After watching Obama’s speech at the Fort Hood memorial
yesterday, I feel I do owe him an apology. That was the first speech I ever saw
him give that wasn’t all about him. And for this he should be commended. And Michelle was appropriately dressed and coiffed.
But still, there was something missing from his
speech. Obama never mentioned the word “Islam.” As has been the wont of American
leaders since 9/11, at yesterday’s memorial, the President, the Army Chief of
Staff, the post commander, etc., all gave their speeches, all extolled the victims and all ignored
the assailant. To a man, they refused to acknowledge Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan’s
name, his ideology, or his religion.
This ridiculous policy of refraining from noting that
jihadists are at war against the US or that all jihadists are Muslim or that
the ideology of jihad is propagated at most mosques in America and Europe is
not new. In his eight years in office, George Bush – who I miss on an emotional level – only mentioned
the issue of jihad or used the term Islamofascist once as far as I can
remember. It was at a speech he gave before the Foundation for Defense of
Democracies in March 2006.
After watching the memorial ceremony yesterday on TV, it
occurred to me that there is a certain advantage to having Obama in office. Throughout Bush’s tenure in office, his
refusal to acknowledge the identity of America’s Islamic enemy was debilitating
to the war effort. His early characterization of the war as a war against
terror obfuscated the real issue at hand. The US and its allies throughout the
free world are not at war against terror. Terror is a tactic. The US and the
rest of the free world are at war against totalitarian, fascist Islam. And by
not very clearly declaring war against the real enemy, the US and its allies
have allowed the threat of this type of Islam to grow.
Indeed, buoyed by the
West’s refusal to state clearly that they are the true enemy, the forces of
this type of Islam have grown stronger and have been emboldened. They now
control the majority of mosques in the US and Europe. They now “own” Middle
East studies departments at top universities in the US and in Europe. And,
through their lobbies in Washington and London and Paris, they control the
international discourse on Islam and so have made it politically costly for
people to properly identify them and their ideology as the foes of liberty and
freedom and of states and societies governed by liberal, democratic rules of
Due to the fact that Bush is at heart a patriotic American,
and because he did wage significant campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was
nearly impossible for the correct claim that he was ignoring the true enemy to
gain much traction. Republicans had no enthusiasm for criticizing their
president even when they felt that his policies — or non-policies – on radical
Islam were misguided.
Members of his administration led by Vice President Dick
Cheney who tried to move Bush in the direction of strategic clarity about the
nature of the enemy were castigated as “neo-con warmongers.” And of course, the
Left demonized Bush himself as a war criminal located somewhere to the right of
Ghengis Khan on the political spectrum.
Then too, the public didn’t take offense when Bush ignored
radical Islam. After all, his supporters and critics alike perceived him as a
credible war president. His embrace of the Saudis and jihadist Islamic leaders
in the US like Muzzammil Siddiqi and Abdurahman Alamoudi did not raise concerns
about his loyalty to the US or his dedication to the war effort.
In stark contrast, Obama has no credibility whatsoever as a
war president. Both his supporters and his critics are convinced that he does
not seek victory for the US over its enemies but rather wishes to appease US
enemies – often at the expense of US allies. The Democrats as a party are
similarly perceived as weaker than Republicans on national security issues and
the loudest criticism Obama has received so far from his base relates to his
decision not to pull US forces out of Iraq immediately and his willingness to
consider increasing US troop strength in Afghanistan.
The Republicans on the
other hand, no longer feel shy about attacking the President for being soft on
national security or – specifically – for refusing to acknowledge the nature
and identity of the enemy.
In short because Obama is increasingly recognized as a radical,
far leftist who is hostile to the very notion of US power projection abroad,
for the first time since 9/11 it is becoming possible to wage a battle of ideas
about the nature of the jihadist threat to America and to the free world as a
whole. And this is important.
What remains to be seen however is whether this
discussion is starting too late to make a difference.