Is it possible to defeat an enemy we don't understand? That is only one of the questions that ought to occur to anyone reading President Obama's new National Security Strategy (NSS).
Administration officials and loyalists have been trying to put the best possible face on the congressionally mandated 52-page document. But anyone who glances at so much as a page will see that is rife with platitudes, wishful thinking and self-delusion. It requires a bit more effort to see how unserious and self-contradictory it is. But let me give that a go.
Start with this: Who do you think is to blame for the most deadly terrorist attack ever on American soil? According to the NSS, the answer is "globalization," the current buzzword for integrated economies, networked transnational communications and the outrage of selling McDonalds hamburgers to Parisians. The NSS states: "The dark side of this globalized world came to the forefront for the American people on September 11, 2001." Is it possible that policymakers in the White House sincerely believe that's what happened?
The NSS asserts: "To succeed, we must face the world as it is." It then immediately goes on to claim: "Wars over ideology have given way to wars over religious, ethnic, and tribal identity."
Are we to believe that al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Khomeinists, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are without ideologies? And if the fight is over "religious, ethnic and tribal identity," which religious, ethnic and tribal identity might that be? Presbyterianism, perhaps?
The NSS insists: "We are at war with a specific network, al-Qa'ida, and its terrorist affiliates who support efforts to attack the United States, our allies, and partners." But what do members of the al-Qa'ida/al-Qaeda network believe? What are their goals? Who are their affiliates? And, since this is a strategy document, what strategy will be used to defeat them? The authors of the NSS steer clear of such questions. They think they have said all that needs to be said by labeling self-declared enemies of the West "violent extremists."
The NSS rejects "the notion that al-Qa'ida represents any religious author ity. They are not religious leaders, they are killers; and neither Islam nor any other religion condones the slaughter of innocents." Osama bin Laden probably would agree with that last premise. He'd add, however, that Americans, Israelis and other infidels are, by definition, not innocents.