America and the entire West are at war with jihadist terrorism and radical Islamism—on the battle fields of the Middle East with ISIS and al Qaeda but more importantly in coffee houses, the basements of mosques and on the internet for the hearts and minds of young people.
Of the 20,000 foreign fighters who have traveled to Syria and Iraq, about one-fourth is from North America, Europe and Australia and most are native-born citizens. Many are simply young people frustrated by unemployment or stuck in dreary dead end jobs, seeking meaning in a confused world without a strong moral compass.
Jihadists persuade them with utopian notions about building a more just society on religious foundations and lure them to revolutionary violence—either by taking up arms in the Middle East or committing terrorist acts at home.
Amedy Coulibaly, who killed five people at the January attack on a Paris kosher grocery, was born in France, had few prospects for a legitimate career and was raised by a non-religious Muslim family.
Western cultures and institutions have been under attack from within and perversely altered by the political successes of leftist intellectuals for decades.
Radical feminists have attained mainstream legitimacy and won concessions selling the notion that virtually all legal and economic institutions are stacked against women—even when facts negate those assertions. For example, it is an article of faith that sexist bias permeates higher education, and virtually every university has put in place programs to advantage female students and faculty. Yet, about 60 percent of associates, bachelors and masters degrees granted in the United States are to women.
Minorities have propagated the notions that they are permanently disadvantaged by past wrongs and have won perpetual preferences in university admissions and hiring.
To young men at the margins with slim prospects for a decent education or rewarding job, the constant drumbeat of those ideologies and the disadvantages their remedies impose on them become a direct assault on their futures and self-worth, and too often manifest in destructive and violent responses.
Intellectuals on the left have long wedded the grievances of radical feminists and minorities with an unrelenting propaganda assault against private enterprise, capitalism and U.S. foreign policy, and elected politicians like Obama to effect radical change.
At every opportunity, Obama appeals to the radical left, promising to redress injustices—even those long dead—and apologizes for western and American misdeeds.
At a recent National Prayer Breakfast, Obama said
Lest we get on our high horse and think this [violence in the name of religion] is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.
Words like those may help the president energize support among university professors and the liberal media—and the millions who believe their opinions are scriptural truth—but those words provide ammunition to terrorist recruiters preying on disaffected and potentially violent youth.
Our governments and civilization cannot compete for their allegiance if our leaders are constantly pandering to false notions about the West’s guilt and culpability for all the misdeeds of humanity.
France has implemented massive surveillance to identify and track recruits to jihadist terrorism and radical Islamism. The United Kingdom, the United States and other western governments are building aggressive outreach programs to Muslim and other families—in particular mothers—to identify youth who by merely surfing the web are led to jihad.
None of that will be effective enough, when Islamic terrorist recruiters benefit from a daily droll of politically opportunist rhetoric from the president and other leaders that support their charges against the West.
Quite simply, Obama’s words make the work of terrorist recruiters easier, and give aid and comfort to the enemy.
Peter Morici is an economist and professor at the University of Maryland and a national columnist. He tweets @pmorici1