Two days after a self-identified ISIS sympathizer mowed down almost fifty people in Orlando, President Obama finally deigned to address the urgings of his critics that he identify the enemy by its name, Radical Islam, rather than refer to ambigous “exremists.” In the President’s words: “What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?” This, from a President whose Justice Department that cannot even use the terms “felon” or “convict.”
Now, I will be honest. I do understand the President’s reluctance to use the term. Lumping all Muslims together can play into the hands of our enemies, who gleefully proclaim that their interpretation of Islam is the true one, and that Islam and the West are engaged in a struggle to the death. Labeling our conflict as “America’s War against Islam” is a sure recipe for many more radicalized Omar Mateens. As a matter of fact, even those of us (including myself) who believe that the term “Radical Islam” should be used need to remain clear that we do not mean all Muslims.
We also have a responsibility to explain why it is actually important to make it clear that we are fighting Radical Islam. Why, indeed, does it make a difference what label we use? Well, Mr. President, it makes a difference because many Americans, mostly your fellow liberals, are unable to understand the depths of the struggle we face. In today’s secularized and sanitized world, they have trouble comprehending that our enemies are motivated not merely by frustration and poverty, but by deeply-held political-religious beliefs. How else could your fellow Democrats lump this religiously-motivated attack as another stage in the “gun violence epidemic?” (This is also the reason all the headlines about the Orlando “act of hate” are missing the boat, as R.R. Reno explains.) As long as our enemies is thought of as a disjointed, unenlightened chaotic mass, we will continue to underestimate them (remember that “jayvee” quote about ISIS?).Until we understand our enemy, we cannot hope to defeat him.