The debate in the US policy community is conducted at the normative, philosophical, civilizational, politico-economic and geopolitical levels through the media, academia and politics. The issue here is the US response to the global resurgence of Islam. Three groups in the policy community are identifiable: the practitioners, US government officials using the logic of interests; academic scholars of Islam and the Middle East; and 'policy entrepreneurs' drawn from a broader, mixed background who seem to be driven by ideological policy preferences. This third group promotes in particular a view of Islamic fundamentalism, which links it uncritically with terrorism and anti-Western and anti-modernist dispositions. They emphasize the incompatibility of Islam and democracy. By occupying the centre stage of the debate, they hamper serious and balanced analysis by those formulating US foreign policy towards the phenomenon of modern political Islam. The USA and the West would do well to listen to the views academics advance and avoid those that favour short-term goals and the exclusion and repression of Islamists.