Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.
I bring this up not to pick on Sullivan but instead to discuss a world view — a world view that I think Obama shares. I agree with Hot Air’s Allahpundit:
That’s a solid statement of Obama’s own view of the significance of his presidency going in, I think. Only he knows what he thought his election and the big Cairo speech in 2009 would accomplish, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he honestly believed it’d be a death knell for jihadism going forward.
As for myself, I remember the first time I really took a close look at then-presidential candidate Obama’s statements on Iraq (I had just returned from my deployment) and thought, “This guy believes the garbage he was taught at Columbia and Harvard.”
In the halls of “elite” American education, there is a rough kind of anti-American consensus that prevails, where the faculty’s own world view is essentially exported to all of America’s enemies. In other words, they believe that America’s enemies hate America for the very same reasons they hate America, and if you just ameliorate the reasons for that hate, then the motive for anti-American violence will disappear.
Thus, we see (as an example) Sullivan’s confidence that a “young Pakistani Muslim” somehow shares the Ivy League’s obsession with racial diversity. We see President Obama himself remarking in Cairo that “much has been made that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected president.” As if this crude racial bean-counting could make jihadists stand down in the same way it helps vacate student protesters from the dean’s office. Do they not know that “young Pakistani Muslims” are colorblind? They happily slaughter even Muslim neighbors who look just like them (with names that sound just like theirs), if those neighbors aren’t sufficiently faithful.
But it’s not just the identity politics, it’s also the self-loathing, the belief that our own actions are the indispensable fuel for the “extremist” fire. Again, here’s President Obama in Cairo:
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.
Once again, this is “get the kids out of the office” thinking. But jihadists don’t think like rebellious Dartmouth students or their faculty cheerleaders. For the psychopaths of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Hamas, Hezbollah, (you name the group), Gitmo is a joke. Abu Ghraib is meaningless. Even after Abu Ghraib, jihadists would strongly prefer to surrender to American troops than our Iraqi allies, confident in our good treatment. But it didn’t make them hate us less. We were hit on 9/11 before anyone outside the U.S. military could locate Gitmo on a map and after President Clinton had exerted such herculean effort to solve the Palestinian–Israeli conflict that he hosted a known terrorist in the White House more than any other foreign leader. That didn’t make our enemy hate us less.
Almost six years of jihadist reality (on his watch) don’t seem to have penetrated President Obama’s bulletproof ideological blinders. When he says we have no strategy yet for confronting the Islamic State, I’m hearing him say that we have no strategy consistent with his ideology. And while he may flail about, taking half-measures until ISIS is at least driven from the front pages (if not out from Iraq and Syria), he will never find a strategy consistent with an ideology that sees alleged American sins and misconduct as relevant at all to the existence of global jihad.
Jihadist Islam is violently expansionist to its very core — and its enemies are simply defined as anyone and everyone (regardless of faith) who doesn’t submit. Moreover, jihadist Islam isn’t some kind of historical aberration, a unique phenomenon created as a byproduct surrounding the (very brief) period of colonialism in the Middle East. It’s part of the historical DNA of the faith itself, with periodic waves of jihad sweeping out from the Islamic world since its founding. That’s just a fact. And while jihadists tend to focus on the enemy right in front of their face (the Christians, Jews, or Muslims next door), they can and do multi-task — trying to paralyze and intimidate the great powers who have the strength to crush their movement.
Jihad existed before modern Israel.
Jihad existed before America.
Jihad existed before even Great Britain.
So, no, it is not rooted in our supposed national sins, the Sykes-Picot agreement, or in the failure of the two-state solution. It’s ultimately rooted in a single, primal religious drive: To conquer until all the world bends the knee. That’s not nihilism. It’s fanaticism. And these fanatics don’t care one bit about the race or ideology of our president. But they do care about our strength or weakness. And now, Americans should (once again) see that weakness means death.
But one American doesn’t seem to see that truth. Unfortunately, that American happens to be our commander-in-chief.