Cliff May

Next, the president said: “Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam.” That is something of a non sequitur: As noted above, a central tenet of the ideology he’s discussing holds that Islam is at war with the United States and other nations that persist in rejecting Islam’s message — and that the conflict must continue until the infidels submit.

Further: “And this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims.” Here, Obama returns to solid ground. Most Muslims have no wish to wage jihad against non-Muslims, no desire to strap their children into bomb vests or even to give money to the Islamic “charities” that support such missions. But if only 5 or 10 percent of the world’s more than a billion Muslims do see such efforts as virtuous, we’re still looking at an enormous movement — one lavishly funded by the plentiful oil under lands ruled by Muslims.

The president noted that Muslims “are the most frequent victims of terrorist attacks.” There can be no question about that — in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, and many other corners of the world. What’s more, the extremists reserve their most vehement hatred for fellow Muslims who reject their ideology, who — as they see it — have abandoned the true faith in favor of a watered-down interpretation of Islam. They call such Muslims apostates, and the punishment for apostasy is death. This is among the reasons so few Muslims dare speak out against the fundamentalists.

Obama concluded his single-paragraph disquisition with this: “Nevertheless, this ideology persists.” Yes, it does, and that raises the key strategic question: What is to be done? The president answers: “This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”

Wars do end — but rarely because one side declares them over unless, of course, that side is prepared to accept defeat. Imagine President Roosevelt, circa 1943, deciding it was time to end the “wars” in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, even as German and Japanese troops continued to spread fascism. Imagine President Kennedy saying it was time to wind down the Cold War even as the Soviets were expanding the frontiers of Communism. The ideology that confronts us today is no less totalitarian, no less supremacist, and no less bellicose.

Surely, what history advises is that appeasement is a policy certain to fail. Surely, what democracy demands is that we stand up to those who threaten our freedom — even if that means paying the price and bearing the burden of a long war.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.