by Barry Rubin
The president's advisor on terrorism, John Brennan, who I've dubbed the worst foreign policy official in the Obama Administration, has made a new statement that is very interesting and deserves serious debate, not just dismissal or endorsement.
You can see his basic line as it has developed, with full administration support, over the last year:
"Nor does President Obama see this challenge as a fight against jihadists. Describing terrorists in this way, using the legitimate term `jihad,' which means to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal, risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve. Worse, it risks reinforcing the idea that the
Brennan also said that the
There are two issues here:
1. Should U.S. strategy be to make a theological judgment about the relationship of Jihad and Islam, deciding what is the "proper" Muslim stance?
Regarding the first point, for Ayatollah Brennan to define jihad as only peaceful and for "a moral goal" is ludicrous. All Muslims know that, at a minimum, jihad also includes a violent struggle for conquest as its main component, even if they also believe there is an internal moral aspect to it or a non-violent jihad (a jihad to be a better person; a jihad against illiteracy). Brennan saying otherwise isn't going to change any minds or win over any hearts.
In English there's a mocking saying about one trying to be "more Catholic than the Pope." Isn't Brennan trying to prove he is a better understander of Islam than Usama bin Ladin? Should we say speak of those-who-claim-to-be-Jihadists-but-aren't?
At any rate, the key point made by al-Qaida and other contemporary Jihadists is that they are waging a "defensive jihad" to save Muslims from a Western "Crusader-Zionist" attempt to destroy Islam. They define this as "a holy struggle for a moral goal." At times, they are more open about the use of Jihad to gather all Muslims into a single state ruled by a caliph.
So it is reasonable to have a
And doesn't this whole approach seem to be the very act of aggression against Islam to many Muslims, a war on Islam, that Brennan and the Obama administration want to avoid? After all, if the
Regarding the point as to who is the enemy, an argument can certainly be made for narrowing the conflict in terms of definition. Having fewer enemies is preferable. Yet doesn't this pose of a U.S versus al-Qaida war send a signal to all attacked by anyone not part of al-Qaida that the
And what about the Taliban in
In discussing all these issues,
By the way, a further convenience here is that technically al-Qaida doesn't have state sponsors. Yet
It is better not to have a simplistic definition at all. The
There is also a hint of a sleazy side-stepping plea: Don't attack me, attack those Lebanese and Israelis, Thai Buddhists and Filipino or Nigerian or Sudanese Christians! It is a tactic reminiscent of those "anti-terrorist" Muslim clerics whose opposition to murder is restricted to proclaiming that those who kill fellow Muslims are not proper jihadists, where as those who kill non-Muslims are A-OK.
What Brennan does have in mind, and says so elsewhere, is something prevalent in administration thinking: drawing a line between good and bad guys, moderates and radicals, in which those who seek to overthrow allied countries or destroy
You don't have to be at war with
And no verbal gymnastics will change that fact; they will only weaken the
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