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Defining Down the Enemy

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last week, Vice President Joe Biden offered the latest - and arguably the clearest - evidence of Team Obama's strategy for victory in what was once euphemistically known as the "War on Terror": Define down the enemy.

In an interview with former State Department official Leslie Gelb published in Newsweek, Biden declared: "The Taliban per se is not our enemy. That's critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests."

In other words, the Obama administration appears to have embraced the Taliban line that it will stop killing and maiming our people as soon as there are no more of them in Afghanistan. As one of its operatives told reporters for The Daily Beast: "We are not a worldwide movement. Our focus is totally on Afghan territory. Ninety-nine percent of Taliban couldn't even find the U.S. on a map."

There is a question that must be answered before we go any farther in the direction Obama-Biden and Company clearly have in mind - namely, negotiating what amounts to the surrender of Afghanistan to so-called "moderate" members of the Taliban: The issue is not whether the Taliban is a worldwide movement, but is it part of one?

Indisputably, the Taliban considers itself to be an element of the umma, the Dar al-Islam, the Muslim world. As such, it embraces, practices and imposes the totalitarian, supremacist political-military-legal doctrine known as shariah. It has these attributes in common with al Qaeda. It also shares them with other unsavory elements around the world such as: the Muslim Brotherhood, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizb ut Tahrir, Hamas, Hezbollah, the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group that massacred dozens of Christians on Christmas Day.

The Obama administration refuses to recognize this reality. It would have us believe that the only threat we face comes from al Qaeda. In fact, increasingly, it seems to suggest that we need not be unduly concerned about its franchises in the Levant, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula, just "core" al Qaeda. For that matter, we don't really have to worry about the core group's foot soldiers, just their leadership. And, according to senior U.S. officials, we have killed all but two of those.

Thus, we are encouraged to recognize that the war - now re-euphemized as "Countering Violent Extremism" - is just about over, to the great credit of our Commander-in-Chief.

The only problem with this rosy picture is that it bears no resemblance to reality.

In fact, our shariah-adherent enemies are not in retreat, let alone defeated. Even if the top ranks of al Qaeda now doing business out of Pakistan have been substantially depleted, neither that hydra-headed organization nor its fellow jihadists with other affiliations evidence anything but a growing determination: They see the coming of a divinely mandated opportunity to prevail over the "Great Satan," a United States that has actually retreated from Iraq and is signaling its determination to do the same from Afghanistan.

This ominous assessment was validated just before Christmas in federal court in the Southern District of New York. Notwithstanding the contention that the deep-seated enmity between Islam's Shia and Sunni factions precludes cooperation between them, Judge George Daniels ruled that Shiite Iran is liable, along with the Sunnis of al Qaeda and the Taliban, for the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

More to the present point, as the Associated Press put it, the judge also found that: "Iran continues to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda by providing a safe haven for al Qaeda leadership and rank-and-file al Qaeda members."

Put simply, our enemies who share a fealty to shariah are perfectly capable - despite differences on fine points of Islamic practice - of collaborating to the common end of seeking our forcible submission to their doctrine or, failing that, to effecting our destruction.

In the interest of achieving tactical political advantage at home, President Obama and his subordinates are studiously ignoring this reality. Worse yet, they are insisting that no one else understand it either.

At this writing, an official witch-hunt is underway to find and eliminate training materials in FBI, other law enforcement, intelligence and military files that show the immediate threat we face emanates from shariah, not the leadership of core al Qaeda. And to help ensure conformity with this dictate going forward, the administration is relying on vetting of trainers by "community leaders" affiliated with organizations the federal government has established are fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Five thousand years ago, the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu famously warned: "If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."

At the moment we seem a lot closer to losing every battle than we are to winning any wars. It would be a grave disservice to our splendid men and women who fight them - and perilous to the country they sacrifice so much to defend - were the Obama administration to persist in seeking the pretense of victory by defining down the enemy, and, in the process, ensuring we succumb to defeat.

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