Barack Obama has spent his presidency cultivating Islamists, particularly from the international Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in the United States. As we saw this week, he chafes at the term “radical Islam” — as do his Islamist advisers. At their insistence, he had instructional materials for training government agents purged of references to Islamic terms that illuminate the nexus between Muslim doctrine and jihadist terror.
Obama’s vaunted national-security strategy, “Countering Violent Extremism,” is Orwellian. The term CVE supplants identification of our jihadist enemies with the woolly notion that “violence” can be caused by any form of “extremism” — it has nothing to do with Islam. By transferring security responsibilities from government intelligence agents to Muslim “community leaders” (often, Islamist groups), CVE actually encourages violent extremism.
I don’t buy this. Oh, I believe Obama is betraying our national security, but I do not think he is doing so intentionally. Instead, he has the good intentions, such as they are, of a left-wing globalist. The president sees security as a matter of international stability, not of a single nation’s safety — not even of that single nation that has entrusted him with its security.
To grasp Obama’s conception of security, we must revisit a progressive fantasy oft-lamented in these columns, “moderate Islamists.” This is where the Muslim Brotherhood comes in.
For a post-American transnational progressive like Obama, however, the context that matters is not our society. It is the world. He is the first president to see himself more as a citizen of the world who plays a critical role in American affairs than as an American who plays a critical role in international affairs.
Viewed globally, the Brotherhood seems — in fact, it is — more moderate than ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other infamous terrorist groups. I say “other” terrorist groups because the Brotherhood surely is one, which is why it should be formally designated as such under U.S. law.
As I outlined in The Grand Jihad, the Brotherhood promotes terrorism. Its doctrine prominently includes jihad, and it has a long history of violence that runs to this very day. Indeed, Hamas — a terrorist organization that the Brotherhood masquerades as a “political” “resistance” movement — is the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch.
Nevertheless, four things separate this very sophisticated organization from other jihadists:
(1) The Brotherhood pretends to reject violent jihad, especially when dealing with Western audiences.
(2) The Brotherhood opportunistically limits its overt support for jihad to situations that the international Left feels comfortable excusing (e.g., violence against “occupation” by Israel, or by American troops fighting Bush’s “unnecessary war of aggression” in Iraq).
(3) The Brotherhood purports to condemn terrorist acts that it believes, judging from a cost-benefit analysis, are likelier to harm than to advance the sharia agenda (particularly the Brotherhood’s lucrative fundraising apparatus in the West). A good example is the 9/11 atrocities (but note that even there, the Brotherhood, like the rest of the Left, always adds that American foreign policy is jointly culpable).
(4) The Brotherhood aggressively pursues a menu of nonviolent advocacy and sharia proselytism, known in Islamist ideology as dawah. As Brotherhood honcho and major Hamas backer Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi puts it, “We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America, not through the sword but through dawah.”
The Brotherhood aggressively pursues a menu of nonviolent advocacy and sharia proselytism, known in Islamist ideology as dawah.
For present purposes, the most salient of these Brotherhood strategies is the fourth. The menu includes international diplomacy, participation in various countries’ political processes, exploitation of civil-rights laws in various countries’ court systems, strong presence on college campuses (administration, faculty, and student societies), vigorous fundraising under the guise of charity, and aggressive influence peddling in the media and popular culture.
Significantly, it is this menu of nonviolent pressure points, not violent jihad, that is the Brotherhood’s public face in the West. That is what enables the organization to pose as a comparatively moderate political and ideological movement, not a jihadist organization. That is what allows Brotherhood operatives to pass themselves off as “civil-rights activists” and social-justice warriors, not sharia radicals.
This meticulously cultivated moderate pose is the Potemkin foundation on which Obama and other transnational progressives, including a fair number of leading Beltway Republicans, cooperate with the Brotherhood throughout the world.
Obama is anxious to work with the Brotherhood on the Left’s theory that dialogue and cooperation always promote international stability — rather than convey that America’s principles are negotiable. Obama embraces the Brotherhood for the same reason that he negotiates with our enemies in Iran: the illusion that any talk is good talk; that any deal is a boon, regardless of how one-sided. The American wants peace through strength; the post-American globalist prefers peace “processes” and their inevitable peace “prizes.”
As a practical matter, Obama cannot negotiate with ISIS or al-Qaeda. He would if he could, but they won’t. They are interested only in conquest, not compromise. By comparison, the Brotherhood does seem moderate — but only by comparison with these barbaric, full-throttle terror networks. Unlike ISIS, the Brotherhood is amenable to suspending the jihad while taking the concessions it can get through diplomacy and political processes — then going right back to jihad promotion when these alternatives have been exhausted.
The Brotherhood is well regarded by many Sunni Islamist regimes with which our government hopes to cooperate in containing the regional aggression of Shiite Iran (aggression materially supported by Obama’s obsessions with deals and dialogue). There has even been a recent thaw between the Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia: Relations turned icy when the Saudis backed the ouster of Egypt’s Brotherhood-led government; but with Obama canoodling with Tehran, Riyadh has grown desperate for any allies it can find.
On the world stage, the stage they care about, transnational progressives portray the Brotherhood as “moderate Islamists,” partnership with whom is vital if we are to achieve the panacea of global stability.
The con job actually gets worse than that. The Brotherhood has figured out that “democracy” in Muslim-majority countries is the quickest route to imposing sharia. So it has taken on the mantle of “democracy” champions. By backing the Brotherhood, Beltway progressives purport to promote a “democratic transformation” of the Muslim Middle East. The fact that it would be a transformation to an anti-democratic, discriminatory, liberty-crushing system is, for progressives, as irrelevant as the fact that Obama’s empowering of the monstrous Tehran regime destroys the democratic aspirations of pro-Western Iranians. The progressive conception of stability — cooperation with rogues — is no friend of freedom.
The Left clings to the conviction that the “mere” advocacy of radical ideology is constitutionally protected, even if what’s being advocated is the overthrow of our constitutional system itself.
The Brotherhood has devoted three generations to building an infrastructure in the United States — an impressive network of affiliated Islamist organizations. To partner with the Brotherhood internationally therefore requires embracing the Brotherhood domestically. But how can Obama and other transnational progressives pull that off? After all, as we’ve seen, the Brothers may seem like “moderate Islamists” when they’re in the same neighborhood as ISIS; but here on our own soil, an Islamist is plainly a radical.
Obama pulls it off by distorting law and history to sanitize the Brotherhood’s American Islamists.
Here, we must consider the progressive version of the Cold War. The Left clings to the conviction that the “mere” advocacy of radical ideology is constitutionally protected, even if what’s being advocated is the overthrow of our constitutional system itself. Symmetrically, the Left also holds that (a) anti-Communism was more dangerous than Communism, and (b) the “living” Constitution can be “evolved” whenever necessary to protect aggressive “dissent” by the Left’s constituencies.
Put it all together and you have Obama’s two core conceits:
First, the Constitution immunizes the Brotherhood’s ideology from government scrutiny. Our agencies must deem anti-American sharia-supremacist advocacy as “constitutionally protected activity,” no matter how virulently anti-American it is; no matter that it supports Hamas (material support for which is actually a felony under American law); and no matter how many Islamists make the seamless transition from Brotherhood indoctrination to membership in other, more notorious terrorist organizations.
Second, anti-terrorism is more of a danger to “our values” (i.e., Obama’s values) than is the regrettable but unavoidable fact that squelching anti-terrorism will result in the occasional terrorist attack — which Obama regards as more of a nuisance fit for law-enforcement procedures than a national-security challenge.
There you have it: Obama is not really pro-jihadist; he is anti-anti-terrorist. As long as they don’t appear to be blowing up buildings, sharia supremacists are not only shielded from scrutiny; our president welcomes the Brotherhood into our national-security apparatus in order to reverse what progressives see as the dangerous excesses of real counterterrorism.
That is how you end up with such lunacy as “Countering Violent Extremism.” That is how the jihad shakes off its post-9/11 shackles on the road to Orlando. So don’t say “radical Islam,” much less obsess over the carnage at the Pulse nightclub. After all, look how stable Obama’s globe has become.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.