by Barry Rubin
A friend sent me an article written, in his usually witty style, by Mark Steyn in the conservative magazine, National Review, entitled "But We're Still Gonna Kill You." Steyn writes:
"Barack Obama has spent the last year doing bigtime Islamoschmoozing, from his announcement of Gitmo's closure and his investigation of Bush officials to his bow before the Saudi King and a speech in
But Mr. Steyn, who goes on to talk about various al-Qaida and individual attacks by revolutionary Islamists misses the main point (and I don't say this in any antagonistic sense as I often admire his writings). Of course al-Qaida is attacking
To be fair to Obama and his administration, they know that al-Qaida is an enemy that is going to go on waging jihad against the
They also know that some individuals are going to respond to al-Qaida's propaganda and launch attacks on their own. They also seem to understand that Hamas is not going to be moderated by concessions. Moreover, the
Consequently, Obama is not trying to persuade al-Qaida not to kill Americans. Rather, he is trying to undermine its appeal by trying to show Muslim bystanders that al-Qaida's view of the world is wrong. Obama is saying that
Of course, very few people do join al-Qaida, but enough to continue its terrorist campaign. Due to al-Qaida's own strategy--particularly its failure to couple political efforts with terrorist ones--it is unlikely to grow very much any way. Obama's effort is one more factor containing al-Qaida but cannot eliminate it completely. After all, Obama is not going to appeal to people whose perceptions of him and
On fighting al-Qaida, no one else could probably do a much better job, but then they could succeed to the same extent at a far lower cost in apologies, concessions, and loss of credibility.
Another point that both Steyn and Obama leave out is a lot more important. Despite all of Obama's policy and rhetorical efforts no one in the Muslim-majority world--no major cleric, government, or group--is going to HELP the
After all, Saudi money and youth are going into
A third issue, and probably the most important one of all, is that while al-Qaida is the biggest threat in terms of direct attacks on the United States and its citizens, on the larger stage it shrinks to relative unimportance compared to the Islamist regime in Iran and many revolutionary movements which are much larger and more successful in more than 50 countries around the world. Al-Qaida can carry out a few acts of terrorism each year which may or may not succeed. These movements are striving to seize state power. A historical comparison would be between the
The big problem, then, is that the administration thinks the threat comes from a small isolated minority of heretics while everyone else can be moderated somehow:
--The administration believes it can flatter, engage, pay off, or appease Iran, Pakistan, and various Arab governments to stop projecting anti-Americanism and cease sabotaging U.S. efforts to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons or make Israel-Palistinian peace.
--It thinks that by making it harder for members of the Iranian government and their closest supporters to make money abroad the United States can win favor with the Iranian masses and force the Iranian government into a deal not to build nuclear weapons.
--It does not fully appreciate the extent to which
--Apparently, it is close to concluding that Hizballah,
--The government is particularly blind to the threat of the current Turkish government which is drifting so close to
As important as the attempted bombing of the airliner heading to
Meanwhile, Islamists have been making both public relations' and material victories in
In addition, the administration's blindness has led to a spate of internal terrorist attacks in places like
In short, the administration does understand about al-Qaida one of its two worst enemies, it just doesn't fully comprehend any of the other forces causing trouble for the United States, including Islamists in general, Iran, and Syria.
What's the other worst enemy? Why, the administration's own policies, of course.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.