No Mr. President, it was more than just a security “screw-up” from a single isolated incident. Rather it was part of a continuum deriving from a failure to understand the historical context of the dangerous and continuing struggle in which we are engaged. To be sure there were a series of security blunders, what the press refers to as a failure to connect the dots. After a decade of reorganizing our Intelligence agencies, they remain uncoordinated, each often operating as if they were working in a vacuum. One would think that on January 21, 2009, President Obama would have instructed Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, as her first order of business to make sure that warning signals like those that were missed before the 9/11 attacks were not again missed because of failures of communication among and between our Intelligence apparatus.
Nevertheless it happened again. Both the Fort Hood attack and the failed effort of the Christmas Day airliner underpants bomber have brought Islamic terrorism back to front and center in the American public’s unbelievably short attention span. These two attacks demonstrate once more that we are in a war unlike any other we have waged, against an enemy essentially unique to the United States in that it is not a nation or coalition of nations, it had no precise commencement date, it is not specifically a battle over disputed territory or treasure and it will not end in a formal surrender.
In his first year in office, President Obama has shown, at least until this month, that he has either not focused on the nature of the enemy or its historic objectives. He seems to see terrorists through the prism of criminal law and not combatants in a war. Only recently did he utter the term “war,” having eschewed its use as if it were his predecessor’s invention and only within the last couple of weeks did he announce that no more Guantanamo prisoners would be released to Yemen where previously released prisoners have joined their terrorist compatriots. And even now he continues to reaffirm his commitment to closing Gitmo because it is a symbol of Islamic grievances against us. It would be funny if it weren’t such foolhardy error but the antiwar left in Congress must be placated after a decade of criticizing the security measures put in place by the previous Administration.
The enemy in this war is radical Islam, a fanatical and growing strain within the Moslem religion, and not a nation. The president for almost his entire first year in office has attempted to appease its adherents by touring the world apologizing for America’s past sins. He has made the mistake of continuing and even expanding so‑called political correctness by labeling Islam a religion of peace and suggesting that its more radical and dangerous adherents have hijacked a great and peaceful religion. Certainly, there have been and continue to be, great men of peace within the Moslem faith, but deadly fanaticism is not some new movement that hijacked Islam during the run-up to 9/11. Violent and deadly fanaticism has been a sad part of Islamic history from its earliest inception. It is that violent fanatical movement within Islam that declared war (a fatwa) on America and all infidels (Christians and Jews). We would be well served to recognize the war that has been declared against us for what it is: a war.
He has recently, in two colossally wrong‑headed decisions, decided to treat terrorists who attacked or sought to attack our homeland as criminal defendants entitled to full constitutional rights and not as enemy combatants which will compromise our intelligence sources, through testimony in public trials. He seems to think we can be made safer by imposing even more delaying searches at airports but not, God forbid, insulting any group by profiling passengers. What is it that causes so many of our nation’s leaders to engage in such a vast denial of reality?
If we are ultimately to prevail in this 21st century struggle, we had better step back and take account of what we are up against. This cannot just be an effort to educate those of the Islamic faith about our values … among them tolerance for others, democracy and living together in peace. The major educational effort must begin at home so the American people will stop deluding themselves about the nature and objectives of radical Islam and the phony grievances posited by its apologists. Many myths must be shattered. We must stop whitewashing our sworn enemies.
Let us look back a relatively short time (eighty years) as well as many centuries to better understand that these attacks against us are simply the renewal of old grievances. This is not a new twenty-first century phenomena. Rather, it is the reactivation of Islamic enmity toward non-believers that is part of its basic dogma. Since its inception as a religion Islamic dogma instructs the faithful that all non-Moslems are infidels. Either you accepted the Moslem faith, or agreed to live among Moslems as a second-class citizen, a dhimmi, or you were subject to an Islamic obligation to engage in jihad … armed struggle in the name of God…against you.
It would be impossible to write in a weekly online essay the entire history of the Islamic view of the non-Islamic world. However, certain verities must be mentioned. From inception until the end of World War I, the Islamic world was not divided into traditional nation states. There were no nations called Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Lebanon. There was, for the early Moslems, the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople, and a medieval caliphate.
Nor has there ever been a nation of Palestine, an area of the Middle East which has been inhabited through at least four thousand years not only by people of all faiths but also by empires whose subjects did not worship an all-knowing god. But Islam is not schooled in sharing either ideas or territory. As Bernard Lewis noted in a November 21, 2001 New Yorker article, “It is surely significant that the Koranic … encryptions on the Dome of the Rock, one of the earliest Muslim religious structures outside Arabia built in Jerusalem between 691 and 692 AD, include a number of directly anti‑Christian polemics: “Praise be to God, who begets no son and has no partner … He is God, one, eternal. He does not beget nor is he begotten.”
The middle-eastern nations referred to above were the creation of the victorious World War I allies who not only dismantled the Austro-Hungarian Empire but carved up the Ottoman Empire as well. Various potentates, friendly to European interests, were handed control of vast swathes of the defeated empire. Western influence over the vast riches of the region, mainly oil, expanded. The victorious allies assumed that the people of the newly created nations would transfer their loyalties to a new nationalism and that the influence of Islam would wane. What in fact developed was a seething hatred of Britain, France and the United States. For support, as Bernard Lewis has noted, these nations looked to enemies of the hated Western oppressors…first Nazi Germany and then the Soviet Union. With the collapse of the USSR, Islam created a new force for resistance. Hence Al Qaeda and its offshoots.
The new Islamic states never incorporated Western principles of private property rights, democracy or free markets. As Melvin Lee reported in the Winter 2008 edition of the Middle East Quarterly, almost all majority Muslim countries rank in the bottom half of world productivity. It is in this fertile soil that jihadism grows. Muslim clerics preach hatred for western values and western rule of law. They find answers to everything in the Koran and attribute all the poverty and problems of their followers to an ever-changing litany of grievances against the United States, Israel and to a lesser extent, Europe. And, of course, Europe with its terrible legacy of appeasement and the annihilation on its continent of six million Jews, seems only too willing to sacrifice Israeli interests, perhaps even the existence of the Israeli state itself, on the myth that dismantling Israel would satisfy the Islamic appetite and eliminate jihadist attacks. That this sacrificial lamb concept didn’t work when it was Czechoslovakia that was sacrificed to the aggressor seems to have faded from their historic memory.
That is why any long-term solution must lead with education at home and abroad. Our young people need to understand history. Their lack of knowledge of even recent American history is staggering. One survey published in 2008 claimed that half of our high school seniors believed that World War II was a fight between the United States and Germany on one side, and the Soviet Union on the other. Unfortunately in the name of political correctness our students are taught that tolerance and diversity means that we need to tolerate tyranny and make no moral value judgments between freedom and oppression. We fail to teach effectively the reasons America was created and its underlying principles. Our students do not know that America is a refuge from oppression. Rather, they are inculcated with revisionist history rewritten to spotlight our failings and placate various ethnic interest groups.
On the foreign front, America must return to the ideal of supporting freedom, liberty and democratic values and oppose keleptocracies and autocratic regimes. Instead, our current administration seems to have settled into so‑called realpolitik and failed to encourage those who struggle against oppressive regimes. The president’s shameful failure to speak out in a timely fashion in support of the Iranian opposition is the latest in a string of this Administration’s demonstrated unwillingness to criticize regimes that deny their citizens basic human and democratic rights.
It is time to stop repeating clearly erroneous facts about Islam. As Edward Luttwak, a senior advisor at the Washington, D.C. based Center for Strategic and International Studies points out, Muslim assertions that they are not aggressors attacking us, and if we would stop provoking them, all would be well, are clearly false. Bin Laden, when addressing non-Muslims, lists a smorgasbord of Muslim suffering at the hands of the infidels. But when he speaks to his co‑religionists, he claims he was ordered to fight the infidels until they say, “there is no god like Allah and that Mohammed was his prophet.” His candor proves that the real objective is to eradicate the infidels. It makes clear that Islamic hatred will not go away. Moreover Islamic dogma is hardly that of a religion of peace. That notion is the creation of the wishful thinkers of academia. Their myth is blindly followed by those on the left who seem to regard the teaching of patriotism as the equivalent of blind militarism engaged in by warmongers who, of course, they equate with the poster boy for their wrath, former President George W Bush. They will not accept that jihad is the very essence of a call to arms against us.
What does this rather lengthy parade through history show? It provides the context for this terrible religious war being conducted against us and the reason we cannot afford to compromise our way of life to it, or appease an unappeasable enemy.
Which brings us full circle. Yes, there were “screw-ups” as the President admitted. Assuredly, we need to guard against more of them with the sad realization that even with our best efforts, there inevitably will be more “screw ups.” Human beings make mistakes and are sometimes negligent.
But the president is right in that we need to minimize human error and be continuously alert to danger. However, we cannot escape the reality that eliminating this threat will take a strong, concerted, muscular offensive, supported by a patient American public, making full use of our best military assets and taking all necessary measures to eradicate or isolate hostile Islamic radicals who war against us wherever they are located and, when captured, holding them until the danger is over, even if that is a life sentence.
Our American nation has survived 234 years since its founding against unbelievable odds and well-armed aggressive foes along the way. It is the job of this generation to preserve and protect our country against this different kind of adversary. It can be done but only if the defeatists, the academic idealists and the appeasers don’t destroy us from within.