Muftic: Semantic war on Obama misses target
February 26, 2015
The U.S. is embroiled in a domestic and foreign semantics war. President Obama explained why he uses certain words of "violent extremists" to describe ISIS in remarks at a White House conference Feb. 18.
He unleashed a firestorm from domestic political opponents who pounced on the president for not using "Islamic" as part of his ISIS tag. He was "adrift in denial" per Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Others questioned his love of country because of his "different" background all because he did not use the same words they did.
It is not President Obama that is in denial. Those in denial are the ones who are blind to the fact that we are in a war for hearts and minds of the rest of the over one billion Muslims who have not bought into ISIS's ideology or methodology yet. His critics are conducting a semantics war on Obama, but Obama understands that the use of wrong words can hurt our efforts to develop an effective alliance and undermine our campaign against ISIS.
We depend on Muslim allies such as Jordan, the UAE, Egypt, and the Kurds to be the combat boots instead of us. ISIS' interpretation of Islam is not our allies' and they are beginning to put their abhorrence into military action. On Feb. 19 Obama called on 60 nations, including Islamic religious leaders, at a meeting at the White House to discuss countering the ISIS message. Ticking them and our allies off with hostile remarks about their religion is not a sane strategy.
This is how he explained it Feb. 18: "Al-Qaida and ISIL … are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders — holy warriors in defense of Islam … And they propagate the notion that America — and the West, generally — is at war with Islam. That's how they recruit. … Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists and we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with those who perverted Islam."
Those are not words of a person in denial or "clueless about radical Islam." They are the words of someone thinking strategically.
Where the critics go very wrong is complaining that his words dictate his military strategy. His actions speak louder than words. Look at what he is asking: war powers to take on ISIS, even at the risk of turning off his liberal supporters. He is planning to put more boots on the ground, limited to special forces, spotters and trainers. The air war is already in full swing.
There is a legitimate debate about whether to give the president the option of a mass invasion and occupation of Iraq again. If the proponents of a re-enactment of the Iraq invasion and occupation get their way, this time there would be no end to occupation. Twelve years of occupation did not work. Other than Iraq II, the critics have offered no workable alternative except more of the same he is already doing. They need to do better than throwing verbal bombs at the president.
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