Saturday, March 14, 2015

Obama on extremist Islam

Quite a number of people -- mostly critics -- have noted Barack Obama's steadfast and explicit refusal to recognize such a thing as "Islamic terrorism," and his insistence that extremists are not really Islamic, but follow a false, perverted ideology that is not Islamic. This argument has become standard for White House and State Department spokesmen who have followed suit, often to the point of absurdity as they trip over themselves trying to explain why ISIS, say, isn't Islamic.  Anyone who follows Unforeseen Contingencies knows that "we" think it glaringly obvious that there's such a thing as extremist Islam and that it's incompatible with civilization.  So how to account for Obama's strange position?

One argument, usually from supporters, is that this is actually well-considered strategic policy.  This account on the Beirut to Beltway blog is the most reasonable defense of this I've seen.  But I don't buy it.  If that's it, there are plenty of other things often labeled "Islamic" that he seems quite comfortable with, e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood.  For another, it requires us to impose an interpretation on his words.  But, as I'll argue, it makes more sense to simply take them at face value and assume he means what he says.  He's consistent, after all.

So consider the critics.  Some critics -- Sean Hannity, for example -- argue that Obama is incredibly naive.  That's hard to believe.  It's not as though the rest of us have access to better information than the president does, and even a superficial glance shows that Boko Haram, Al Shabab, ISIS, and the many incarnations of Al Qaeda all claim Islam as their inspiration and Sharia as their goal.  Naivete seems a weak explanation at best -- it really seems to be "steadfast refusal" rather than confusion.

Another explanation is political correctness.  Blogger "Lorenzo from Oz" has a particularly insightful analysis of this phenomenon.  I think this goes a long way to explaining why leftist academics sympathize with Islamism, and probably explains a good part of the machinations of the Obama administration and foreign policy establishment.  (That, plus "following orders" is darn near a complete explanation.)  But "political correctness" and the philosophy behind it is another argument that ultimately amounts to a failure on the part of those who insist that Islam is blameless to really understand the nature of Islamism.

I don't think these explanations explain Barack Obama's position, and I'd like to offer a different one -- one that is based entirely on taking his own words at face value.  Barack Obama has repeatedly called violent extremism and terrorism done in the name of Islam to be a perversion of Islam.  In doing so, he is taking a theological position, and it is one that has been made by a number of people and groups that are Islamist -- that is, who believe political systems should be Islamized, made into compliance with the Koran and Sharia, but that terrorism is the wrong -- and even immoral -- route to this.  I first encountered this position in 1989, in the discussion with my Pakistani friend I've occasionally mentioned.  He made the point to me not that the ultimate goals of jihadi terrorists were wrong (the spread of Islam, including Sharia, throughout the world), but that their methods  -- terror and violence -- were wrong.  As I understand it, many others, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, make the same argument: terrorism is unIslamic.  But political Islam and the imposition of Sharia is Islamic.  This is a theological position, based on particular interpretations of of the Koran and Hadith.  When Barack Obama argues that violent extremism is unIslamic, he makes exactly this point.  I have never heard him suggest that Islamism is in any way a perversion of the Koran, nor, for that matter, in any way objectionable.  To the contrary, his statements suggest he is supportive of Islamism, at least mildly.

Given all that we've seen in his presidency, his speech in Cairo in 2009 seems much less bizarre.  Whether he's secretly a Muslim or not I neither know nor care (I suspect he has no serious religious beliefs at all and is a de facto atheist), but he knows Islam, I think well, from "three continents," and think of it with a great deal of sympathy and respect -- hence his references to the "holy Koran," "the prophet Mohammed," and "the revelation of Islam."  Given his background, he surely must understand Islam better than most Americans (I cannot fathom how he could be naive on Islam) and his pointed refusal to say anything at all against political Islam is telling.  I think he is sympathetic to Islamism.  Hence:
If one takes everything Obama has said, along with his actions, all of it is consistent with him being quite sympathetic to Islamism.  This is perfectly consistent with his condemnation of Al Qaeda, ISIS, et al., and willingness to bomb them.  He's quite clear, it is violent extremism he opposes -- not political Islam.  And those really are not the same thing.

So what to make of all this?  Based simply on his own words and action, Barack Obama is sympathetic to authoritarian -- totalitarian -- political Islam. He's also hostile to the American founders' principles of strictly limited government.  Rudy Giuliani recently said Barack Obama does not love America and was widely criticized.  But Giuliani is right.  What America is, fundamentally, is a set of ideas -- individual rights as the fundamental political value, government that exists and governs only with the consent of the citizens, and strict constraints on the powers of government.  These are completely incompatible with his progressivism and his leftism, as well as with Sharia and Islamism.  This is an extremely dangerous thing.  We should regard Obama the same way a president would have been viewed during the Cold War had one publicly defended Marxism-Leninism, criticized America's Constitutional system, and acted as a fellow-traveller.  He'd have been considered an enemy infiltrator, even if he had not been recruited by the KGB.  So too Barack Obama.  Again, I think he's not a Muslim, but his words and actions are more sympathetic to Islamism than to American political values.  He ought to be regarded as infiltrator.  His own words suggest this interpretation.

In this light, reconsider the following lines from his 2009 Cairo speech: 

"I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons."

He certainly failed in  promoting nuclear disarmament.  But given this, what's his "second best?"  No single nation -- e.g. the United States -- should choose who has nuclear weapons and who does not, and it's unfair that  some nations -- e.g. Israel -- should have nuclear weapons  while others do not.  Is that an unfair reading?  I don't think so.  This is chilling.

It's not just a few actions here and there, a few cherry-picked comments taken out of context.  If one  one considers the broad picture, there's a long train of actions, pursuing invariably the same object that evinces a design. Barack Obama is an enemy of the American system, and it's remarkable to me that so many people fail, or refuse, to see it.

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