The only terminology the Barack Obama administration wants to use nowadays is that the United States is “at war with al-Qaida and its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida's murderous agenda.” This slogan raises many questions: How can you be at war with al-Qaida and not state what al-Qaida's ideology is? What does “extremists” mean? How can the U.S. be at “war” with a non-state actor if the administration has decided to abandon the concept of “war” to begin with? It sounds like the architects of the new narrative have created a doctrine that doesn't add up.
Fighting the SS but not Nazism?
"The president does not describe this as a war on terrorism,” said administration officials, yet they also said that “Obama outlined a new way of seeing the fight against terrorism.” So, it is about terrorism, it is about a fight, but they don't want to recognize it as such. It would be like saying that during World War II, the U.S. was fighting the Wehrmacht, the SS, and the Luftwaffe, but not at war with the global threat of Nazism.
Jihadism is an ideology, not a religion
The administration stated that the term “fighting jihadists” is wrongheaded because it is using “a legitimate term, jihad, meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal which risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve.” Obviously this statement is wrong. Jihad is not a simple, legitimate term as described. Jihad doesn't mean to purify oneself because there are other terms to mean that. It is an effort “fi sabeel allah” (on the path of Allah) on the theological level. And a secular government like the United States has no business to issue theological explanations of what theological jihad means.
Historically, jihad was an injunction by the caliphs to mobilize for war. But today, we're talking about a jihadist movement; ideology in this century meeting us in battlefields and also attacking Muslim societies. The jihadist movement and the jihadists are things we can and have to deal with in national security matters. But jihad as a theoretical concept is a matter the U.S. government must refrain from meddling in, either positively or negatively.
The administration's doctrine is dangerous to the U.S.
The U.S. secular government has no business declaring what term is legitimate and what term is not in religious affairs. The jihadists are a movement, with an ideology and strategies. The Nazis and the fascists were a movement and an ideology. You can't say that because nationalism and socialism are legitimate that national-socialism was as well.
The declared doctrine of the Obama administration that this “risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself,” is absolutely wrong. By being precise that it is in conflict with the jihadists, not with Muslims, the U.S. will show that it is countering the actions of a radical terror network. There are Muslims fighting the jihadists in several countries: Iran, Algeria, Iraq, Sudan, and Lebanon, let alone in other places such as Nigeria.
If the U.S. will call off the confrontation with the jihadists, the Muslim moderates will lose the confrontation with extremism. The Obama administration is using a lexicon that goes against the national interest of the United States.
Dr. Walid Phares is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of “The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad”. His columns are available at www.walidphares.com.
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