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Rubin Reports

Obama’s Head-in-the-Sand Speech on Terror

May 24th, 2013 - 4:08 pm

President Barack Obama’s speech at the National Defense University, “The Future of Our Fight against Terrorism,” is a remarkable exercise in wishful thinking and denial.

Essentially, his theme: the only strategic threat to the United States is posed by terrorists carrying out terrorist attacks. In the 6400 words used by Obama, Islam only constituted three of them, and most interestingly, in all three instances the word was used to deny that the United States is at war with Islam. In fact, this is what President George Bush said precisely almost a dozen years ago, after September 11.

If one wanted to come up with a slogan for the Obama Administration it would be that to win the war on terrorism one must lose the war on revolutionary Islamism because only by showing that America is the Islamists’ friend will it take away the incentive to join al-Qaida and attack the United States.

So: why have not hundreds of such denials had the least bit of effect on the course of that war?

To prove that the United States is not at war with Islam, the Obama administration has sided with political Islam throughout the Middle East to the extent that some Muslims think Obama is doing damage to Islam — their kind of Islam.

Along the way, the fight against al-Qaeda resulted in a policy that has — however inadvertently — armed al-Qaeda in Libya and Syria.

Once again, I will try to explain the essence of Obama’s strategy, a simple point that many seem unable to grasp:

Obama views al-Qaeda as a threat because it wants to attack America directly with terrorism. But all other Islamist groups are not seen as a threat by Obama. In fact, Obama believes they can be used to stop al-Qaeda.

 This is an abandonment of a strategic perspective. “Islamism” or “political Islam” or any other version of that does not appear even once. Yet this is the foremost revolutionary movement of this era, the main threat in the world to U.S. interests, and even to Western civilization.

Yet, according to Obama:

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt, that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Tunisia, that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Syria, that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If a regime whose viewpoint is basically equivalent to the Muslim Brotherhood — albeit far more subtle — dominates Turkey, that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

These and other strategic defeats do not matter, says Obama:

After I took office, we stepped up the war against al-Qaeda, but also sought to change its course. We relentlessly targeted al-Qaeda’s leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces. We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.

And yet: the Taliban is arguably close to taking over Afghanistan, and has spread to Pakistan. The rule of law in Afghanistan is a joke.

And soldiers there know that the Afghan government still uses torture.

Meanwhile, Obama:

Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum, we are safer because of our efforts.

Well, it is quite true that security measures within the United States have been largely successful at stopping attacks. But the frequency of attempted attacks has been high. Some of them were foiled by luck, some by the expenditure of one trillion dollars.

Elsewhere, countries have been taken over by radical Islamists who can be expected to fight against American interests in the future.

Obama continues:

So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us.

But he never actually defines it, except to suggest that: a) al-Qaeda has spread to other countries (which does not sound like a victory); and b) its affiliates and imitators are more amateurish.

Indeed, rather than describing a movement and ideology like Communism and fascism, Obama sounds like a comic-book superhero describing life in Gotham City:

Neither I, nor any president, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society.

Yet — his advisor on this issue, CIA director John Brennan, has said that the United States cannot be at war with terror because terror is merely a tactic. Which is it? Is the problem just “the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings,” as if the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas are equivalent to the Newtown, Connecticut shooter?

Obama continues:

What we can do — what we must do — is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend.

In other words, it is not a strategic problem, but a law enforcement problem.

At another point, Obama added:

Deranged or alienated individuals … can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. That pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

“Appears”?

So Fort Hood and the Boston bombing are still not considered by the American president as part of a war against America, but perhaps due to that evil that lies in the hearts of men?

And what is the nature of that criminal conspiracy?  

Today, the core of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11. Instead, what we’ve seen is the emergence of various al-Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula — AQAP — the most active in plotting against our homeland.

One would never know, however, that al-Qaeda was always basically decentralized. Al-Qaida in Arabic means “the base,” and what Osama bin Laden did was to create a focal point to start off a global jihad. Bin Laden is dead but he accomplished his short-term objective. Moreover, al-Qaeda’s partner, the Taliban, is doing very well.

Who cares whether they directed the attacks in Benghazi (apparently it wasn’t a video) and Boston? They inspired those attacks.

“Unrest in the Arab World has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria,” says Obama, a man who clearly need not fear the mass media turning his phrase against him. After all, it wasn’t just unrest, but Obama’s policies that armed al-Qaeda in Libya and helped it participate in a successful revolution. And the same point is true in Syria. Indeed, if Bush was responsible for unintentionally magnifying the appeal of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Obama did the same thing in Syria — except Obama didn’t fight them, but instead helped supply the weapons!

At least he called Hizballah a “state-sponsored” terror network, though it might have been nice if he mentioned that the state in question is Iran, which also supported terrorists who killed Americans in Iraq. That is another point that Obama left out and yet could easily have mentioned.

And of course he mentioned Oklahoma City — which happened 20 years ago — in order to suggest that right-wing extremists are also involved in terrorism, and Fort Hood and Boston are due to some vague cause.

Here’s the kicker:

Moreover, we must recognize that these threats don’t arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology — a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts.

Yet clearly Obama has no notion — or will not admit to one — of what that “common ideology” might be, except for a misunderstanding about American intentions. Which, presumably, his outreach will correct.

In fact, in the sense that they speak of it, the United States is at war with Islam — the revolutionary sort of Islam, of course. To help any country resist radical political Islam is, in their eyes, opposition to proper Islam. Perhaps this is why the Obama administration seeks to help turn other countries toward Islamist regimes.

Of course, the United States is not at war with Muslims, but not only al-Qaeda but Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, the Taliban, and dozens of other groups, ideologues, and militants know that America is their enemy. No matter what Obama does, he will not persuade them and their millions of supporters that the United States is their ally. Even though Obama has often actually made America their ally.

It would be like helping Communism in the Cold War to take over countries in order to show that America is not at war with the Russian people; or to do the same with Nazism to show that America is not at war with the German people; or to help Gamal Abdel Nasser or Saddam Hussein to take over the Middle East to prove America is not at war with the Arab or Muslim people.

 A more accurate picture is offered by a Saudi writer in al-Sharq al-Awsat:

The most acute [aspect of] the problem is that Obama is laying down the systematic groundwork for the development of extremism and sectarian violence that will make us miss the al-Qaeda of George W. Bush’s era, while deluding himself that he eliminated Al-Qaeda when he killed Osama bin Laden!

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Top Rated Comments   
We may not be at war with Islam but Islam is at war with us - has been since The Prophet's legions rode out of the Arabian peninsula, into what was Byzantine-controlled Egypt and "The Holy Land", across then-Christian North Africa into Spain and southern France before they were stopped by the cavalry and shield wall of Charles "The Hammer" Martel. The Muslim legions eventually conquered Orthodox Christian Constantinople and would have taken Vienna too if not for the Polish "winged hussars". Islam's war with the US started way before 9/11 and even before the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979. President Jefferson, back in 1801, sent the Navy and Marines to deal with Islamic raids upon US shipping in the Mediterranean (hence the phrase in the Marine hymn, "...to the shores of Tripoli."). So the pResident, Prime Minister Cameron and their supporters can and will continue to ignore history. Islam has been and will continue to be at war with the "kuffars" (all non-Muslims) until it is defeated or until a worldwide Caliphate is established.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
and there are still people that with the murder, beheading of a British soldier, and the tape of the murdered saying it is a holy war that this wasn't a terrorist act, because what, he was born in England.

Islamic terrorists are not exclusive to a country of birth but to a practice of religion.

And when people are at war with me, if I say a peace is in effect, that means nothing to the side that is at war with me, save it being an admission of my weakness, as exemplified by obozo, our clown in thief, that seems to want to sacrifice this country on the altar of Pee-C BS
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama's take on terrorism simply proves you cannot fix stupid.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (34)
All Comments   (34)
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As long as Obuma's speech writers continue to write incomprehensibly twisted illogical gibberish for Obuma to stumble thru, Obuma's soap opera reality TV fans will continue to love him for it.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Americans and the world must bear such for 3 more years, and it can last who-knows-how-long to undo his self-proclaimed notions ...
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks Mr. Rubin for yet another post in which you raise the specter of worldwide jihad with zero suggestion for what the policy should be. What should our policy be - declare was on Islam? Let's hear what the proposed policy solutions are and until then this is just "be afraid, be very afraid!".
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Apparently every time I write about the alternative you ignore it. Alliance with the West, Israel, and all anti -Islamist forces to fight the Islamists. Here's what I wrote about this in 2009 and it still basically applies today:
http://www.gloria-center.org/2009/06/rubin-2009-06-03/ and I have written dozens of articles along these lines.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Funds from OPEC have paid fro the corruption of Western Governments and national morality since 1972. The UN is a lost corruption organization, ruling pro Muslim causes for the last 15 Years, Human rights violations by Muslim nations go without comment. The U.N.’s condemnation of Israel like OPEC payola is rampant.
BHO is the crowning glory of Muslim hatred for America supported, funded, and aligned to without question, protected in every way by the dictator rulers of Islam Fiefdoms. BHO has always been an active supporter of the World Wide Jihad. Judge the commander and chief of the world leading democracy, look at Iran the Democratic struggles of moderate Muslims crushed when BHO turned his back on the Protestors a victory of the ruling theocratic Butchers. Al Qaeda’s continuous expansion and success under the BHO administration speaks volumes of BHO's hatred of America and all Americans, and his Overwhelming support for the 9/11 terrorist organization Al Qaeda. The brotherhood’s success in Egypt and the overthrow of the Pro America President Mubarak speak volumes about BHO’s Jihad agenda for the world. Al Qeadas and BHO’s revenge for Bin Laden’s murder was the murder of 4 Brave and Honorable Americans in Libya to BHO their lives were toys to be played with used as an apology to Al Qaeda for Bin Laden's death because the Murder of the Navy Seal Team 6 was not enough of an Apology for the right honorable and distinguished Muslim terrorist BHO. Guilty as sin and willing to offer his life to the Jihad because only BHO could have stopped the massacre in Libya, he turned his back with a smiling face and turned out the White House lights for the night as our Brave and Noble fellow Americans were murdered in cold blood.
Know a man by his actions not his words.

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
BHO has always been a an active supporter of World Wide Jihad
Look at Iran the Democratic struggles of moderate Muslims crushed when BHO turned his back on the Protestors. Al Qaeda’s continuous success under the BHO administration speaks volumes of BHO's hatred of America and all Americans, and his Overwhelming support for this 9/11 terrorist organization Al Qaeda. The brotherhood success in Egypt and the overthrow of the Pro America President Mubarak say it all again, Al qeadas revenge for Bin Ladin in Libya only BHO could have stopped the murder of 4 Brave and Honorable Americans: to BHO their lives were toys to be played with used as an apology to Al Qaeda for Bin Laden's death because the Murder of the Navy Seal Team 6 was not enough of an Apology for right honorable and distinguished Muslim terrorist BHO
A person's action not their words show the real person
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The long-term trends are negative. America's elite, and the West's, are in denial about Islam. Israel remains slightly in denial, and pushes against the larger denial, but since it is 'busy' and also disrespected by many of those elites, it has little influence.

The difference between Bush and Obama is frightening and harsh, and makes Bush look good only by default -

Bush promoted democracy in the Arab and Islamic worlds (Iraq/Afghan). He did so also in the guise of a partial servant of the Saudis, who wanted rid of Saddam Hussein. He wanted to satisfy the US public about 911 in regards to Taliban-al Qaeda.

The result was that Bush was a loyal agent ('white slave' in Saudi lingo) of Sunni Islam and Wahhabism in particular, of Saudi interests.

Obama has broadened the platform while pursuing 'democracy' more avidly, also through the Arab Spring (and most Western conservatives, including here at PJM, supported the revolution in Egypt avidly). He took Bush's words literally and let the Ikhwan have the reins. Obama actively helped push Mubarak out of power, though he did not design and implement that overthrow, certainly not by himself. He enthusiastically went along, however. He followed this up with the bizarre and concerted US-NATO effort to destroy Qaddhafi. The action in Libya was probably the tipping point that inspired al Qaeda in Syria.

Far from subverting or neutering al Qaeda, Obama has fanned the flames, and helped it and the Brotherhood enormously. Meanwhile, his withdrawal from Iraq and go-slow policy on Iran, including continual nudges and threats against Israeli action on Iran's massive nuclear program (according to Yuval Steinitz, a big cheese in Israel, Iran intends to produces many many nukes and is on path to do so) have increased the Shia Twelver power and helped build Iranian confidence again. By first stimulating al Qaeda elements in Syria vis a vis Egypt/Libya policies, then by standing aside as Iran-Hizbollah shored up Assad, Obama has been in fact:

1. an agent of the Sunnis
2. an agent of the Shiites.

Perhaps he wanted none of that to happen. Perhaps he did. It does not matter. It has.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is happening in every western country. Don't be so naive to think that this Islamic take over the west is an Obama admin initiative, this thing is global.

The Islamic immigration to western countries is enormous, unprecedented and deliberate.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>> President Barack Obama’s speech at the National Defense University, “The Future of Our Fight against Terrorism,” is a remarkable exercise in wishful thinking and denial. <<<

Obama hasn't changed one bit on this view. Personally I don't think he actually believes a single word, but this is the same old stuff he's been sprouting.

And nobody's listening to him anyhow. Not our allies, and certainly not our enemies. He's the 'most powerful man on earth' yet events proceed beyond his 'wishful thinking'.

And can you blame him? Obama's been 'promoted' beyond his abilities, he's definitely not a leader ("leading from behind"), at best he's only good at 'community organize'. Blame the people willingly bamboozled by him.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Creating democratic governments in Muslim countries is great because then they will have the leaders they want. Germans voted in 1933 for the leader they wanted.* Democratic elections worked then, why not now?

*Godwin's Law
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why does so many people blindly follow the hand-fed premise that any U.S. president sets his own foreign policies? Foreign policy is not reset every four or eight years with each new president or political party! The use(s) of military interventions is not set by any president. The UN, the U.S. 'principle' allied partners to our long term foreign policy plan and the external FRC and other intellectual policy think tanks set the policies.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I sure wish we had that President back who's preeminent foreign policy goal was spreading democracy to the Middle East!
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I willl repeat a question that I have continually posed. I will formulate my consternation by means of a contrast.

1. Historically, the evidence is that in no way was Chaimberlain a supporter of Nazism, viz., Hitler's ideology. Chaimberlain seems to have thought the Hitler was a person with whom one can make a deal. He was wrong, admitted it and declared war against Nazi Germany.

2. Is the single strategic motivation behind Obama's support of Islamism, particularly of the Brotherhood type, due, Chaimberlain-like, to a mere mistaken belief that the Brotherhood would moderate the radicals (and I note that some British newspapers thought that Hitler would control the radicals of his party). From this point of view, Obama's policy towards Islamism would be one directed by a mistaken judgment, theoretically correctable, i.e., if he could be brought to see the facts differently. Is that the full extent of Obama's preference for Islamism?

"Obama's preference for Islamism" can also be understood as affirming the very content of Islamism as a positive value and seeking to further it (like the Knights of Columbus seek to further Catholic social teaching in society) for its own sake. In other words, is there a further factor in Obama's strategic dealings with Islam, namely that he finds it to be a truth worth furthering, with or without Ql-Qaeda being entailed. Is this pro-Islamism similar to a Knight of Columbus finding Catholic doctrine to be true and worth furthering in praxis? If the answer is "yes", then Obama would, even if Al-Qaeda or Islamic terrorism were removed, be an active supporter of Islamism a la Muslim Brotherhood.

Without seeking to give reasons for my doubts, I simply state that I cannot free myself of the belief that Obama is pro-Islamic in part because Islamism represents for him a positive value in itself such that he wants to have it established and will use US foreign policy to do so. If this is true, the nature of the quandry for the West is far more precarious than one of being misled by a misevaluation of pratical effects of the Brotherhood. It would be somewhat like a Chaimberlain really rooting for Nazism. Obama would, then, be seeking to support Islamism on its own merits. I hestitate to make such a final cognitive judgment, but I cannot shake the suspicion.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Muslim radicals are RADICALS FANATICS IRRATIONAL INCOHERENT
WHAT PART OF HILTER AND THE JIHADIST REMAINS UNCLEAR...
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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