BY: Matthew Continetti
….The change in the manner in which the government treated Islamism was profound. “Whereas the 9/11 Commission report, published under the presidency of George W. Bush in July 2004 as a bipartisan product, had used the word Islam 322 times, Muslim 145 times, jihad 126 times, and jihadist 32 times,” Gorka writes, “the National Intelligence Strategy of the United States, issued by the Obama administration in August 2009, used the term Islam 0 times, Muslim 0 times, jihad 0 times.” The omission is stunning.
For Bush, terrorism consisted of immoral deeds committed by evil men animated by anti-Western ideology. Obama downplayed such judgmental language. He preferred an interpretation of terrorism as discrete acts of wrongdoing by extremists, driven by resentments and grievances such as the American failure to establish a Palestinian state, American support for secular Arab dictatorships, American forces in the Middle East, U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay, and, infamously, an anti-Islamic YouTube video. “The logic that follows,” Gorka writes, “is that once those grievances are addressed, the extremism will subside.”
Some logic. Six years into the Obama presidency, not only has the vocabulary of jihad been removed from official rhetoric and counterterrorism policy, but troops have been removed from Iraq, troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, the administration has condemned Israeli settlement activity while coddling Hamas’ backers in Ankara and Doha, “torture” has been banned, the White House intends to close Guantanamo unilaterally, Hosni Mubarak was abandoned in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the president is desperate for a partnership with the Islamic theocracy of Iran.
The result? The Islamic State rules Mosul, threatens Baghdad, and has conquered half of Syria as Bashar Assad gasses the other half. Libya has collapsed into tribal warfare. Egypt has gone from military dictatorship to Islamic authoritarianism and back again. An Islamic strongman rules Turkey, Hamas murders with impunity, Al Jazeera broadcasts anti-American and anti-Semitic propaganda around the world, and the Taliban are biding time in Afghanistan. Not only is al Qaeda not on the run, it governs more territory than at any point since 2001. It is once again the “strong horse,” attracting jihadists to its crusade who inevitably turn their attention to the West.
“Without an ideological catalyst,” Gorka writes, “grievances remain merely grievances. They are dull and banal. They only transform into acts of transcendental violence when ignited by Sayyid Qutb or Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. It is the narrative of Holy War that gives value to local grievances, not the other way around.” Before we can hope to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State or the al Qaeda movement, we must recognize the poison tree of jihad for what it is. We must recognize the global and unitary nature of the threat. We must recognize that there is only one way to deal with a poison tree: You chop it down.