As we read in the speech delivered by the White House’s top advisor on homeland security and terrorism on dropping the use of phrases such as war on terror and jihad we realize that the administration is going backward in understanding the threat and explaining it to the public.
They say the “new” doctrine is “to safeguard the American people from the transnational challenge that poses one of the greatest threats to our national security — the scourge of violent extremists who would use terrorism to slaughter Americans abroad and at home.”
What does that mean? In fact, not much. It is as if the narrative is in abstract. Which transnational challenge is posing the greatest threat to United States national security today? Of course it is the global jihadist threat, with its two networks, the Salafists and the Khomeinists. It is not the Nazis, the Soviet Communists, or militaristic regimes. Why is the Obama administration regressing into a level way below what most educated Americans understand?
Wishful thinking can't change ideologies
The administration criticizes the narrative of its predecessor and we do as well, but instead they propose something weaker and in some aspects dangerous to U.S. national security. After eight years of confrontation with a world web of jihadists, including Salafists and Khomeinists, on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in various regions of the world such as Pakistan, Somalia, Indonesia, the Levant, the Maghreb, and as the threat penetrates the West with homegrown cells, the administration's doctrine on the threat understanding is entirely disconnected from reality.
In short, the new doctrine asserts that the U.S. is no longer engaged in a “war on terrorism.” They disengage from the conflict as if wishful thinking can redesign world realities in different colors and names: As if one party in a conflict can decide on the ideology and strategies of the foe.
We are at war, words won't change it
Undoubtedly this policy decision is a unilateral withdrawal from this conflict and its war of ideas, but terrorism is going to continue to strike us and our allies. Actually, terrorism is escalating and expanding, not regressing from the moment the administration began its retreat. This policy is not going to change the fact that there is a real “war.”
A war means mobilizing your national defense, intelligence, and economic resources to defeat a foe that can jeopardize your national security. As long as the administration and Congress are spending billions of dollars on several battlefields, deploying task forces around the world, funding the homeland security department and other agencies, and talking about strategic communications across the defense institutions, they are still waging war. Such a policy is dangerous for the U.S., as it puts it against international law, bypasses the will of its own people, and strengthens the enemy's ability to expand and to legitimize itself.
The administration can quit using words it doesn't like, but that would not pull the other side away from conflict, won't deter it, won't sway hearts and minds against the terrorists, and won't create a change in the terminology used by the jihadists.
Dr. Walid Phares is a senior fellow the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of “The Confrontation: Winning the war against Future Jihad.” His pieces are posed on www.walidphares.com.
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