“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
-President Theodore Roosevelt
Why is it so important to conservatives that President Barack Obama say “Radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism” is to blame for terrorist attacks? Is it just a cheap way to score political points, or is there something more pernicious to Obama blaming terrorism on anything but Islamists who cite the Quran and carry out violence in the name of Allah and Mohammed?
Obama said, in response to Trump’s latest assault of verbal diarrhea: “That’s the key, they tell us. We can’t get ISIL unless we call them ‘radical Islamists.’ What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is, none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction. There is no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ It’s a political talking point; it’s not a strategy.”
Obama may be unwilling to say “Radical Islam,” but surely he understands that Islamist terrorists are a grave threat to citizens at home and abroad. After all, he did authorize the killing of Osama bin Laden, and as of the end of last year, there had been at least 9000 US airstrikes against ISIS. He understood the ISIS threat against the Yazidis. He even wanted to have a hand in the Syrian and Libyan civil wars; those obviously haven’t gone so well.
There is much to criticize regarding Obama’s foreign policy, but his stubbornness about “Radical Islam” is very small potatoes. He may believe it would further inflame anti-Western sentiments among Muslim hardliners, and serve as a recruiting tool by ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups. It does seem absurd that Obama seems fearful of saying “Radical Islam” as though something terrible might happen, yet he authorizes drone strikes that kill non-combatants. There is rhetoric that could lead to recruiting and then there is attrition that could lead to recruiting.
“Every discourse, even a poetic or oracular sentence, carries with it a system of rules for producing analogous things and thus an outline of methodology.”
“As soon as there is language, generality has entered the scene.”
The argument that blaming violent Islamists for their violence would somehow be interpreted as blaming all Muslims for that violence is ridiculous, and speaks to the collectivist worldview the Left’s mentality is afflicted with. If you hate apples, it doesn’t mean you hate all fruit. But if you operate from the premise that you should never say you hate apples for fear of being accused you hate all fruit, then you might as well throw your hands up and give up and never speak (though, surely, this is a preferred outcome of the P.C. crowd regarding their ideological enemies).
Here are several examples of conservative pundits and their criticisms of Obama regarding the phrase “Radical Islam.” They range from reasoned and measured to conspiracy-minded and histrionic.
Jonah Goldberg: “Before the blood had been mopped up in Orlando, the president and the woman seeking to replace him immediately tried to make the second-worst Islamic terror attack on American soil into anything other than Islamic terrorism.
Over and over again, news outlets uncritically reported on the “common-sense” effort to implement more stringent background checks and get rid of automatic weapons, AR-15s, and other “assault” weapons. Well, automatic weapons — i.e., machine guns — are already essentially banned for civilians. And the weapon used in Orlando wasn’t an assault weapon or an AR-15. As for background checks, they already exist. Moreover, the FBI conducted two extensive investigations into the shooter — a background check far more exhaustive than any proposed checks…”
David Harsanyi: “As a matter of realpolitik, perhaps it makes sense to avoid the phrase “radical Islam.” We don’t want to offend the mullahs, theocratic sheikhs, oligarchic princes, Arab strongmen, and future junta leaders of the Middle East. We need to work with these people, after all. What should bother you, though, is that Obama constantly tries to chill speech by insinuating that anyone who associates violence with radical Islam — which includes millions of adherents — is a bigot. This is a president who also intimates that anyone who is critical of everyday Islam’s widespread illiberalism — for example, all nations where homosexuality may be punishable by death are Muslim — is also a bigot.
It’s not as if Obama shies away from lecturing people about faith. Saying the words “radical Islam” is a step too far, but bringing up events from the year 1095 to create a tortured moral equivalence is just fine. Not only has Obama implored us to avoid critical rhetoric about Islam, but he demands that Americans (secular apostates like me) act as if all faiths are equally tolerant of our lives. This is the president who tells the world that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” Can you imagine Obama going to the United Nations General Assembly and declaring the same for Jesus Christ?
Nor has Obama hesitated to lecture Christians — who supposedly use religious freedom as an “excuse” for “discrimination” — to evolve and abandon their antiquated ways. After years of propaganda equating Evangelicals with Islamic fundamentalists (who aren’t the true adherents of Islam, according to pundits who’ve probably never read a single book about the faith), many liberals make no distinction between the two anymore. To them, supporting the idea of sex-specific bathrooms is only a small step from massacring gay Americans. This is what denial of reality can do to a society. You can see it all manifesting in liberal punditry.”
Ben Shapiro: “Obama believes, as doctrinaire leftists do, that human beings do not derive meaning from ancient religious superstitions and deep-seated ideas about how the universe ought to operate. Given relief from material want and prevention of emotional distress, Obama believes, all human beings would get along just fine — and would then be free to cultivate themselves as they see fit.
Karl Marx wrote that ‘life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing, and many other things.’ In this view, unhappiness derives from scarcity in these resources or from social relationships created to guarantee these primary needs for some at the expense of others. Religion, meanwhile, exists only to misdirect such unhappiness toward the cosmic rather than toward one’s fellow man. Hence Marx’s belief that abolition of religion is ‘the demand for their real happiness.’
If that’s the case, then there’s no reason for Obama to mention “radical Islam.” It’s an opiate of the masses, just like Christianity…To get beyond the threat of “radical Islam” requires a real strategy, in the Obama view — a strategy of material redistribution, of power equalization. Take away the guns, centralize all the power in Washington, D.C., and then turn human beings into materialist widgets in thrall to that centralized power — and you’ll have peace. Don’t, and you’ll have chaos. That’s why Obama attributes terrorism in Jakarta to shootings in Chicago: ‘I have seen the desperation and disorder of the powerless . . . how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury; how easily they slip into violence and despair…’
Trump understands that, which is why he blames radical Islam for the Orlando terrorist attack. But meanwhile, Trump is blind to the fact that American leftism is a religion all its own. Ironically, Trump — supposed scourge of the Left — believes that leftism can’t be the rationale for Obama’s soft-on-radical-Islam perspective. He believes, instead, that Obama must be a secret Muslim. That’s because he fundamentally misunderstands modern leftism, and the alliance between the modern Left and radical Islam to tear down the gates of Western civilization to make way for the new. Once the gates are down, of course, the Left will find out soon enough that radical Muslims do exist, and that they can’t be bought off with a few material concessions — the Europeans are finding that out daily.”
Andrew McCarthy: “It has been Obama who has maintained for the entirety of his presidency that we have to be careful about the language we use to describe our enemies because our words affect their self-perception and their behavior. Calling jihadists ‘jihadists,’ we were told, gives them too much credit and esteem in their culture. We should, we were lectured, resist applying Islamic terms to them because that affirms their self-image: warriors in a great cause, rather than the perverters of a great religion…
As I’ve argued about a million times, our enemies despise us and do not judge themselves by how we talk about them. At best, they are indifferent to our language; otherwise, they are so hostile that they mock our ‘progressive’ obsession over it. Sharia supremacists have their own civilization and cultural norms by which they judge themselves. They couldn’t care less what we think…
The point Obama detractors have made about his failure to name our enemies has to do with our mindset, not the enemy’s. The question is whether we understand what we are fighting…
Obama was indignant on this subject, simple-mindedly contending that because we’ve killed a lot of terrorists we must know what we’re doing and why. But the terrorists are the easy part. Do we understand that terrorists are fighting to impose sharia? Do we understand that lots of other Muslims are also pushing to impose sharia, though they are not necessarily using or endorsing violence? Do we understand that there is a sharia-supremacist movement seeking to sabotage us from within, seeking to integrate into our society without assimilating, seeking to become a viable fifth-column that advances the sharia agenda while radicalizing young Muslims?
Calling the enemy “radical Islam” – and better, discussing their sharia-supremacism – conveys that we understand that our enemies are not just the terrorists; they also include other radicals who want to spread sharia and supplant our Constitution with it. It further conveys that our Muslim friends and allies are the non-radicals who support and embrace Western liberalism.”
“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them…”
-President Barack Obama
The above quote is in reference to unemployed blue collar workers who blame foreigners for their sufferings, but it could just as easily apply to Islamists, who also find solace and agency in weapons and faith.
This is similar to what Harsanyi stated. Why do Obama and like-minded people reserve their ire for violent Christians but not violent Muslims? Despite assertions to the contrary, there is no contemporary epidemic of evangelical Christians shooting into a crowd or detonating explosives in a bazaar after having yelled “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior!” But conservative Christians are dragged into discourses about Islamic terrorism to remind people of the unwillingness of Christians and Christian groups to take part in liberal progressive social justice causes.
Also, when Christians are criticized and mocked, they don’t plot attacks against American citizens. Perhaps this is why they are invoked when an Islamist does it; it’s rhetorical social justice. Everything is equal and the same, and any form of bigotry leads to violence, whether it’s a shooting, or a micro-aggressive triggering.
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
Obama et al. have a domestic agenda; For them, Islamic terrorism is both a Godsend and a distraction. After the Orlando shooting, the same old domestic agenda and its attendant bogeymen were trotted out again for a public flogging to rally support for the Left’s agenda: gun control, intolerant Christian conservatives, homophobia, Islamophobia, and any other bigotry you can think of, and the importance of the federal government to grow so that it may combat these social ills. Obama et al. are playing upon the fears of a panicked populace to try to enact their domestic policy agenda.
I believe Obama and Leftist statists do not want the term “Radical Islam” in the zeitgeist because if there is the common perception that Big Government can not protect Americans from terrorism, Americans will lose any faith they may have that government is up to the challenge of planning the economy, conducting health care markets, and serving as an instrument for social justice. Having to reassure their base the federal government can keep its citizens safe from a violent ideology after every time that ideology is responsible for another successful attack would certainly erode confidence in the competency of government, and more economic and social controls statists desire to put in place would not enjoy the consent of the governed.
This article was edited for grammar, style, and spelling, but not for content. The views expressed are that of the author, Dillon Eliassen, exclusively, and do not reflect that of BeingLibertarian.com or Being Libertarian LLC
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