Why Obama invoked the Crusades — and what it says about how he views terrorism – and Related Commentary

Carefully thought out strategy:

Obama, though, is not budging. And his comments on the Crusades and the Inquisition represent the latest ratcheting up in his quest to change how people talk about terrorism. He views Islamist terrorists as exploiting their religion; his opponents believe there is something about Islam that creates fanatics who are willing to carry out terrorist attacks.

For what it’s worth, Americans used to sympathize more with Obama. But the rise of the Islamic State appears to be pushing things in the opposite direction. A Pew poll in September showed, for the first time, that 50 percent of Americans viewed Islam as more likely to encourage violence than other religions. Another 39 percent said it was not more likely to encourage violence.

This could be part of the reason Obama is upping the rhetoric. Words matter, and the way this issue is framed is going to go a long way toward determining how the “war on terror” will be waged. Moreover, the rise of the Islamic State — along with the lesser-publicized Boko Haram — has ramped up the debate over terrorism and its roots to the highest point since perhaps after Sept. 11, 2001. This is a key moment in defining the terms of the debate. Both Republicans and Obama recognize that.

Obama’s critics believe he’s being Pollyannaish about the nature of the threat and how it is inherently tied to Islam. Without recognizing the seeds of terrorism, they reason, how can you combat it?

Obama disagrees wholeheartedly with that characterization and thinks attributing violence to Islam is unfair and damaging to relations between Christians and the broader Muslim population.

It’s perhaps the defining semantics debate of his presidency.

Why Obama invoked the Crusades — and what it says about how he views terrorism – The Washington Post.

Commentary from Richard LeBaron, a former U.S. ambassador (ret.) and the founding coordinator of the U.S. Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Strategy:

The United States and its allies are in a conflict with certain groups that would like to convince the world that they are the true representatives of Islam.

We will succeed in that war only if we stay focused on the key element of counterterrorism strategy: excellent intelligence gained through maintenance of a first-rate intelligence community and sharing of intelligence with others; the ability to project deadly force when needed against specific groups and targets who wish us harm; and enlistment of Muslim and non-Muslim countries and communities around the world to do their fair share in combating terrorism and addressing its root causes—be those poor governance, weak states, religious incitement, or psychologically marginalized individuals looking for outlets for their rage.

Preventing the attraction to terrorism, as opposed to attacking known terrorists, is a long-term project that requires a serious approach. The contrived debate about labeling terrorism is both counterproductive and at odds with an American value system that separates religious belief from political considerations.

Those actually doing the fighting against terrorists deserve better than bumper sticker slogans to guide their actions. They should not be asked to fight a dimly understood religious war.

Declaring War on Radical Islam Is Not a Counterterrorism Strategy

The Globe Editorial on the Canadian government response is along similar lines:

Canada’s small number of terrorists thus far have been mostly self-radicalized. Think of the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu murderer Martin Couture-Rouleau or parliamentary shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Both were deeply troubled men who at some point grabbed onto ideas floating about on the Internet, and decided that the purifying appeal of violence was the answer for what ailed them. They weren’t sent here by ISIS; it would be more accurate to say that they caught a virus, albeit one that the intellectual immune system of the overwhelming majority of Canadians of all faiths is thus far resistant to.

They were also self-Islamicized. Their made-up religion of endless war had little to do with the Islam encountered in Canada’s mainstream mosques. Otherwise, this country might be overrun with Couture-Rouleaus and Zehaf-Bibeaus. It is not.

On the day of the Parliament Hill shooting, this newspaper editorialized “against exaggeration, hysteria and despair” and “in favour of calming the hell down.”

Over the past few weeks, the Prime Minister has seemed intent on riling people up and making the most of the terrorist threat. He has exaggerated the danger of ISIS and its connection to possible terrorism in Canada. That’s wrong. At a time like this, the PM should be the chief minister in charge of deflating hyperbole, putting things in perspective – and reminding Canadians that we must continue as we always have, on guard but free.

 A ‘war on terrorism’? No thanks. There are smarter ways to meet the threat 

Lastly, shallow commentary by Rex Murphy:

There have been many sins committed by many faiths, and there are tragedies even now underway. But it is a very displaced analysis that seeks to offer corrections to Christianity during a period of Islamic turmoil, and seeks out forgotten sins to ignore those so very close to mind.

He forgets history provides context and cautions us not to jump on bandwagons and the meme of the day.

Rex Murphy: In Obama’s impulse to absolve Islam, he offers a rebuke to Christianity

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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