Whatever its intentions the Obama administration has had its conference on “violent extremism” overshadowed by its refusal to call Islamic terrorism by its name.
It’s very bad messaging, indeed.
The Wall Street Journal editorialized this morning:
President Obama opened this week’s White House Conference on Violent Extremism with a speech about community-based counter-radicalization efforts, and his Administration is being roundly mocked for its refusal to use terms like “Muslim terrorism” or “Islamism.” The mockery is deserved. Foreign policy is not a Harry Potter tale of good versus He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And war cannot be won against an enemy we refuse to describe except in meaningless generalities.
The 9/11 Commission Report put this front and center. Its second chapter, “The Foundation of the New Terrorism,” traces what it calls “ Bin Ladin ’s Appeal in the Islamic World.” It discusses the late al Qaeda leader’s faith in “a return to observance of the literal teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadith.” It underscores bin Laden’s reliance on Muslim theologians, from Ibn Taimiyyah in the 14th century to Sayyid Qutb in the 20th. And it explains how bin Laden turned Islam into a licence for murder.
“Qutb argued that humans can choose only between Islam and jahilyya,” referring to a world of licentiousness and unbelief. “No middle ground exists. . . . All Muslims—as he defined them—therefore must take up arms in this fight. Any Muslim who rejects his ideas is just one more nonbeliever worthy of destruction.”
Graeme Wood makes a similar point in an excellent and often-linked article on ISIS in the Atlantic. Therein he explains:
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
Obviously, you cannot fight a war if you do not know your enemy. And you cannot fight a war if you refuse to fight it.
The Journal concludes that without battlefield victories lofty ideals and community organizing will seem like empty gestures.
Above all, we need to recognize that the strength of radical Islamists is directly correlated to their battlefield success, and the growing perception that they are the strong horse against moderate Muslim leaders. Communist ideology lost its appeal when it was seen to fail against the prosperity and freedom of the West. Islamic State will lose its allure when it is defeated and humiliated in the arena it cares about most, which is the battlefield. Mr. Obama and other Western leaders must summon the will to win the war on the ground, or they will find themselves in permanent retreat in the war of ideas.
Examine the latest military attack on ISIS, the one mounted by Egypt.
As you know the president of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has engaged the Islamist terrorists both ideologically and militarily. He challenged the nation’s clerics to reform their faith and he has been fighting back against the Libyan terrorists who decapitated nearly two dozen Egyptian Christians because of their faith.
What is the Obama administration reaction to President el-Sisi’s actions? It refuses to call the victims of the heinous beheadings as Christians. And, as of yesterday it refuses to support the attacks on ISIS in Libya.
The Daily Beast reports the story:
The Obama administration was given multiple chances Wednesday to endorse a longtime ally’s airstrikes on America’s biggest enemy at the moment, the so-called Islamic State. Over and over again, Obama’s aides declined to back Egypt’s military operation against ISIS. It’s another sign of the growing strain between the United States and Egypt, once one of its closest friends in the Middle East.
This shouldn’t be a complete surprise; Cairo, after all, didn’t tell Washington about its strikes on the ISIS hotbed of Derna, Libya. Still, Wednesday's disconnect was jarring. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest passed on a reporter’s question about an endorsement of Egypt’s growing campaign against ISIS. So did State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“We are neither condemning nor condoning” the Egyptian strikes, is all one U.S. official would tell The Daily Beast.
In other words, these once-close nations are now fighting separate campaigns against their mutual foe. And that could prove to be very good news for ISIS. The rift between U.S. and the region’s most populous country portends of another division that ISIS could exploit, this time for its expansion into northern Africa and the broader Middle East.
Seeing that the Egyptian government is striking back against Islamists, in revenge for the execution of Christians, the Obama administration does not want to take sides.
We need also to note that, yesterday, Obama said that the world should address the “legitimate grievances” the terrorists have. He should have said that when you commit acts of terror you no longer have any legitimate grievances.
But he and we should have known that, near the top of the list of Islamist terrorist grievances is the existence of the state of Israel. If you agree that the Islamist grievance about Israel is legitimate you are also saying that in some way Israel itself is illegitimate.
It’s all the more reason why Prime Minister Netanyahu should address the Congress.