February 19, 2015

Let's take a serious look at Obama's reasons for not using the words "Islamist" and "Muslim" when he talks about al Qaeda and ISIS.

The reading for this morning is from the NYT: "Faulted for Avoiding 'Islamic' Labels to Describe Terrorism, White House Cites a Strategic Logic."
With remarkable consistency — including at a high-profile White House meeting this week, “Countering Violent Extremism” — they have favored bland, generic terms over anything that explicitly connects attacks or plots to Islam.

Obama aides say there is a strategic logic to his vocabulary: Labeling noxious beliefs and mass murder as “Islamic” would play right into the hands of terrorists who claim that the United States is at war with Islam itself. The last thing the president should do, they say, is imply that the United States lumps the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims with vicious terrorist groups.
Not lumping all Muslims together is obviously important, but to what extent is that goal served by strictly avoiding any mention of the blatant religious focus and motivation of the military enemy? Obama can't control how people interpret his silences, and we might interpret the meticulous censorship to suggest an inconvenient belief in something he's unwilling to say — including, ironically,  the very thing that his aides say is the last thing that he wants to imply.
But Mr. Obama’s verbal tactics have become a target for a growing chorus of critics who believe the evasive language is a sign that he is failing to look squarely at the threat from militant Islam....
So, the article shifts to Obama's critics, whom we must suspect of seizing upon whatever works as an attack the President. Is this fuss over terminology the usual political partisanship?
“Part of this is a semantic battle, but it’s a semantic battle that goes to deeper issues,” said Peter Wehner, a veteran of the past three Republican administrations and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Self-deception is not a good idea in politics or international affairs. We’re lying to ourselves, and the world knows it.”

While the most vehement criticism has come from Mr. Obama’s political opponents on the right, a few liberals and former security officials have begun to echo the criticism.
I credit the NYT with resisting quoting a bunch of hotheaded right-wingers. The respectable, sensible-sounding Wehner stands in for all who might have an anti-Obama motive, and the NYT is highlighting the criticism that we're not nudged to discount:
“You cannot defeat an enemy that you do not admit exists,” Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, told a House hearing last week. “I really, really strongly believe that the American public needs and wants moral, intellectual and really strategic clarity and courage on this threat.”

Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University and author of a book on Islam in America, said.... “Obama’s reaching a point where he may have to ditch this almost scholastic position.... He sounds like a distinguished professor in the ivory tower, and he may have to come down into the hurly-burly of politics.”
What's scholastic and professorial about not saying the words "Islamist" and "Muslim"? Ahmed must be thinking of something the NYT has yet to mention: Obama purports to opine on the true meaning of Islam, as if he has the authority to judge religious orthodoxy and identify heretics within Islam. Indeed, the NYT finally gets to this material:
“Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge, so I want to be very clear about how I see it,” the president said [at an "extremism conference" on Wednesday]. “Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam... [But] we must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.... [But they] are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists."
When and why do we doubt the sincerity of other people's declarations of religious belief? Obama says the claims of religious beliefs and motivations are "a lie." To my ear, the statement that it's a "lie" is itself a lie, unless we interpret Obama to be saying that Al Qaeda and ISIS subscribe to an untrue version of Islam.

Normally, Americans don't accuse religious believers of lying when what we mean is that their religious beliefs deviate from what we consider to be a more orthodox or more acceptable and benevolent set of beliefs under the same name. Imagine a President saying that Roman Catholics lie about Christianity or that Reform Jews lie about Judaism.  In our tradition of religious pluralism and tolerance, individuals and private groups are on their own, defining whatever set of beliefs they want — in words of their own choice. We don't say they are lying unless we mean that they are saying they believe something they don't actually believe.

Does Obama mean to say that al Qaeda and ISIS fighters don't actually possess the religious beliefs they assert? If that's what he means to say, I'm practically certain he's lying. Could unalloyed political ambition and sheer military fervor explain what al Qaeda and ISIS are doing? No.

There are 2 possibilities here: 1. Obama is choosing to say something that is not true — that al Qaeda and ISIL fighters don't really believe the religious beliefs they continually profess and act upon, or 2. Obama is making himself an arbiter of the true meaning of Islam — that al Qaeda and ISIS profess beliefs about Islam that are not what Islam really is.

Should a President do either or both of those those things? It's easy to jump to "no," but you might say "yes" if: 1. It's in the strategic military interest of the United States, and 2. Obama is very subtle and crafty in the way he frames his statements.

144 comments:

James Pawlak said...

Why? To confirm his pattern of doing everything possible to defend the worst of Islam and Muslims.

His behavior is defined in Article-III, Section-3 of the Constitution.

Robert Cook said...

"Why? To confirm his pattern of doing everything possible to defend the worst of Islam and Muslims."

I am absolutely no fan of Obama, but this is pure fantasy of the lunatic fringe. There's no logical way to interpret Obama's remarks about the Muslim extremists as not being "true" Muslims as "defend(ing) the worst of Islam and Muslims."

His intent is exactly the opposite: by declaring Al Qaeda, ISIS, and such groups to be heretics--which is what he's doing--he's asserting that "true" Muslims would never support or participate in such acts of violence as these groups.

The Drill SGT said...

There are 2 possibilities here: 1. Obama is choosing to say something that is not true — that al Qaeda and ISIL fighters don't really believe the religious beliefs they continually profess and act upon, or 2. Obama is making himself an arbiter of the true meaning of Islam — that al Qaeda and ISIL profess beliefs about Islam are not what Islam really is.

I'll come at your options a different way.

1. Is the President Lying?
2. Is he incompetent?
3. All of the above?

It is not good for America when the President presents us with those three options.

The Drill SGT said...

Should a President do either or both of those those things? It's easy to jump to "no," but you might say "yes" if: 1. It's in the strategic military interest of the United States, and 2. Obama is very subtle and crafty in the way he frames his statements.

I'm with Flynn. Call a spade a spade.

IMHO, what Obama does with his lawyerly parsing is demonstrate weakness to the world, and that is never ever good for the US.

The Muslim world ought to consider it presumptuous of a Non-Muslim to be rendering opinions on Islamic Theology. And everybody thinks he has no strategy to face 'he who shall not be named'

mesquito said...

It has nothing to do with Islam. Just remember not to draw that particular dude in your cartoon and you won't be shot.

Bob said...

There's a fine article at The Atlantic that discusses who is and isn't qualified to speak about what is (or isn't) true Islam.

Beta Rube said...

The three students killed in Carolina were Muslims. The 21 beheaded Coptic Christians were "Egyptian Citizens".

This administration has no problem with the term Muslim when it suits them.

rhhardin said...

Belmonc Club says Obama is doing the only strategy he knows, vote-buying. This time as a Marshall plan for the enemy with taxpayer money.

A stategy that won't work but we've got a moron for president.

sinz52 said...

There's a much simpler explanation.

Religion is an important part of a society's culture--in Islamic societies, it's THE most important part.

And New Left multiculturalist that Obama is, he can't bring himself to speak critically about foreign cultures.

Instead, Leftists like Obama offer a little mild criticism of clitorectomies and stuff like that, while "balancing" it with criticisms of American society as racist, violent, backward, etc.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...


Obama's actions have been easy to understand, ever since he slipped up and said "my Muslim faith" in the George Stephanopoulos interview of several years ago.

Police often catch perps by noticing that, when being interviewed, they use the past tense when referring to a person that is only currently known to be missing.

People tell you who they are, if you stay aware enough.

Jeff Teal said...

When a non-imam deigns to pronounce on the acceptability of Muslim behavior doesn't anyone think that it would tend to increase the irritation of some unhappy people anyway.Ergo it ain't smart to piss off people that behead people.

Ann Althouse said...

I assume Obama is trying to stimulate Muslims to stand up to other Muslims: Look what these terrible people are saying about your religion. And the implication is: Your great religion is getting a bad name because of these people. In that light, Obama is stirring up Muslim fervor to go to war in the name of — over the name of — Islam.

The Drill SGT said...

Ergo it ain't smart to piss off people that behead people.

Unless you have an actionable plan to kill them first in the very near future...

dbp said...

Obama may fancy that he is being both crafty and subtle in his careful use of language. To me he comes across as alternately clueless and as strangely far more concerned for the feelings of Muslims than for the feelings of Christians (or anyone else).

Michael K said...

"he's asserting that "true" Muslims would never support or participate in such acts of violence as these groups."

A classical "No true Scotsman" fallacy example. Thank you. I thought we might have to wait for it.

Even Andrea Mitchell called his "summit" on terrorism this week a "dog and pony show."

The Drill SGT said...

Ann Althouse said...
I assume Obama is trying to stimulate Muslims to stand up to other Muslims


Doesn't just as much let the rest of the Muslims off the hook for policing themselves?

"Those guys doing the violence, we recognize that they aren't real Muslims. The danger is that you good Muslims are the real victims here of Islamophobia. We'll make sure those Coptics don't try to exact revenge..."

CStanley said...

For a while I rolled my eyes a bit at the conservative criticism of Obama for this because I thought he was mostly trolling them. But it's become increasingly apparent, and now as much as conceded by the administration, that this semantic distinction has been a Very Big Deal.

This is madness because you can't avoid doing "what the enemy wants" by deliberately doing the opposite. To attempt that is to still let them dictate your options.

Obama should say 1) that it is up to individual Muslims - not him nor any other secular leader-to determine orthodoxy 2) that this group is clearly claiming a religious mandate but we know that this isn't universally accepted by Muslims 3) that we consider ISIL and related groups enemies, not because of their belief in Allah or the prophet Mohammed but because of their barbarous acts and their rejection of the values and law on which our society has been built.

In other words, he neither can nor should define Muslim orthodoxy but he can and must define what it means to be a religion that can exist within our framework of pluralism and tolerance.

kcom said...

And why is he using the T word? I thought that one was banned from polite conversation a long time ago.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

More evidence.

Jeff Foxworth effectively deflects criticism of his 'redneck' jokes, by stating that he is allowed because 'I are one'.

Think of that when you note how comfortable Obama (a supposed Christian) is, in telling us all what Islam is and isn't.

Larry J said...

Bob said...
There's a fine article at The Atlantic that discusses who is and isn't qualified to speak about what is (or isn't) true Islam.


You beat me to that link. It's an excellent (and sobering) article in an unexpected source. Even if ISIS only appeals to 5% of the estimated 1 billion Muslims, that's 50 million people, roughly the size of all the armies in WWII. Something to think about.

Tibore said...

"... Barack Obama himself drifted into takfiri waters when he claimed that the Islamic State was “not Islamic”—the irony being that he, as the non-Muslim son of a Muslim, may himself be classified as an apostate, and yet is now practicing takfir against Muslims. Non-Muslims’ practicing takfir elicits chuckles from jihadists (“Like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice to others,” one tweeted).

I suspect that most Muslims appreciated Obama’s sentiment: the president was standing with them against both Baghdadi and non-Muslim chauvinists trying to implicate them in crimes. But most Muslims aren’t susceptible to joining jihad. The ones who are susceptible will only have had their suspicions confirmed: the United States lies about religion to serve its purposes."


Source - The Atlantic, "What ISIS Really Wants":
http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

Jim said...

If obama were a serious man, he could say that Islam is, and has been, a xenophobic,expansionist, violent religion.
He could have said that Islam needs its own Martin Luther.
He didn't, and he won't say anything like that.
He is either purposely lying, or he is dangerously naive.

kcom said...


"In other words, he neither can nor should define Muslim orthodoxy but he can and must define what it means to be a religion that can exist within our framework of pluralism and tolerance."

Perfect. That would be subtle and nuanced. What he's doing now makes him look rigid and dogmatic. Like he's sticking his fingers in his ears and trying to make reality go away.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Obama aides say there is a strategic logic to his vocabulary...

There is. He wants to apply the same anti-extremism rhetoric to tea party groups.

Hagar said...

For Obama, if the world shows itself to be at variance with his depiction of it, it is the world that is wrong.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The Drill SGT said...

The Muslim world ought to consider it presumptuous of a Non-Muslim to be rendering opinions on Islamic Theology.

Don't see how that applies to our current President.

Tibore said...

Oh, yes, Bob beat me to that story, and Larry J. also would've.

But anyway, sure, that pulled quote doesn't look like it's examining Obama's reasons for not using the words. In reality, though, it does because it's a critique of his language over time. His rhetoric is more ineffective than he and his aides think: It's a nice gesture to those who aren't predisposed to joining ISIS anyway, but it's counterproductive to the ones who are. The reasoning behind that may come off as a subtle nuance to him and his staff, but it's a rather large divider among the presumed targeted audience.

He needs better foreign policy staff, pronto.

Curious George said...

"Robert Cook said...
His intent is exactly the opposite: by declaring Al Qaeda, ISIS, and such groups to be heretics--which is what he's doing--he's asserting that "true" Muslims would never support or participate in such acts of violence as these groups."

Wonder what will come first. Muslims realizing Obama is right and they are wrong...or running out of heads to sever?

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

The jig is up for the Muslim Brotherhood's sneaky Enabler in Chief Obama. He will not allow any attacks on them.

Under Obama's sneaky tactics it has been the Muslim Brotherhood's enemies whom we have openly refused to support in Egypt, Libya and Syria. And the US State Department is now underhandedly refusing to support the regimes in Israel and Jordan that are a threat to The Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood is now our only remaining ally in the middle east. Ergo: we cannot criticize Muslim terrorism.

Paul said...

Go look at Neville Chamberlain 's words, and actions, to describe Nazism and Hitler.

Like Obama he tried to be 'nice' but only made them bolder.

Larry J said...

Here's a link to an article in the Jordan Times titled ">We Have a Problem. It's written by a Jordanian attorney who will likely die soon in a random act of workplace violence.

Enough is enough. It is time to speak out.

“Islam is innocent” is an incomplete sentence. Introspection is needed, for, if we shy away from reality, the alternative will be more images like those we witnessed last Tuesday night, when brave Lt. Muath Al Kasasbeh was burnt to death in a cage.

The inconvenient truth that is overlooked or willfully ignored by apologists for the indefensible is the fact that Wahabism, the cult of mediaeval austerity founded by Ibn Abdul Wahab (1703-1792), has over the last half century been exported to every mosque and school throughout the Muslim world until it completely enveloped mainstream Sunni Islamic teachings.

Wahabism has entirely replaced, and become, Sunni Islam; the two cannot be told apart anymore.

Some Wahabist teachings, which have permeated the air we breathe in the Muslim world, are simply irreconcilable with decent human values, especially the ones that declare that every non-Wahabist is a disposable body whose bloodletting is unproblematic.

So enough of this burial of our heads in the sand. It has become tiresome to keep hearing the unproductive cliché that Islam is innocent after each atrocity committed by devout fanatics who did nothing except execute the exact letter of their textbooks, which order them to slaughter the infidels.


Please read the whole thing.

Paul said...

Oh, and I can cite numerous passages in the Koran where it tells them to enslave, murder, and discriminate against 'non-believers'.

Numerous!

TreeJoe said...

The opportunity to push muslims to confront ISIS themselves has passed: it passed when we began bombing ISIS, it passed when ISIS began spreading and Egypt and Jordan started openly taking them on. Muslims are already fighting ISIS.

The President has a very large microphone. He should use it, in this instance, to conduct psychological warfare and hurt ISIS' recruiting efforts globally.

The reason he is not is simple: He is afraid. You can see it in the words he chooses, you can see it in the words his spokespeople use to defend his speeches.

He is afraid that he will make a bold speech and ISIS will gain followers and territory despite the speech. He is afraid of taking a stand and it not working. He is afraid that a failed speech on his part will lead to American boots on the ground.

The reason for this is also simple: he has been lead to believe, by those on the left and right, that his speeches represent his power. He has been coached to believe that it is the speeches he gives that drive his success or failure.

This is first and foremost a failure of President Obama but second it is a failure of the American public to imbue an executive with so much expected power in speeches.

A President's power comes in strategy and leadership through action, principled thinking, and careful planning. The presidential pulpit is but a tool in the "action arsenal". It is not a platform from which strategy nor leadership start or end.

I've often felt Obama is transparent, but never before as transparent as he is today when speaking about ISIS. It is the simplest of emotions driving his decisions: fear.

Terry said...

About ten percent of Indonesian Muslims (~20 million people) have said that they support Al Qaida's attacks on the US.
That is 20 million people who believe that it is good to kill American civilian men and women. Americans do not feel this way about Indonesian civilians. I doubt if more than 50% of Americans could pick out Indonesia on a map.
The administration considers Indonesia to be a moderate Islamic country.

Bobby said...

Ann,

This is an extension of a debate that started brewing within the Bush Administration in 2006 and became White House policy in 2007, which was to stop using the term jihad with respect to what AQ and other Islamic terrorist groups were doing and to start using the terms irhab (roughly equivalent to "terrorism") and hirabah ("unholy war"). The thinking then, and this was pushed by Ambassador Edward Djerejian (Chairman of Bush's Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World) and Jim Guirard, was that- if our goal was the "thought transformation" of the Islamic World "moderates" such that they reject terrorism and violent extremism, then allowing the terrorists to define themselves as jihadists only works against us. After all, the vast majority of Islamic "moderates" view jihad as a legitimate concept so getting them to turn on that was a monumentally more difficult task than getting them redefine their extremists as "terrorists." The thinking was then, as it almost certainly is now, that if we could get the "moderates" to apply the term irhab to AQ, et. al., we'll have made great progress toward setting the stage for mainstream Muslims to reject violent extremism in their ranks. We could talk for hours and hours about why this policy was probably doomed from the start (not the least is that public diplomacy requires a long period of investment before it yields any dividends, which is not conducive to the American psyche, but unreliable proxies, lack of understanding, undisciplined messaging, inconsistencies in other policies, etc., all played huge roles), but this is just the Obama Administration's extension of that policy.

In other words, it's complicated.

--Bobby

Michael McClain said...

I guess WWII was about fighting the NSDAP and not fighting Germany.

Did FDR talk about "radical Germans" or "radical Shintoists" rather than Germany and the Japanese Empire? Seems like Islam has allowed itself to go back to its murderous roots.

Christianity finally dumped aggressive conversion by sword and long time ago and has worked hard to overcome a violent past. Islam, not so much.

Christy said...

By "subtle and crafty" you mean mendacious, correct?

The Drill SGT said...

From the Atlantic Article:

Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”...

"“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”


CWJ said...

I now see that this is more of the same from Obama. He is enamored with what he believes is the power of his own words. Time and again, he shows up, gives a speech and expects the desired action to follow. The sometimes works domestically when Obama can count on Democrat foot soldiers to carry him forward. But internationally he has no such leverage with independent actors.

Effective leaders and politicians work out a plan of action ahead of time. Any speech serves that plan. Time and again Obama speaks with no plan, and time and again is caught flat footed when the rest of the world doesn't fall in line.

So now too clever by half wordsmithing stands in for actual action. The Muslim world will respond the way he wants merely because of how he phrases it. This isn't strategy. It's incantation. It is literally magical thinking. And it is his standard M.O.

Unknown said...

“They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity, or Judaism, or Buddhism, or Hinduism,” Obama said.

There is no God in Buddhism, there are a few hundred in Hinduism. The man is incoherent.

Jane the Actuary said...

I go back and forth on this:

I don't buy the notion that "we can't say 'Islam' because it'll play into the hands of Al-Qaeda." The costs of avoiding the word "Islam" are high -- it makes us stupid about how to solve the problem if we can't really understand it. But it's clear that it's very dangerous territory to ask, "is there something about the nature of Islam as it's practiced that leads to a conquest ideology?"

And here's what I think Obama's logic is in claiming "this is not true Islam":

1. God loves us and wants us to love each other.

2. All religions share this in common.

3. ISIS wants nothing to do with this core belief. They believe that God wants them to dominate and terrorize others.

4. Therefore, ISIS isn't a religion.

5. And if it isn't a religion, then it by definition can't be Islam.

http://janetheactuary.blogspot.com/2015/02/making-sense-of-obamas-op-ed.html

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Althouse needs a new tag "Obama the Colonizer" or "Obama the Crusader." How dare a Westerner tell an oppressed person of color what and how to believe. That is so judgmental and othering.

Big Mike said...

If ISIS and Al Qaeda subscribe to an "untrue version" of Islam, then where are the Muslim clerics standing up to denounce them? Secular Arab leaders are fighting back (Egypt, Jordan) but imams not at all as far as I can see. Can Obama point to important clerics who are ready to provide a foundation for his foolish insistence that he is qualified to determine what is and what is not proper Islam?

Chris N said...

Again, going by his policies, one could conclude Obama seems to think the use of force and threat of force is inherently unproductive, flirting with 'evil,' and certainly obstructive to 'peace.'

As a result, we've largely withdrawn from our bargain with the region, left most allies alone, given space and opportunity to non-allies and enemies getting very little in return. We're no longer much like a bouncer at a club in the Middle East, and I take the Libyan intervention as an exception to that withdrawal, not one of his own choosing, one he has taken pains to avoid repeating.

I suspect the worldview is closer to faculty lounge, difference-splitting warmed-over, Lefty liberation theology peace-activist, one who apparently never stops worrying about the base and elections involving himself and his interests.

The drone strikes continue, and a new AUMF comes down, but politically he can't be too vocal about it and he wants to cement his legacy as much as possible.

So, I'm stuck in thinking somewhere between bullhorn activist and largely incompetent difference-splitter long on speeches and image, surrounding himself with a non-confrontational, greenhorn JV squad.

As to where his own logic leads, look around the world. Tell me what's going on. It's quite possible Obama isn't thinking that far ahead, and when he must, he's trying to square it with much of the above.

pm317 said...

Some confused clusterfuck of a strategy as usual. Why are we not supporting Egypt and Jordan more forcefully, if the strategy is to highlight good Islam and reclaim their religion.

Big Mike said...

I assume Obama is trying to stimulate Muslims to stand up to other Muslims: Look what these terrible people are saying about your religion. And the implication is: Your great religion is getting a bad name because of these people. In that light, Obama is stirring up Muslim fervor to go to war in the name of — over the name of — Islam.

@Althouse, I think you have it precisely backwards. First get the support of leading Muslim clerics, then use your bully pulpit.

The Drill SGT said...

@Big Mike said...

Alternately, what we have now is ISIS and Obama on opposite sides of a religious debate about, "The true meaning of Islam"

if you were a betting man, what do you think about the odds of your average Muslim LIV going with an Apostate (non-Muslim son of a Muslim) rather than guys who have declared a Caliphate and who seem to live and breath the Koran?

exhelodrvr1 said...

It's simple - he doesn't have the courage to admit that the administration made mistakes earlier.

Robert Cook said...

"Wonder what will come first. Muslims realizing Obama is right and they are wrong...or running out of heads to sever?"

In the race for them to run out of heads to sever and we to run out of bodies for our drone bombers to blow apart...we are far in the lead.

MaxedOutMama said...

You have made excellent points here.

The bottom line is that this is intellectual drivel that doesn't stand up under any scrutiny whatsoever.

Again, our post-modernist president seems to believe the narrative controls the reality. The cultural divide between his belief in this and others' belief that the reality does and should control the narrative is extreme.

Robert Cook said...

"About ten percent of Indonesian Muslims (~20 million people) have said that they support Al Qaida's attacks on the US.
That is 20 million people who believe that it is good to kill American civilian men and women. Americans do not feel this way about Indonesian civilians."


Many Americans are very happy for us to be killing civilians over there. Of course, we are told--and we are only too happy to accept without question--that all those we are killing are "terrorists." But, really, we don't know this...how could we? How can it be possible that when we send bombs to blow up people that we know the people we're targeting are always and only terrorists, and how can we know--even assuming those we have targeted are, however we define them, actual terrorists--that the explosions of the bombs are somehow magically missing any others in the vicinity who are NOT terrorists, who are just civilians living life in their own communities, fearful of the death from above?

exhelodrvr1 said...

Put ISIL actions in the context of the widespread support for honor killings, sharia law, the penalty for apostasy, the furor over the cartoons, Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, etc.

Then claim that it isn't "true" Islam.

Martin said...

My brother has come up with a term for those who refuse to state the obvious, keeping their actual thoughts secret for fear of inflaming the masses: "not-so-anti-Straussians".

I really don't think anybody, Muslim or not, is fooled by this way of talking. However: it does make actually talking about the problem and any possible solution very very difficult.

chickelit said...

I believe that the President worries too much about which side his father would have been on in this struggle and he acts accordingly. It doesn't help that we already know which side his mother was on. Both are well outside mainstream American thought. These are the people who influenced him the most in the past. In this instance, I sincerely wonder what Michelle Obama thinks and says about his actions in private at present. Only then we can move to second guessing his future.

Past, Present, Future

grackle said...

About ten percent of Indonesian Muslims (~20 million people) have said that they support Al Qaida's attacks on the US.

Wrong. Here's the real figure:

32% of Indonesians approve of attacks on Americans.

Here's another figure:

Only 57% of Muslims worldwide disapprove of al-Qaeda. Only 51% disapprove of the Taliban.

Go to the URL below to see some more eye-opening poll results:

http://tinyurl.com/ctcu24c

As has been stated before in another comment thread:

Hoping for a Islamic "reform" movement is senseless. Why? Because Islamic terrorism IS their reformation – a violent denial against what the terrorists see as the decadence of modern-day Islam - a return to the basic tenets of the religion. The Islamic terrorists are the Islamic equivalent of the Protestants' break with the Roman Catholic church. They are the Lutherans and Calvinists of our era.

Paul said...

exhelodrvr1 said...

"It's simple - he doesn't have the courage to admit that the administration made mistakes earlier."

Obama NEVER says he made a mistake.

He says he 'evolves'.

It would take ISIS to go after Obama's family, successfully, for him to 'evolve' that much.

chickelit said...

Robert Cook said...

In the race for them to run out of heads to sever and we to run out of bodies for our drone bombers to blow apart...we are far in the lead.

In the absence of a body count tolled over the centuries, I doubt the veracity of that assertion.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Robert Cook said...
In the race for them to run out of heads to sever and we to run out of bodies for our drone bombers to blow apart...we are far in the lead.


You say that as if it's a BAD thing.

And that's your whole problem right there.

Roger Sweeny said...

Obama is continuing the strategy of George W. Bush, who often insisted that Islam is a "religion of peace."

Thus, by definition, the Islamic State cannot be Islamic.

It's kind of like saying the Crusaders weren't really Christian. Because Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and, you know ...

bbkingfish said...

"Could unalloyed political ambition and sheer military fervor explain what al Qaeda and ISIL are doing? No"

The correct answer to this question, obviously, is "yes."

It is difficult to accept that any sentient writer could honestly suggest "no" as an answer to that question..

Then we get an even bigger howler...

"There are 2 possibilities here: 1. Obama is choosing to say something that is not true — that al Qaeda and ISIL fighters don't really believe the religious beliefs they continually profess and act upon, or 2. Obama is making himself an arbiter of the true meaning of Islam — that al Qaeda and ISIS profess beliefs about Islam are not what Islam really is."

Only two possibilities? Really?

At a certain point, a reader must conclude that a writer who makes the same obvious logical errors over and over and over and over again has an understanding of politics that is hopelessly childish, is contemptuous of her audience, or simply is intellectually dishonest and manipulative.

Chris N said...

Note to the mullahs in Iran: Speak multicultural-ese and talk about the 'community,' progress and cooperation while you keep enriching uranium and supporting terror for your ends.

Play like a turbaned peace activist and noble Muslim 'other' in a community wall mural and it just might work.

Michael said...

Obama is struggling to speak to his very stupid followers and convey the very simple point that we are not at war with the whole of Islam. He considers the vast majority of Muslims to be stupid and incapable of seeing what can be easily seen.

He insults both Islam and all Americans when he takes these preposterous linguistic stances.

Meanwhile there is an article this morning in the Times of London about the destruction of many ancient archeological sites in Syria that the non-followers of the Islam are destroying because the sites offend their mistaken view of Islam. Thousands of years of antiquity erased because the barbarians who think they are Muslim, but are not, find offense.

Obama, of course, does not know or care about the destruction and desecration of these spectacular bits of antiquity. If he did he would find it difficult to construct language that would not offend.

J. Farmer said...

The fact that the President even comments on these matters is ridiculous and absurd. This country's decade-and-a-half long obsession over radical Islam has been a terrible waste of human life, money, time, and energy. The Muslim world is a far more unstable, dangerous place than it was pre-9/11. Western-backed regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya has by and large resulted in chaos and has contributed to the kind of failed state conditions in which terrorists can thrive.

It is comical that a continental superpower with multi-trillion dollar military and intelligence capabilities is getting itself bogged down in these backwater hell holes in fighting these nothing groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.

MaxedOutMama said...

The answer to your final question, Ann, is that this cannot be sly and crafty. What would be sly and crafty would be to back out of the debate about what Islam really is, which indeed is going on. By declaring themselves the Caliphate, ISIS has advanced the religious proposition that all Muslims who do not obey and cooperate with them are apostates who deserve death. Naturally, the leaders of other Islamic countries do not like this and must oppose it not just with force but with religious reasoning.

But by wading into the debate about what Islam is or should be, Obama is reducing the impact of those internal debates. Pointing to what a US president says pretty well wins the argument in favor of the Islamic Empire of Snuff Flicks. In fact that is the argument they are making to true believers - that allying yourself with the west is betrayal.

It is simply that Obama is so lost in the world of his own imaginings that he does not realize this. I think he means to signal to those others that he will be on their side - but it is expressly forbidden to Muslims to side with a non-Muslim person or power over a Muslim. In essence, Obama is shooting down Sisi's attempts.

By approaching the problem in this way he is undercutting the belated but essential efforts of the Egyptians and the Jordanians and the Saudis to advance a coherent religious reasoning as to why the Islamic Empire of Snuff Flicks is not Islamic.

Obama's ego is out of control. He should know that what he is doing is wrong and doomed to be counter-productive from a Muslim perspective.

President Obama really did lose the leadership of the free world by not showing up for the Paris solidarity march, and he's not going to get it back. His ego apparently won't let him be rational here.

Both by background and by necessity combined with resources, President Obama should be uniquely capable of dealing with hearts-and-minds aspect of the dilemma the Islamic Empire of Snuff Flicks raises. But instead, he seems awesomely incompetent.

The Drill SGT said...

Grackle said...Hoping for a Islamic "reform" movement is senseless. Why? Because Islamic terrorism IS their reformation – a violent denial against what the terrorists see as the decadence of modern-day Islam - a return to the basic tenets of the religion. The Islamic terrorists are the Islamic equivalent of the Protestants' break with the Roman Catholic church. They are the Lutherans and Calvinists of our era.

I agree. In some religions, reform might go either way, but Mohammad and Allah wrote the book that only supports:

1. The Koran is the last perfect word of Allah
2. to deviate is apostasy
3. Apostasy is death.

The only reform allowable is to revert to the good old time religion...

traditionalguy said...

Rape on college campus is up to 20% says our Propagandist in Chief who really cares.

Somebody needs to tell Muslim loving Obama that rape in the ISIL conquered areas is up 1000% in the first 30 days alone, since each captured female is sold and resold until she dies of multiple rapes. But why not. They are worthless infidels.

Islam. The Religion of Rapes.

Peter said...

"If obama were a serious man, he could say that Islam is, and has been, a xenophobic,expansionist, violent religion."

It is all but impossible not to see that the Islamic State is doing its best to emulate The Prophet himself. And who inside or outside the religion can honestly say this is not a more genuine expression of Islam than other, less violent interpretations?

This is, after all, a religion founded by a warlord, and whose entire scripture was written within the lifetime of that founder. I don't see that it's "phobic" to point out that this makes it different in important ways from other world religions. For example, no one is going to be unduly alarmed if there's a movement to re-create Christianity as it existed in the first century, because that religion was not founded by someone who commanded armies, who made and broke truces, who decided the fate of captives and who had severed heads brought to him.

In Europe, the Peace of Westphalia brought an end to the wars of religion, replacing solutions based on ideology and theology with simple balance of power calculations. Yet the question remains: is Islam just another religion, or is it different in important, disturbing ways?

It's a question we've never had to answer in the USA, as Muslims have never been numerous enough in the USA to threaten the dominant culture. But it's a question Western European countries will have to answer one way or another, as demographics points toward their having ever-larger Muslim populations. (And thus far from living in a world of Western hegemony, Western nations are being forced to accommodate Muslims while Muslim nations have no need to accommodate non-Muslims.)

In some ways Islam is a religion that truly different and uniquely aggressive, and in our time a resurgent Islamism is presenting all-to-real threats to liberal, democratic nations. One would hope that an honest discussion of this would at least be possible.

As for Pres. Obama, former Pres. Bush didn't speak of Islamic threats either but only of a vague "war on terror." The USA is hardly in a position to reform Islam (even assuming it can be reformed), but we are still in a position where we can contain its expansion by force and repression, as well as in a position where we can avoid being colonized by it (as appears to be happening in Europe). Yet we also seem to be in a position where it is all but politically impossible for our government to even discuss whether we need to protect ourselves from a resurgent, violent Islamic expansion and, if so, how best to do so.

Jane the Actuary said...

Re: an Islamic Reformation,

I wrote a little piece a month or so back saying, "Islam needs a 'Jewish Enlightenment'" -- meaning that, yes, one could indeed say that "reformation" and "return to roots" is not what Islam needs, but instead that sort of transformation, similar to what happened with Judaism in the 19th century, in which they developed a theology that enabled them to cast aside their extensive ritual observances and laws and still consider themselves "authentically Jewish."

http://janetheactuary.blogspot.com/2015/01/islam-needs-jewish-enlightenment.html

Unknown said...

Perhaps when talking about Islam we can use some type of modifier in front of the word Islam to differentiate between the majority of peaceful Muslim and the minority of head chopping, prisoner burning, slaver Muslims. I was thinking something like "totally un-cool bogus" Muslims. Perhaps this is extreme but I think if we put or heads together we can find some appropriate word.

Jason Greaves said...

"I assume Obama is trying to stimulate Muslims to stand up to other Muslims"

If that is what Obama believes he is doing, he is a fool. By divorcing Islamic terrorism from Islam, we allow moderate Muslims to evade the responsibility of critically examining their own faith and scriptures. If the world accepts the premise that ISIS is just a bunch of loonies, who have no legitimate religious basis for their actions, then there is no reason for Islamic communities and leaders to stand up for pluralism and tolerance. They have been told repeatedly that Islam is not the problem, so why should they be concerned about some crazy cult in Iraq and "lone wolves" in the U.S. yelling "allahu akbar!" as they go on shooting/stabbing rampages.

The solution to Islamic extremism can only come from within Islam. Courageous leaders like el-Sisi in Egypt are a good start. However, by refusing to name the motivation of the enemy, the U.S. displays a pathetic lack of confidence, and it becomes less likely that leaders in the Muslim world will risk standing up to the murdering hoard.

Seeing Red said...

Why not just call them "bitter clingers?"

MikeP said...

Listening to our President is not much different than listening to a book on tape. You hear the words written by someone else vocalized by a skilled orator.

These are not POTUS's opinions or sentiments. They are propaganda written by a team of progressive transnationalists who believe in complete global and cultural equality. They will not condemn others except for western white christians and jews who they believe have been artificially elevated and need to be cut down a peg. They won't point fingers and they won't shine light on evil, but rather invent reasons or legitamize grievances for the behavior.
Trying to determine reason on strategy in the words is pointless. There is none ultimately. All one really needs to do is read just a little of what Boko Harum has been doing and realize that we are sitting idle and looking the other way.
We should be ashamed.

Sebastian said...

The lie about the lie is a tell.

"Should a President do either or both of those those things? It's easy to jump to "no," but you might say "yes" if: 1. It's in the strategic military interest of the United States, and 2. Obama is very subtle and crafty in the way he frames his statements."

You might say yes is your purpose is to weaken the U.S., delegitimate its values, and promote its adversaries. Barry's inane comments on Islam mark America's rhetorical retreat to match the real-world retreat. (I recommend Bret Stephens' book.)

Muslim victims are Muslims. Muslim killers and rapists are radicals, extremists, youths, Asians, immigrants, or native-born Danes.

Of course, the not-naming-the-enemy game started with Bush's "war on terror."

chickelit said...

It should be easy enough for the President to take direction from Venn. Draw a circle and call it "Islam." Then draw a smaller circle inside the larger circle and call it ISIL. Then point out that we must -- together -- destroy or defang that inner circle. It need not be more complex than that.

Instead, the President wants to draw intersecting circles called "Islam, "Christian" and "Jew" and then somehow equate some intersection of their intersections as ISIL.

It won't fly, Orville.

SMGalbraith said...

It makes sense strategically to me to deny the terrorists/extremists a greater cause, i.e., Islam. If you take away that cause, then they have no cause other than a sort of nihilistic frenzy at the world. Islamic extremism minus the Islamic name is just that: extremism.

But as Althouse points out, that's a lie and who really is convinced by it?

And in order to promote this lie, the Administration winds up saying silly things such as the attack on the kosher grocery store was random.

The strategy may be smart but it's not sustenable.

J. Farmer said...

@chickelit:

"Then point out that we must -- together -- destroy or defang that inner circle. It need not be more complex than that."

Assuming that we could even do that, why should we? If the threat ISIL poses is as great as many people in this forum seem to believe, that sounds like a really good reason for the Iraqi, Syrian, Jordanian, and Turkish regimes to come up with a plan to contain and stop them.

Seeing Red said...

Listen to Adams and Jefferson. Those dead white guys weren't stupid.

chickelit said...

Assuming that we could even do that, why should we?

Yes because ISIS threatens more than just Moslem nations is why.

chickelit said...

Then point out that we must -- together -- destroy or defang that inner circle. It need not be more complex than that.

Think of ISIS as a malignant tumor growing inside a living organ. It can and will metasticize, threatening other organs.

Radiation therapy is a crude tool of last resort.

Sebastian said...

"By divorcing Islamic terrorism from Islam, we allow moderate Muslims to evade the responsibility of critically examining their own faith and scriptures."

Correct. Playing nice with Muslims doesn't work n any case.

"The solution to Islamic extremism can only come from within Islam. Courageous leaders like el-Sisi in Egypt are a good start. However, by refusing to name the motivation of the enemy, the U.S. displays a pathetic lack of confidence, and it becomes less likely that leaders in the Muslim world will risk standing up to the murdering hoard."

Correct, up to a point. Signaling weakness exacerbates the problem

But much depends on how we define the "solution" to "extremism." Ideally, it should involve: 1. democratic governance and respect for basic civil rights within majority-Muslim countries, 2. peaceful relations with non-Muslim countries; and 3. an end to all Muslim support for all Muslim terrorism. That solution cannot come only from within Islam.

Second-best is stamping out "extremism" as such by sustained violence, making life impossible for terrorists and all associated with them. That "solution" will have its own unintended consequences and so far the West has not shown the stomach for it.

Obama's actions and rhetoric are not designed to achieve such solutions. His "solution" is retreat and containment.

J. Farmer said...

@chickelit:

"Yes because ISIS threatens more than just Moslem nations is why."

How? Islamic groups in Libya are expressing solidarity with ISIS and its ideology. Are we on the hook for destroying these people, too? How do we do that?

Bob Boyd said...

Althouse said, "Obama is making himself an arbiter of the true meaning of Islam"

Not necessarily.

The US is allied with Muslim countries in this war. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. The leaders of these countries are not going to be able to lead their people if they are seen by their people as forming alliances with a declared enemy of Islam.
Obama's rhetoric is probably in deference to these leaders, who are doubtless being attacked by clerics in their own countries for allying with the infidel US, and who are taking the public position in response that ISIS is not the path of the true Muslim.
The administration may be simply trying to make it easier for Muslim leaders to maintain alliance with us, not harder.

chickelit said...

J Farmer asks: How do we do that?

Follow the money as a first step. Write about it in a fearless way.

autothreads said...


In the race for them to run out of heads to sever and we to run out of bodies for our drone bombers to blow apart...we are far in the lead.


Muslims have killed about 80 million Hindus. Non-Muslims have a way to go before they catch up in the body count, but go ahead and keep denying Muslim triumphalism and expansion because you see them as allies.

J. Farmer said...

@chickelit:

"Follow the money as a first step. Write about it in a fearless way."

I have no idea what you're talking about here. Does Obama need to expand the air campaign? Should he be dropping more bombs on more countries? Put more US soldiers in harm's way on the ground with the vague, ill-defined mission of "destroying" ISIS? How will we know when this war is over?

traditionalguy said...

The Libyan ISIS offensive has been the kidnapping and murder of Christians and American Ambassadors. That is not new.

The USMC Hymn mentions that the known answer is for the Marines to invade and depose such kidnappers and murderers on "the Shores of Tripoli."

Mark Caplan said...

Obama illustrates just how deeply embedded in the African American consciousness is the notion that dark-skinned perpetrators have a limitless set of excuses that absolve them of blame and responsibility for their depraved acts of violence.

Anonymous said...

Bob Boyd,

Obama may well be trying to do that, but it raises the question of where our interests lie, what we stand for, and then, with whom we can do business with in the Middle East and how far any leader can be ahead of his people.

Once we get to the point logical contradiction we're at now (well and deeply in multicultural land) of not being able to point out the problem that the Islamic faith has with modernity, that many Muslims have with radical Islam, that many Europeans have in Muslim immigration...and conversely that our citizens have at home with the threat of Islamism, and that many Muslims have with our military, business and political interests abroad, then....

...then we really are in a mural on a wall. The deeper the dream the worse waking up will be.

Alexander said...

"Not lumping all Muslims together is obviously important"

Why? An explanation would be appreciated, as it's certainly not 'obvious'. It was not important to distinguish between good Germans and Nazis when we bombed German cities. It is not important to distinguish between good Iranians during the current embargo. It has never been a rule of war not to draw a distinction between shooting conscripts versus volunteers.

National policy cannot feasibly be determined on an individual level. Never has, never will.

Now, it might be preferable. It might be humane. It might be morally pleasing. It might be practical. It might be advantageous.

But that argument needs to be laid out - history does not allow you to try and sneak it into our collective base assumptions as 'obvious'.

J. Farmer said...

@Alexander:

"It was not important to distinguish between good Germans and Nazis when we bombed German cities. It is not important to distinguish between good Iranians during the current embargo. It has never been a rule of war not to draw a distinction between shooting conscripts versus volunteers."

I agree with all of that, but my response is, "so what?" We seem to be stuck in this stupid duality where the only options are "war" or "surrender." It seems to me that the US has more than enough resources to adequately protect itself from terrorist attack without having to be "at war" anywhere in the world.

Anonymous said...

Mark Caplan

Obama embodies just how race relations in the country often are, and how many people were, and are, willing to project their ideas onto a large concept of the greatness of American politics, society, and culture in order to reach some vision of what it ought to be.

We're way overdrawn...and undergoing rapid technological change, but let's not back into a huge government riven by squabbling factions eyeing each other warily.

That way lies madness and clearly diminished lives in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

And yes, I realize that Obama is late to the party, beholden to squabbling activists, monied interests, and ideological commitments I think are dangerous to a Republic able to conserve liberty.

He's still coasting on image and speeches to the true believers and whoever else will have him and/or are stuck with him.

The Drill SGT said...

J. Farmer said...
It seems to me that the US has more than enough resources to adequately protect itself from terrorist attack without having to be "at war" anywhere in the world.


That would require us to:

1. be better at sealing our borders
2. screen out undesirable immigrants
3. be much more intrusive into monitoring US society
4. accept that Americans abroad are "on their own"

It's basically the "Fight them there or fight them here choice"

jr565 said...

"Obama aides say there is a strategic logic to his vocabulary: Labeling noxious beliefs and mass murder as “Islamic” would play right into the hands of terrorists who claim that the United States is at war with Islam itself. The last thing the president should do, they say, is imply that the United States lumps the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims with vicious terrorist groups."
The truth is we are at war with Islamic extremists, versus islamic moderates. And it's fair to say the extremists are hijacking the religion, and that there are more relatively secular Muslims we can deal with without being in perpetual war with them.
But you should be able to call Islamic extremists islamic extremists because thsts what they are.

SGT Ted said...

“Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam... [But] we must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.... [But they] are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists."

This is his cheap excuse to avoid calling terrorists "Islamic".

SGT Ted said...

Unless he's an actual Muslim Imam, Obama has no authority to deem any Islamic terrorist a heretic.

SGT Ted said...

The real problem is that Obama shows far more concern for Muslims hurt feelings than concern for people being killed by Muslims.

Robert Cook said...

"Unless he's an actual Muslim Imam, Obama has no authority to deem any Islamic terrorist a heretic."

Of course not, but Presidents, as do most of us, make all sorts of pronouncements they have neither the knowledge nor the authority to make, and for all sorts of reasons, some of them, as here, rhetorical.

Hagar said...

I saw a report yesterday that the Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered his chief negotiator in Geneva to stop yelling at John Kerry. (Gee, how come we have not heard anything before now about this yelling?) I would take that to mean the Ayatollah thinks he is about to get a deal to his liking and doesn't want his negotiator to muff it.

Further, we now have "a team" in Afghanistan negotiating with the Taliban, and the Taliban see room for "compromise."

Bob Boyd, it is not the Egyptians and the Saudis that "Obama does not want to offend." Those guys are going to have to fend for themselves.

SGT Ted said...

I agree with all of that, but my response is, "so what?" We seem to be stuck in this stupid duality where the only options are "war" or "surrender." It seems to me that the US has more than enough resources to adequately protect itself from terrorist attack without having to be "at war" anywhere in the world. A Farmer

This statement is utterly ridiculous and magical thinking at it's finest. Just because you don't want to be at war doesn't mean your aren't at war.

We already tried that in the 1990s, and we got the 9/11 attacks as a result.

When you cede the offensive to an enemy who's at war with you, you are essentially surrendering the battlefield.

SGT Ted said...

Of course not, but Presidents, as do most of us, make all sorts of pronouncements they have neither the knowledge nor the authority to make, and for all sorts of reasons, some of them, as here, rhetorical.

My point is that his allegedly strategic reason to not call them "Islamic" holds no water with Muslims, because he isn't a Muslim himself.

Robert Cook said...

"J. Farmer said...
'It seems to me that the US has more than enough resources to adequately protect itself from terrorist attack without having to be "at war" anywhere in the world.'

"That would require us to:

"1. be better at sealing our borders
"2. screen out undesirable immigrants
"3. be much more intrusive into monitoring US society
'4. accept that Americans abroad are 'on their own'

"It's basically the 'Fight them there or fight them here choice'"


1. We seem to be working pretty hard on this one.

2. Ditto

3. Uh...if you haven't paid attention, we're far along on this front! The NSA (and god knows how many other US spy agencies, known and unknown to us, have our complete histories and are reading all our emails, texts, internet postings, internet searches, phone calls, physical movement all the time, etc.)

4. Aren't they?

No, the "terrorist menace," so-called, has been overblown on purpose, as it serves to keep us compliant with their spying on us, with their spending--(wasting/stealing)--trillions of our dollars on wars and war-making, (enriching those who make war-making equipment), and with the swift militarizing of our domestic police forces, such that we are essentially helpless subjects of our government, rather than partners in self-government.

As is almost always true, our wars are about money and power--the making and taking of it by those in the position to do so.

khesanh0802 said...

The problem I see is the continuing belief by this administration that the American people are too stupid to differentiate the radical Islamists from the great mass of Muslims. I don't agree. I think the great mass ( who are paying attention) have already figured it out and feel that Obama is being foolish.

If it were just a difference of semantics about Muslims I might cut Obama some slack, but the continuing unwillingness to deal with other evils such as the Ukraine lead me to agree with Daniel Henninger that Obama really does not want to deal with any outside forces no matter how threatening. Ultimately we will pay a high price for this failure.

Hagar said...

BTW, the UAE, next door cousins to the Saudis, have a female Air Foce major who flies F-16s on combat missions.

Bob Boyd said...

"Obama does not want to offend."

I don't know who you're quoting there, but it isn't me.

SGT Ted said...

In order to for Obama to end these wars during his term of office, he has to essentially surrender and that's what he has done in Iraq and is now doing in Afghanistan.

He is trying very hard to surrender to Iran as well, but he has to keep that an absolute secret to avoid political blowback for his surrender.

Just Mike said...

I vote for "making himself an arbiter of the true meaning of Islam". After all, he'll tell you himself that he knows more about it than Mohammed

Anonymous said...

The president avoids saying anything perceived as negative about Islam because his words could cause a toddler temper tantrum among Muslims anywhere in the world, resulting in actual deaths. It is best for him to be as bland as possible.

Presidents are a lot less free in what they can say than pundits are.

J. Farmer said...

@Sgt Ted:

"The real problem is that Obama shows far more concern for Muslims hurt feelings than concern for people being killed by Muslims."

We are in the middle of fighting a war from the skies in Iraq and Syria.

"This statement is utterly ridiculous and magical thinking at it's finest. Just because you don't want to be at war doesn't mean your aren't at war."

Who are we at war with? How will we know when this war has been won? So anybody who declares they are at war with us, we must then be at war with them? There has been a violent separatist movement in the thin border region between Thailand and Malaysia for years now. The Islamic radicals pursuing are largely sympathetic with other radical, violent jihadists. Are we at war with these people?

Tom said...

It's a nuance and sometimes foriegn policy needs nuance. But war is different. And we lack any clarity on the true nature of the ISIS threat, the continuing threat from Al Qaida, Russia, Iran, or other threats of terrorism. The nuance can't create clarity. Now you might say, we live in a volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous (VUCA) world - and we do. But that requires the United State to be even more clear, principled, and highly communicative about our foreign policy. VUCA requires us to be clear about something. And this president isn't clear about anything. He's framing nuance inside of nuance. What do you remember about Reagan? Evil Empire - Smaller Government - Lower Taxes. And he said it over and over and over. He didn't waver and yet when he saw the chance for peace, he took it. The complex world requires clear communication from our leaders and we've not had that in some time.

khesanh0802 said...

I agree with SGT Ted.

I would also say that historically the best way to avoid war has been to be prepared to go to war. Just as the best way for a union to negotiate is to convince management that if it does not gain certain points it will" hit the bricks".

SGT Ted said...

No, the "terrorist menace," so-called, has been overblown on purpose, as it serves to keep us compliant with their spying on us, with their spending--(wasting/stealing)--trillions of our dollars on wars and war-making, (enriching those who make war-making equipment), and with the swift militarizing of our domestic police forces, such that we are essentially helpless subjects of our government, rather than partners in self-government.

Typical leftwing "war for oil" "war of choice" nonsense that avoids the very real asymmetrical war radical Islam is waging against the west worldwide. The 1990s law enforcement approach that culminated in the 9/11 attack proved these assertions wrong, but you keep parroting it.

St. George said...

Glad to see Guiliani finallly say what doubtless many other major politicians have been thinking for years.

Too little, too late.

Imagine a President who doesn't love his country.

Rather worrisome.

Ralph Hyatt said...

"His intent is exactly the opposite: by declaring Al Qaeda, ISIS, and such groups to be heretics--which is what he's doing--he's asserting that "true" Muslims would never support or participate in such acts of violence as these groups."

Why not just state that we are at war with people who burn people alive, behead others, sell others into slavery, force others to pay a tax based on their religion, destroy priceless archaeological relics, set off suicide bombs, attack schools and kill children, seek to deny education to girls, etc.

Whether those people think they are Muslims are not is immaterial. Whether they are "true" Muslims are heretics is immaterial. Cause either way they have to be stopped.

I actually think the bigger problem on our side is the believe that we have to get to the root causes to solve the problem and that among those root causes is poverty and a lack of democracy.

People don't sell others into slavery and participate in mass beheadings because they are a hankering for some democracy. The Obama administration just can't get their heads around the concept that some people want to live in an authoritarian theocracy, at least when it comes to non-Christian religions. If this was a bunch of Dominionists they probably could understand it.

JackOfVA said...

I can't post an image, but a relatively recent Pew Research public opinion poll taken in 11 Islamic countries contradicts Obama's "1% support violence" comment. http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/09/10/muslim-publics-share-concerns-about-extremist-groups/

Take the question "Can suicide bombings be supported?"

Least support (often or some) in the 11 countries is 3% in Pakistan, increasing to 16% in Turkey - considered to be a non-extremist, secular country, to 62% in the Palestinian territories.

Other polls show similar results - a significant minority in many Islamic countries and a clear majority in some - support attacking the west, killing Christians, Jews, etc.

We ignore, or even worse, mis-state, this information at our peril.

SGT Ted said...

Who are we at war with? How will we know when this war has been won? So anybody who declares they are at war with us, we must then be at war with them? There has been a violent separatist movement in the thin border region between Thailand and Malaysia for years now. The Islamic radicals pursuing are largely sympathetic with other radical, violent jihadists. Are we at war with these people?

Have you been living in a cave for the past 40 years?

Our NOT dealing with radical Islamic terrorism in the 70s, 80s and 90s, thinking we could keep it isolated overseas, directly led to the 9/11 attacks, because the enemy thought us too complacent and cowardly to wage open warfare against them.

See, we TRIED the "we'll just ignore them" approach in the 1980s and 90s and it didn't work to stop 9/11, did it?

What part of this recent history do you not grasp?

Ralph Hyatt said...

"How? Islamic groups in Libya are expressing solidarity with ISIS and its ideology. Are we on the hook for destroying these people, too? How do we do that?"

Well, Italy is pretty worried about that Libya issue since its less than two hundred miles across the Mediterranean to Southern Italy, they already have a refugee problem, and it would be pretty easy to slip some ISIL fighters in with the refugees.

Oh and ISIL has declared that they are going to conquer Rome and "sell your sons into slavery."

Kyzernick said...

Anything shy of the complete and utter destruction of the Muslim faith will fail to secure peace.

I hate to say it.

But it's true. And it will be true no matter what anyone says.

Robert Cook said...

"And it will be true no matter what anyone says."

Well...ummm...I guess that settles that!

Mick said...

Because Hussein Obama is a M_U_S_L_I_M

Jeez, why can't you just say it.
According to him the most beautiful sound is the Muslim call to prayer. He was a Muslim in his youth, so he is either now a Muslim, or he is an apostate. When did he renounce his Muslim faith?
"I will stand with the Muslims..."

Get a clue and quit trying to be "nuanced" like that silly Usurper administration bitch Herf.

Obama is not a "child of our own". He was born British, raised in Indonesia as a Muslim, sat at the knee of virulent anti-Americans and Communists.

Just stop it. The normalcy bias and Cognitive Dissonance is just ridiculous.

sinz52 said...

Robert Cook sez: "His intent is exactly the opposite: by declaring Al Qaeda, ISIS, and such groups to be heretics--which is what he's doing"

And that's ridiculous.

An American President--especially a non-Muslim President--has no right to tell Muslims what is and isn't "true" Islam.

How would we feel if Obama said that Presbyterianism wasn't "true" Christianity, or Reform Judaism wasn't "true" Judaism?

The question of what is and isn't "true Islam" is up to the MUSLIMS, not to Obama.

He's not a cleric and he's not a theologian and he's not an expert on Islam and he should just SHUT UP on such matters.

Anonymous said...

"His intent is exactly the opposite: by declaring Al Qaeda, ISIS, and such groups to be heretics--which is what he's doing--he's asserting that "true" Muslims would never support or participate in such acts of violence as these groups."

An assertion entirely at odds with his administrations actions.

Less than twenty four hours before Obama declared ISIL to be not-Islamic his own State Department spokesperson declared Kony/the Lord's Resistance Army to be unequivocally Christian.

William said...

Stalin did not make any fine distinctions between Germans and Nazis. For that matter, he did not make any fine distinctions between the Volga Germans and Nazis. He had the Volga Germans loaded onto box cars and shipped east. About one third of them died in the resettlement program......Whle it's true that FDR did round up the Japanese indiscriminately, he was more nuanced in his treatment of white foreigners. The Romanians were put into internment camps, but the Italians were not. Roosevelt famously said that the Italians were "a bunch of opera lovers" and, perhaps more significantly, they were part of the New Deal coalition.......I suppose at this late date you could get Obama to criticize Stalin for his treatment of minorities, but, it simply wasn't an issue back then and not much of an issue now. FDR's internment of the Japanese is criticized but mostly because the blame can be laid to white racism. The fact that it was otherwise administered in a politically preferential way is ignored......We all have prejudices but the prejudices of the left are more enlightened and will lead us to the sunlit,upland fields.

J. Farmer said...

@SGT Ted:

"Our NOT dealing with radical Islamic terrorism in the 70s, 80s and 90s, thinking we could keep it isolated overseas, directly led to the 9/11 attacks, because the enemy thought us too complacent and cowardly to wage open warfare against them."

Well, we spent a good part of the 80s, through proxies in the Pakistani ISI, which is a rat's nest of Taliban sympathizers, funding the recruitment, with Islamist rhetoric, of foreign fighters into Afghanistan to bog down the Soviets. In the 90s, Bill Clinton dropped bombs in Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He signed an executive order to have bin Laden assassinated. The CIA had an entire team working on bin Laden from the mid-90s on. The governments of Saudi Arabia and Sudan had expelled bin Laden. That's not law enforcement, and it isn't ignoring. Terrorist training camps weren't needed to pull off 9/11. How would invading Afghanistan and Iraq earlier than we did have had any impact on 9/11? How would the United States acting tough have deterred suicide bombers?

@Ralph Hyatt:

"Well, Italy is pretty worried about that Libya issue since its less than two hundred miles across the Mediterranean to Southern Italy, they already have a refugee problem, and it would be pretty easy to slip some ISIL fighters in with the refugees."

Some good reasons for Italy to be worried, and they should probably take some steps to protect themselves. Italy's problems aren't America's problems.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Aren't these excesses just a result of our misunderstanding of "Muslim Liberation Theology?"

Sloanasaurus said...

I think there is some benefit to the strategy of not referring to ISIS as "Islamic" if you want to lessen the chance that naïve people will start throwing all muslims into the same bucket.

But what Obama calls the fighters in ISIS is not the real problem. The real problem is the made up excuses he comes up with to explain why ISIS is fighting. These include ideas such as they have no jobs, or they live in poverty. If Obama creates policies to fight these made up rationalizations then we are in a world of trouble. ONe could imagine Obama trying to create jobs programs for ISIS fighters rather than dropping more bombs. After that fails, ISIS is much bigger and stronger than before. If we drop bombs on them, then at least we will be killing them while discovering whether it is a working policy or not.




Big Mike said...

Obama is very subtle and crafty in the way he frames his statements.

Obama doesn't do "subtle and crafty."

Tibore said...

"Sloanasaurus said...
But what Obama calls the fighters in ISIS is not the real problem. The real problem is the made up excuses he comes up with to explain why ISIS is fighting. These include ideas such as they have no jobs, or they live in poverty."


Not just ISIS; I think he's stated this to be the case in general with terrorism. And that's bad, especially coming from him, because there is no association there to begin with.

The 9/11 terrorists stand as a good example. Most of them were college educated - in fact, that's how some of them met. And heck, Mohamed Atta is actually a published scholar in the field of Urban Planning (yeah, the joke about "Urban Planning" is there for the taking, but he's honestly, truly published in that field). Also, consider that al-Zawahiri is a surgeon, with all the college and medical school training plus hospital work that implies.

Yes, there are poor, uneducated terrorists who come from marginal societies that offer no opportunities. But, there are many educated, not poor to honestly well-off terrorists who've come from places where there is work and genuine opportunity available.

And let's remember that many of these current ISIS fighters are travelers from other nations themselves. That doesn't mean they're rich, nor does it say anything about their education at all, but it sure as heck doesn't mean they're destitute. Not if they can afford to travel.

Asserting that poverty and opportunity is the "root cause" is just that: Assertion. The real root cause is belief and a desire to belong. It's a shibboleth that needs to be discarded amongst the governing professionals in the west, because if the mindset persists, they will continue to fail to understand the problem ISIS and other radical Islamicists represent.

Tibore said...

Oh, more from Peter Bergen:

"Similarly, in his important 2004 book "Understanding Terror Networks," psychiatrist Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer, examined the backgrounds of 172 militants who were part of al Qaeda or a similar group. Just under half were professionals; two-thirds were either middle or upper class and had gone to college; indeed, several had doctorates.

In a 2006 study, Swati Pandey and this author examined the educational background of 79 terrorists responsible for five of the worst anti-Western terrorist attacks of the modern era -- the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, the 9/11 attacks, the Bali nightclub bombings in 2002, and the London bombings on July 7, 2005.

We found that more than half of the terrorists had attended college, making them as well-educated as the average American. Two of our sample had doctoral degrees, and two others had begun working toward their doctorates.

None of them had attended a madrassa.

Of course, large-scale insurgent groups such as ISIS and the Taliban recruit foot soldiers who join the cause to get a paycheck. But the people running these organizations are in it for ideological reasons."


http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/19/opinion/bergen-terrorism-root-causes/index.html

Phil B said...

Who would have suspected that Obama, of all people, would turn out to be such an expert on Islam! Not me!

Phil B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

Among the many humorous aspects of the linguistic dodge is that the administration itself uses the acronyms ISIL and ISIS.

I suppose there is no I in ISIL or ISIS.

ken in tx said...

Althouse: "I assume Obama is trying to stimulate Muslims to stand up to other Muslims: Look what these terrible people are saying about your religion. And the implication is: Your great religion is getting a bad name because of these people. In that light, Obama is stirring up Muslim fervor to go to war in the name of — over the name of — Islam."

They are already at war. It's just that many of them have not openly chosen sides yet. Maybe he is trying to push them towards it.

BTW, Kansas and Missouri were at war a long time before Fort Sumter.

ihasch said...

ISIS's media strategy is to flaunt its barbaric behavior and loudly announce to the world that the US and Europe do not have the stomach to stand up to them. That is the context in which the administration refusing to admit that the Islamic State of is Islamic of all things is occurring in. It comes off as a weak evasion regarding a foe that preys on and highlights weakness.

All the word games aside, it reflects a larger absence of any coherent strategy. If you cannot admit the ideological/theological basis of ISIS's or al-Qaeda's appeal, you are stuck talking about nonsense like jobs as a strategy. You refuse to acknowledge what ISIS is and where it comes from. You try to work with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. You insist that Hamas is part of the legitimate PA government and watch the all too predictable rockets red glare. You watch Iran run riot through the region. (Yemen the latest on the hit parade). And Libya descend into chaos.

Maybe a bit of moral clarity and honesty is finally in order.

Delayna said...

"...either purposely lying, or he is dangerously naive."

That describes every leftist, all the time. Brilliant!

Junior Naturel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Junior Naturel said...

the more zero avoids stating that which is obvious to anyone who can see, the louder the obvious screams out

David R. Graham said...

At the Summit he is telling his audience -- by making theological distinctions and by convening the Summit -- that he is their Caliph and they are his Sultans. And he is telling AQ, ISIS, Saud, Iran, etc., and even Muslim Brotherhood, his old sponsors, that they, too, have to bend the neck to him. No doubt in return he has promised US taxpayer subsidy of their mosques, missions and charities, i.e., their world-wide jihads ... so long as they recognize him as Supreme Global Caliph.

Poetryman said...

He is a Muslim. Case closed.

Jack Wayne said...

Althouse doesn't say if she likes this Pragmatic Obama or not. C'mon Ann, let us know.

JamesB.BKK said...

Let's see what happens in "liberal" Muslim places. As one of the few "Islamic states" (per Mahathir) that permits large non-Muslim populations to remain (for now) consider Malaysia for example. Apostacy = gaol time, for now. Better than execution? Ok. Peaceful? Not at all. Proselytizing to Muslims = gaol. Criminalization of violations of religious requirements? You bet. Is this where one would hope the endgame is for "reform"? Indonesia might not be a good proxy. Its population was mostly headhunters before the Arabs got there and then was ruled by the Dutch.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/05/30/us-malaysia-religion-idUSSP21574920070530

JamesB.BKK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Taraschke said...

I'm sorry, but I find it difficult to put "Obama" and "serious" in the same sentence without putting the words "is not" between them.