President Obama's much-anticipated speech on the administration's Afghanistan plan has the potential to be as strategically momentous as Richard Nixon's visit to China was in 1972.
Obama's address at West Point tonight puts him in a unique position to tell the truth about the nature of the enemy we confront not only in Afghanistan but also worldwide, and thereby put the effort to defeat that enemy on a sound, coherent, and supportable footing. Will he rise to the occasion?
With a Muslim background and a year-long record of assiduous efforts to cultivate better relations with what he calls the "Muslim world," the incumbent president can exploit the sort of latitude his anti-communist predecessor did 37 years ago with an opening to Red China.
If Obama's bow to the Saudi monarch, his highly publicized addresses to Muslim audiences in Turkey and Egypt, his efforts to curry favor with the Palestinians, and his co-sponsorship with the Organization of the Islamic Conference of a resolution limiting free speech are of any positive value, they should afford him the running room to say the following:
"We are at war today not with Islam, or certainly with all Muslims. But Muslims who adhere to the brutally repressive and supremacist theo-political-legal program authoritative Islam calls Shariah are, in accordance with that program, at war with us. Shariah dictates the triumph of an Islamic theocracy and, to that end, the use where possible of violent jihad. Where violence is not practicable, more stealthy forms of jihad must be employed.
"That means we confront threats not just from al-Qaida or even from al-Qaida and the Taliban. To be sure, they are adherents to Shariah, but so are millions of other Muslims elsewhere, including those such as Major Nidal Malik Hasan here in the United States.
"As a result, while the dangers posed to us by such folks are evident in Afghanistan — and must guide our actions there — they are not confined to that distant land and its long-suffering people. We need to increase our military presence in Afghanistan, and will, in accordance with the recommendations put forward by our commander on the ground, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and the counter-insurgency strategy our administration adopted last March.
"Our enemies in Afghanistan and those seeking refuge in neighboring Pakistan are on notice that this is not a short-term commitment. We are determined to ensure that the Afghan people are not condemned to a reprise of the Taliban's reign of terror — and the safe haven that regime afforded to those who have attacked us in the past.
"But we are under no illusions: Our civilization and way of life are anathema to those who follow Shariah. That is not because of what we have done or are doing; it is because of who we are. Shariah demands the subjugation and destruction of societies like ours that believe in democratic rule, equal rights for women, freedom of speech, and other basic liberties, the separation of church and state, etc.
"Thus, we have no choice but to resist the attempted imposition of Shariah, whether through violent or nonviolent means. Under our administration, we will do so comprehensively, at home and abroad. We will use military power were necessary and the array of other techniques at our disposal to preserve our civilization in the face of a threat that knows no boundaries.
"Let me be clear: In so doing, we will reach out at every opportunity to Muslims who wish no more to live under Shariah than do the rest of us. Such Muslims are our natural allies and we will make common cause with them against our mutual foe.
"This struggle is the defining one of our time. If we get it right, the costs will be manageable, although still substantial. If we get it wrong, they will be unbearably high.
"We call on all nations — Muslim and non-Muslim alike — who face the prospect of being subjected to Shariah to join us in this effort. By so doing, we maximize the chances of preserving both the unique character of such nations and the opportunity for each to express that character in ways that reflect the traditions and values of their respective societies. This is a goal for which we have, frankly, no choice but to strive."
It is deeply regrettable that the American people and those who love freedom elsewhere around the world have not heard a president of the United States utter such words to date. That failure has condemned us to the prosecution of open-ended and, at best, inconclusive military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, uninformed by any understanding of what actually animates our enemies.
From now on, we must recognize the reality that these are but two fronts in a truly global war. We cannot succeed in either, let alone both, of these theaters — to say nothing of the worldwide conflict more generally — unless we come to grips with the catalytic role Shariah plays in that war.
President Barack Obama can draw on his credentials in the Muslim world, just as Richard Nixon did with his anti-communist bona fides in opening relations with the PRC, to redefine and redirect our national efforts to achieve the required victory over Shariah.
Let us all pray he will do so.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is President of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times, and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio.
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