Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Is Obama "trying to pretend"?


In the above article which builds upon a statement made by Dick Cheney, Obama is in essence accused of reverting the Democratic party to the days of Clinton, during which the first attack against the World Trade Center was treated as a criminal matter.  The Obama administration’s response included the following: “The difference from the last administration is that we are at war with that which is tangible — Al Qaeda, violent extremists, and terrorists — rather than at war with a tactic, ‘terrorism’.”   

            Cheney continues with the view that we are at war with Radical Islam.  This view has been well developed by scholars and journalists:  A substantial percentage of Muslims subscribe to the teachings of Qutb, Maududi, Khomeini and a host of lesser lights.  They seek to pick up the military cudgel dropped by the followers of Mohammad and advance the cause of Islam by any means necessary.  They claim to be resuming Mohammad’s “Jihad.”  They claim to be at war with all “infidels.”   Subscribers to the Cheney view believe that 9/11 was part of the Islamist Jihad against “the chief among the infidel nations,” the United States.

            There is another view, one advanced by European scholars, especially Olivier Roy and Jules Kepel who argue that while “Globalized Islam” exists, it is not a regimented force like the Nazis and Communists.  It is searching for an identity, “for a new Ummah,” Olivier Roy writes.  As to those causing actual trouble, the tangible “violent extremists and terrorists,” well they are a small minority of alienated educated Muslims and not representative of “Radical Islam” as a whole.

            While I lean toward the view that “Radical Islam” aka “Islamism”  is a serious threat and wish that Bush had said we were at war with it and not with terrorism, I do not rule out the possibility that the Roy, Kepel, and Obama may turn out to be correct.  In support of the Cheney view there is no doubt that those who subscribe to Islamism represent a huge percentage of Islam as a whole.  There may be as many as 300,000,000 who believe in those radical teachings.  Even though the “tangible” forces in the field are small in number they have they support of the rest of the 300,000,000 who stay at home.  Cheney might “hope” that the rest of the 300,000,000 continue to stay at home, but he would rather prepare for worse cases.

            The Roy-Kepel-Obama view is more variegated but it includes the idea of wooing the Islamists.  Sure, maybe there are 300,000,000 Muslims who are attracted to radical ideas, but they haven’t acted on their beliefs yet; so let’s woo them to a less radical point of view.    

            Cheney is not presently in office, Obama is, so the wooing process will continue.  Voices such as Cheney continue to argue that it won’t work and that we may as well settle down to the idea of a protracted war.

            If serious Islamist attacks continue to be thwarted, overt Islamic Radicalism could eventually peter out.  In which case the Cheney, Obama arguments would peter out as well – to be replaced, no doubt, by an argument over which position truly thwarted the Radical Islamic threat.  On the other hand if Al Qaeda or some other group manages a large 9/11-type attack or a series of substantial attacks in the West, the Cheney view would gain credence.  If Radical Islam develops the means to ramp up its attacks then surely the wooing process must be abandoned – at least here in the U.S.  The voter would demand it by voting the wooers out of office. 


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