outrage, the values we're fighting for become clearer

A protest against abuse towards women inflicted by ISIS jihadists on September 13, 2014 in the city of Basra.

Story highlights

  • Beheadings are tragic reminder of relationship with extremists, writes Sahana Dharmapuri
  • With each attack, the values we're fighting for come more into focus, she adds
  • Dharmapuri: Journalists who have died show us how to fight: with pen and not sword
The recent beheadings of U.S. journalists Steven Satloff and James Foley, as well as British aid worker David Haines by ISIS are a gruesome and tragic reminder of our relationship with extremists since 9/11. So far, public debate has focused on the motivations for this kind of extreme political violence and what to do about it.
What hasn't been said is this: with every attack, our strategic advantage to combat extremism comes into sharper focus. We now know what we are fighting for.
Sahana Dharmapuri
We fight for security and peace in the presence of such horrors by increasing the effectiveness of our security operations through the inclusion of more women marines, more women police, and more women advisors in conflict zones. The U.S. lifted the ban on women in combat in January 2013, recognizing that "valor has no gender."
American men and women have been fighting and dying together in at least two wars for the last 10 years.
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We recognize that when women bring their talents, perspectives, expertise to the table they have saved lives and improved the chances for moving us toward peace. We know that talking to both women and men in conflict zones increases operational effectiveness and strengthens the physical security of everyone.
While the degradation of women is a major political objective of extremists, we know why supporting women in leadership positions is crucial to our success. When women are included in peace building processes the probability of ending violence increases by 24%.
This is great news considering the fact that 50% of all peace agreements are prone to fail in the first five years.
We also know that when women hold political office they pass more and better legislation that helps their communities (both men and women) get jobs, access health care, improve the environment, and educate their children.
Surveys by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and others, reveal that when women hold office they privilege social and economic issues like health care and pensions, physical safety, livelihoods and poverty alleviation.
In contrast, it is well documented that Hamas and other extremist groups use social programs like education, health, jobs to recruit people to their cause.
We know that even if the girls in Nigeria don't return from Boko Haram, even if acid is thrown on school girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan, even if boys and girls are trafficked across borders on a daily basis globally, it's our belief in equality, in the dignity of the person and in the respect for life that always wins in the end.
There's something else we know for certain. The journalists who have died telling these stories have shown us how to fight: with the pen and not the sword. With the truth and not a gun.
To be sure, there will be more bloodshed as extremist groups continue to press their cause. But we will press our cause and honor our commitment to real power with equal force through our daily living.
We know that real power is not power of the few over the many.
Real power is millions of us, billions of us, making our tiny moves across the chessboard of life in ways that only each of us can do, knowing what is right and what is wrong, and what is worth fighting for. It's keeping our commitment to the only thing worth fighting for, the dignity of all life.