Al Qaeda, Coptic Christians, George W. Bush, ISIS, Muslims, Obama, Osama bin Laden, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, poverty, radical Islam, radical Islam denialism, September 11, Sharia, terrorism, violent extremism summit
Based on his reluctance to identify radical Islam as a major engine of global terrorism, I didn’t have much hope that President Obama’s Summit on Countering Violent Extremism would do much to make America and the world safer from groups like ISIS and Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and from the various lone wolves they continually inspire. After reading the president’s latest pronouncement on the issue, I’m even less hopeful. In fact, it’s all too likely that this three-day event will make the problem ever worse.
In an op-ed article on the summit in today’s Los Angeles Times, Mr. Obama did take one or two steps forward. His administration is no longer using the appalling euphemism “workplace violence” to describe the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas by an Army psychiatrist who had been in contact with the aforementioned Al Qaeda organization. In his piece today, the president placed the attack in the same category as the Boston Marathon bombing. He also – finally – identified the religion of the Coptic Christians ISIS has begun executing en masse. Also encouraging has been Mr. Obama’s recent acknowledgment that there exists “a particular problem that has roots in Muslim communities. “
But the rest of his article consisted of the same kind of politically correct drivel that has hamstrung the war on terror and indeed given the enemy talking points. For example, nearly every terrorist incident mentioned in the president’s article was perpetrated by Muslims. Then there’s the polling data we have. It’s true that such surveys in majority Islamic countries can be unreliable, because most are developing, or dictatorships, or both. But the evidence that is available strongly challenges the president’s claim that “the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject” a “nihilistic, violent, almost medieval interpretation of Islam” and in fact “are looking for the same thing we’re looking for.”
Although the numbers have been falling, shocking percentages of Muslims abroad agree that “Suicide bombings can be often/sometimes justified against civilian targets in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” Big majorities of Muslims all over the third world favor “making Sharia the law of the land,” with the numbers especially high in the Middle East, North Africa, Subsaharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. And of these Sharia supporters, majorities favor extending its reach to non-Muslims.
Worse, the view of Sharia favored is extremely harsh, involving imposing the death penalty for those who leave Islam, stoning of unfaithful spouses, and corporal punishment for crimes like theft. Yet in his Los Angeles Times article, Mr. Obama clung to his oft-stated views about “the true peaceful nature of Islam.”
A related, equally serious flaw in this piece, and the president’s worldview: his tendency to blame economic and social injustices, rather than attitudes held by all too many Muslims, for most global terrorism. Ever since the identities of the September 11 hijackers were revealed, it should have been obvious that many of the most notorious Muslim terrorists – including Osama bin Laden himself – have come from privileged backgrounds. In addition, no one recently has detected a third world terrorist threat that is not dominated by Muslims.
So launching a U.S. or even global campaign against poverty, repression and alienation in the Muslim world and similarly dysfunctional countries – even if such an effort had a prayer of success in the foreseeable future – will mainly expend precious time and resources on the wrong targets.
As I’ve written previously, however, the president’s misconceptions are probably dangerous as well as sadly misguided. For they potentially might either create handy scapegoats for terrorist recruiters, or help them more effectively use existing propaganda. How difficult would it be for radical Islam’s firebrands and enablers to point out to embittered individuals Mr. Obama’s claim that “The world has to offer today’s youth something better” than “injustice and corruption” – and then remind them, “It’s not”?
I don’t mean to leave the impression that President Obama is the only recent American leader that has spread this claptrap. George W. Bush often voiced equally naive and potentially counterproductive thoughts. But as Mr. Obama likes to remind, he’s won the last two presidential elections. He could greatly strengthen his counter-terrorism and anti-extremism policies by starting to follow the simple Hippocratic directive, “First, do no harm.”