Monday, November 30, 2009

Obama and The War Of Ideas Against The Jihadists

Our war against radical Islam has always been a two front war. We have succeeded to this point in the physical war against radical Islam. We are losing completely in the equally if not more important of the two wars - the war of ideas. We are doing nothing to beat back jihadism on the ideological plane. What was unforgivable cowardice under George Bush has been made worse under the anti-American fantasy of Obama.

Yesterday, Tom Friedman and Fouad Ajami wrote about different aspects of the war of ideas. Friedman writes that the jihadi narrative - that the U.S. is at war with all of Islam and responsible for the many ills of the Arab world - has now saturated the Muslim world. Ajami writes that Obama's prostration before the Arab world, apologizing for the sins of America and whitewashing the Arab world of responsibility for its plight, have fallen flat, not merely engendering no upturn in support for America, but causing disillusionment.

Friedman, writing at the NYT, gives us his opinion of the Maj. Nadal Hassan mass murder at Fort Hood. As he sees it, Hassan was fully infected by the jihadist narrative, and that narrative has now become ascendant in the Muslim world:

The Narrative is the cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11. Propagated by jihadist Web sites, mosque preachers, Arab intellectuals, satellite news stations and books — and tacitly endorsed by some Arab regimes — this narrative posits that America has declared war on Islam, as part of a grand “American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy” to keep Muslims down.

Yes, after two decades in which U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny — in Bosnia, Darfur, Kuwait, Somalia, Lebanon, Kurdistan, post-earthquake Pakistan, post-tsunami Indonesia, Iraq and Afghanistan — a narrative that says America is dedicated to keeping Muslims down is thriving.

Although most of the Muslims being killed today are being killed by jihadist suicide bombers in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia, you’d never know it from listening to their world. The dominant narrative there is that 9/11 was a kind of fraud: America’s unprovoked onslaught on Islam is the real story, and the Muslims are the real victims — of U.S. perfidy.

Have no doubt: we punched a fist into the Arab/Muslim world after 9/11, partly to send a message of deterrence, but primarily to destroy two tyrannical regimes — the Taliban and the Baathists — and to work with Afghans and Iraqis to build a different kind of politics. In the process, we did some stupid and bad things. But for every Abu Ghraib, our soldiers and diplomats perpetrated a million acts of kindness aimed at giving Arabs and Muslims a better chance to succeed with modernity and to elect their own leaders.

The Narrative was concocted by jihadists to obscure that.

It’s working. As a Jordanian-born counterterrorism expert, who asked to remain anonymous, said to me: “This narrative is now omnipresent in Arab and Muslim communities in the region and in migrant communities around the world. . . .

Ajami, writing in the WSJ, tells us:

[Obama] has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will, the Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not "unclenched their fist," nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest.

There is little Mr. Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can't journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies—he has already done that. He can't journey to Cairo to tell the fabled "Arab street" that the Iraq war was a wasted war of choice, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands—he has already done that as well. He can't tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam—he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.

It was the norm for American liberalism during the Bush years to brandish the Pew Global Attitudes survey that told of America's decline in the eyes of foreign nations. Foreigners were saying what the liberals wanted said.

Now those surveys of 2009 bring findings from the world of Islam that confirm that the animus toward America has not been radically changed by the ascendancy of Mr. Obama. In the Palestinian territories, 15% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 82% have an unfavorable view. The Obama speech in Ankara didn't seem to help in Turkey, where the favorables are 14% and those unreconciled, 69%. In Egypt, a country that's reaped nearly 40 years of American aid, things stayed roughly the same: 27% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 70% do not. In Pakistan, a place of great consequence for American power, our standing has deteriorated: The unfavorables rose from 63% in 2008 to 68% this year.

Mr. Obama's election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism. That anti-Americanism is endemic to this region, an alibi and a scapegoat for nations, and their rulers, unwilling to break out of the grip of political autocracy and economic failure. It predated the presidency of George W. Bush and rages on during the Obama presidency.

We had once taken to the foreign world that quintessential American difference—the belief in liberty, a needed innocence to play off against the settled and complacent ways of older nations. The Obama approach is different.

Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Mr. Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine, and a policy, of American penance. No one told Mr. Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one's own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others. . . .

Both of the above articles highlight a theme sounded repeatedly on this blog - it is incumbent on our leaders to be honest with our nation and with Muslims. It is incumbent that they identify the source of radicalism in the Muslim world and honestly name it. It is incumbent that they explain the threat and shine a blinding light on this cancer.

As I wrote almost two years ago:

Without identifying the source of "radical Islam" and shining a light on all of the relevant aspects of the source, we are incapable of developing a coherent national and international strategy to that will meet and defeat this cancer. Identifying the source of radical Islam and explaining about it to America is a fundamental duty of our government. And on this, our government has failed.

This failure has other significant ramifications. It leaves our populace without the knowledge to distinguish between a particularly dangerous ideology and a benign one - both of them being interspersed among us and throughout the world. This will lead to a tendency to lump all Muslims under one banner [note - this is precisely what Obama did in his Cairo speach]. Most critically, it will marginalize and cut off from support those Muslims who would fight against the Salifization of their religion. And indeed, as this is in large measure an ideological struggle, it it the fight they will wage that will determine the future of Islam. We need to insure they win over Salafi Islam.

And there is yet another critical aspect to the the governments use of euphanisms to describe "radical Islam." It falsely implies that radical Islam is merely an anamoly. By doing that, our government provides cover for Wahhabi / Salafi Islamists to continue to spread their ideology free of criticism and publicity. This only allows the problems created by that Salafi Islam to fester and metastasize. It will only compounds the costs that we will eventually have to pay if and when things get to a point where some action must be taken against these purveyors of hatred, death and triumphalism.

If anyone has any doubts that the Salafi/Wahhabi sect is the font of jihadism, please see this short autobiography from former terrorist, Tawfiq Hamid.

Bush failed in his duty, likely because naming Salafism / Wahhabism was considered too impolitic. Obama, on the other hand, seems dangerously clueless. His Muslim "advisors" are, according to Zuhdi Jasser, stacked with "political Islamists" and, indeed, one not long ago spoke out in favor of shariah law. His Cairo speech treating Salafi terrorists and apolitical Muslim as the same - equal members in a single Muslim ummah - was a disaster. He did nothing more in that speech then reiterate the "Narrative" and then excuse Arab regimes for the failings with ridiculous claims of moral equivalence. We now see its resonance.

The bottom line of all of this is that we could stay in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next half century and still not defeat the threat of "radical Islam." We can't because it is an idea, and until we engage in the war of ideas, we can expect the threat from radical salafists to continue to metastasize. Indeed, under Obama, it seems to be growing apace.

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