Joel Mowbray

While President Bush could be making a lasting—and to conservatives, positive—impression on the Supreme Court he has already started reframing the biggest issue of the day, the war on terror, by calling it what it is: a war on radical Islam.

Not only does he need to continue to do so, but he would be wise to take the lead on something that should have been done long ago: linking the Islamic terror that Israel faces with the Islamic terrorism that has struck elsewhere, from New York to London to Bali.

In a surprisingly little-heralded speech last month, Bush for the first time went beyond calling the enemy “terrorists" or “evil-doers.”  He said, “Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism.” 

Though he gave the necessary disclaimer that the enemy does not represent Islam, Bush then spelled out—in a way he has not before—the enemy’s ultimate goal.  “This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom.”

The few who noticed Bush’s speech hailed its potential significance as a turning point in the War on Terror.  Not coincidentally, the address came just a few months after the silliness where many in the administration wanted to change the name of the worldwide war to the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, or GSAVE. 

Though no doubt some bureaucrats were quite proud of the two-syllable acronym, GSAVE had the same basic problem as the label we’ve been using all along: it only hints at what we’re up against.  Which is why Bush’s October 6 speech was so important.

Without any context, the War on Terror seems like little more than a patchwork of military actions in various, far-flung regions around the world.  But understanding that the ideology of Islam is the link between al Qaeda, its loosely affiliated offshoots, and other Islamic terrorist organizations better presents the enormity of what we are facing.  It also makes clear that military action alone will never be enough.

Yet as brilliant as Bush’s speech was, just two weeks later he ignored its central premise when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas came to town.  With Abbas at his side, Bush urged Arafat's long-time right-hand man to “confront the threat that armed gangs pose to a genuinely democratic Palestine.”


Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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