Obama's Security Strategy to Drop Islam-Related Language

Tuesday, 01 Jun 2010 11:58 AM

By Walid Phares

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In preparation for publicizing the new National Security Strategy by the Obama Administration, Mr. John Brennan, White House adviser on counterterrorism said the president’s strategy "is absolutely clear about the threat we face."

From such an announcement one would project that the new narrative would be as precise as it should be. That is, to define the ideology and the goals of the forces we're facing, namely the jihadists, either Salafists or Khomeinists. Unfortunately, it was just the opposite.

Mr. Brennan said the Obama administration does not "describe our enemy as 'jihadists' or Islamists," because (as he argued) jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenant of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one's community." He added that "the use of these religious terms would "play into the false perception" that al-Qaida and its affiliates are "religious leaders and defending a holy cause, when in fact, they are nothing more than murderers."

In reality, abandoning the use of terms such as “jihadists” or even “Islamists” in defining the threat is a strategic setback in the war of ideas fought against al-Qaida, the Taliban, al Shabaab, Hezbollah, the Pasdaran, and all other adherents to global jihadism. It is the equivalent, in a classical war, of banning the use of radars, AWACS, and broadcast. In short, this is a shortcut to utter self-defeat.

An AP story posted on April 7 reported that President Obama's advisers will remove religious terms such as "Islamic extremism" from the central document outlining the U.S. national security strategy. It added that “the change is a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush doctrine of preventative war and currently states: "The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century."

This means that the Obama administration is saying there is no such thing as “militant Islamic radicalism,” thus the U.S. narrative should not talk about ideology as a threat to national security. But banning all terms that identify the threat other than describing it as “extremist” or “violent” not only is scholarly wrong but would, in turn, constitute a threat to America’s national security.

For while it is positive to refine and improve the quality of U.S. rhetoric, and thus select the best words to identify the enemy’s identity and doctrines, cleansing the official narrative from all words allegedly “Islam-related” would simultaneously eliminate the very words and terms that specify the network and world vision which are at war with the entire international community including the United States, but also the moderate Arabs and Muslims.

Eliminating the naming of the actual enemy would be a disaster on many levels.

Indeed, the administration’s experts have accordingly advised for deleting terms such as jihadists, jihadism, Salafism, Khomeinism, Takfirism and even Islamists. But these are the vital identification codes for the entire web engaged in war, indoctrination, incitement, and terrorism, first against Muslim societies, and also against Western and American democracies.

It’s as if, during World War II, words such as Nazism and fascism, or during the Cold war, words such as Soviets and Communists, would have been dropped from the rhetoric.

If we drop these words, we would be doing exactly what the jihadists want us to do: linking them to the entire community instead of separating them from the majority of Muslims.

If we accept the premise that jihadism is Islam and mentioning it negatively would offend the Muslim world, al-Qaida wins.

How is it arguable that terms such as al Jihadiyya, al Salafiyya, al Islamiyun, or al Khomeiniyun, which are used on Arab airwaves, in print, and in the blogosphere to depict the radicals, extremists, and terrorists are claimed by White House advisers as offensive words if used in that sense in English?

If these very terms define the enemy within the Arab and Muslim world, who are we trying to confuse here? The only possible answer is that these words would be banned so that the American public is uninformed. That’s not strengthening national security.

Dr Walid Phares is the author of "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America."

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