President Trump first said it during his inaugural address:
We will … unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.
The establishment media has been too involved with comparing crowd sizes to take any significant notice, but Trump’s words heralded a change that was momentous — and could make all the difference in our civilizational struggle against the global jihad.
One principal reason why the threat of Islamic jihad that confronts Trump is so large is because his predecessor ignored it, denied its motivating ideology, and allowed it to proliferate. A pivotal yet overlooked action of the Obama administration was its purge of all mention of Islam and jihad from law enforcement counter-terror training materials in 2011 to heed the demand of U.S. Muslim groups and their allies. Since then, the U.S. has failed to identify, confront, and oppose the ideology that has enabled jihadis to behave more boldly and aggressively then ever.
That ideology has spread unchecked in the U.S. in large part because Barack Obama didn’t want law enforcement officials learning about it: that would have been “Islamophobic.”
It is an adage as old as warfare itself: one cannot defeat an enemy that one does not understand. It could be added that one certainly has no chance whatsoever of defeating an enemy that one refuses to understand. Yet Obama’s “Countering Violent Extremism” program pointedly and ostentatiously avoided all mention of Islam and jihad in connection with terrorism. He did this in accord with the claim that investigating and speaking honestly about the beliefs and goals of jihadis would so mortally offend moderate Muslims that they would become “radicalized” and join the jihad themselves.
The whole construct was absurd. Those who advanced the claim, and they were many, never explained why these “moderates” who supposedly rejected violence in the name of Islam as “un-Islamic” would be so enraged by discussion of how others committed violence in the name of Islam that they would be moved to … violence in the name of Islam.
But now the Absurd Administration is gone. A new age of realism is dawning.
Trump has vowed to “eradicate” what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism” “completely from the face of the Earth.” He reiterated this the day after his inauguration, when speaking to the CIA:
We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. Radical Islamic terrorism, and I said it yesterday, has to be eradicated, just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil. … This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen. And you’re going to go do it and you’re going to do a phenomenal job, but we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.
Strictly speaking, it isn’t possible within four years, or eight, to eradicate “radical Islamic terrorism” — which is actually orthodox and mainstream in Islam — as long as there are people who believe the Qur’an is the perfect and eternal word of Allah.
There will always be some believers who get the idea that they can please Allah by killing and being killed for him (cf. Qur’an 9:111). However, Trump’s declaration, while hyperbolic, was a welcome indication of his apparent determination to speak honestly about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, and to combat it and roll it back.
And to call it “evil,” after eight years of the Obama administration’s moral equivocation and obfuscation, is as refreshing as Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire” in the midst of a similar period of equivocation and cowardice.
It is welcome to have that kind of moral clarity back in the White House. President Trump clearly hopes to emulate Reagan by destroying the Islamic State just as Reagan’s actions led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
That collapse didn’t end Communism, which is alive and well in the Democratic Party and on U.S. university campuses, but it did deal it a significant blow. If Trump ends the Islamic State, it won’t end Islamic jihad, but it will deal it a significant blow. After so many years of ignoring, enabling, explaining away, and blaming itself for jihad, the United States is finally getting back on track.
And not a moment too soon.