The White House is convening a conference on “violent extremism,” and the president and his underlings are, depending on your point of view, either painfully, hilariously, or terrifyingly reluctant to call the thing by its name, which is Islamist extremism — jihad.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, bearer of one of the great inaptronyms of our time, explains: “All forms of violent extremism would be discussed in the context of the summit. . . . Violent extremism is something we want to be focused on, it is not just Islamic violent extremism that we want to counter. There are other forms.” Indeed, there are other forms of violent extremism, about which the president might consult his buddies Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the murderous Weather Underground terrorists. There are violent environmental extremists, would-be bridge bombers coming out of the Occupy movement, the occasional animal-rights lunatic — fruits and nuts of sundry descriptions. But the world at large is not suffering from a global insurgency motivated by eccentric interpretations of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Earth in the Balance, or The Silent Scream just now. The progressive fantasists keep assuring us that there’s a wave of terror just around the corner, soon to be perpetrated by militant, right-wing gun-lovers. But the people carrying out hideous acts of terrorism in Paris, Fort Hood, Boston, New York, Washington, etc., are not citing The Turner Diaries.
They are citing the Koran.
With all the usual caveats — most of the world’s Muslims want nothing to do with al-Qaeda and its pathetic primitivism — we have a specific, discrete, acute problem: Radical Muslims are waging a holy war against the United States and the Western world at large. Their aim is enslavement or extermination. To name the enemy is not to libel Muslim patriots at home or well-meaning Muslims abroad — it is simply to acknowledge reality. There are no prominent figures in the Southern Methodist Church calling for the murder of non-Methodists, no furious Amish taking hostages from kosher markets. Al-Qaeda et al. may no more speak for Islam at large than the IRA speaks for the Roman Catholic Church — but the radicals do speak for a not-insignificant body of homicidal maniacs, torturers, murderers of children, pizza-shop bombers, and cartoonist killers that is currently plaguing every continent on this planet save Antarctica. (Apparently, news of the gay penguins has not yet reached Cairo.)
We rely upon presidents for intellectual and moral clarity on this sort of issue, on the literal (literal, Mr. Vice President) life-and-death questions. Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate not only put Moscow on notice, it announced the president’s intention to drain the swamp of moral equivalence and national masochism in which the country foundered in the post-Vietnam era. Naming the enemy — Communism and the Soviet regime — did not mean that we considered every human being residing behind the Iron Curtain an enemy; indeed, the liberation of those poor souls from their oppressors was a main aim. Communism was not the only evil in the world, and its violent extremists — Ayers and Dorhn among them — were not the only ones of their sort at work. But they were the ones who mattered most at the time. Today, the most prominent threat to peace and freedom in the world is radical Islam. The president knows this, his advisers know it, his media apologists and campus admirers know it, every child in school knows it – but Barack Obama is not packing the necessary equipment to say plainly what everybody knows.
Far from helping the nation toward clarity, President Obama’s timorous inability to even speak the name of the enemy and that of the enemy’s cause leads us instead toward obfuscation. We do not, will not — and effectively cannot — engage in a national effort to stamp out “violent extremism” of every description everywhere in the world. The Naxalites will have to wait. But we can and must defeat the Islamist radicals who busy themselves murdering our people, in our cities, and waging war in the streets of our allies’ capitals. That is the job at hand, the task upon which our vast national-security apparatus must focus. Providing the leadership necessary to that task is, in fact, President Obama’s job, his primary responsibility as president. If he does not think that it can be done, or does not have the heart to do it, then he is sitting at the wrong desk.