In his State of the Union address to the American people earlier this year, Barack Obama declared that he was “confident” of achieving “our objective of defeating the core of al-Qaeda”.
Although he acknowledged the need to pursue the “remnants” of the terrorist group and its affiliates, the overall message was clear – al-Qaeda was badly degraded, the tides of war were receding and the US was winning this fight that was no longer even officially a war.
The Boston bombings would appear to present a fundamental challenge to that assessment and once again bring the nagging uncertainty of terrorism back on to the American main street. It is too soon to be absolutely sure the attacks were motivated by jihadist ideology, but the Islamic videos on the website of the older of the two Tsarnaev brothers point very firmly in that direction.
One of the may things I did in my years in small business was to deal with salesmen, both being sold to and representing our organisation. Like anything else, sometimes it was a joy, sometimes it was very frustrating. But in doing this I came to one conclusion: a salesman is washed up when he starts believing his own lies. By this I mean that every salesman develops a “pitch” and when this pitch is a) divorced from reality and b) the deliverer actually believes it totally the salesman is finished. (Women in sales were a rarity in the construction industry, but I’ll bet they haven’t altered this truth). Put another way, once you start believing your own unrealistic talking points, as Ann Richards used to say, put a fork in you; you’re done.
That, sad to say, is where the Obama Administration finds itself about Islāmic terrorism (or more accurately Islāmic careerism). And it trods a well-worn path to stupid on this: the Bush Administration declared victory too soon, to the catcalls of the media at the time. On top of that the Obama Administration, who considers itself and its people to be suave and sophisticated as opposed to the rubes that went before, has fallen into the same American idea that, if you decapitate the leadership, you kill the organisation.
Although examples to the contrary can be found outside of Islam, “the religion” (as an Algerian colleague of mine refers to it) is especially adept at forming small groups with authority and impact, especially with Sunni Islam. Combined with the usual social and political dynamic in the Middle East, and you’ve got the problems we have today. This is a lesson I learned early on, but I suppose our government keeps thinking that the world operates the way it does.
As Americans, we live in a country with two distinct ideas on how to deal with problems such as radical Islamicism.
The first is that we must understand our enemy if we are to engage him, and engaging him means that, if we “understand” him, we will be nice to each other and everything will be better. This is the approach of the left. With most enemies, this leads to defeat, because they interpret your actions (rightfully) as a sign of weakness and will move against you accordingly.
The second is that, if we understand our enemy, we will become sympathetic to him and it will weaken us, so we must always do it “our way” and defeat him. This is the approach of the right. This can lead to victory but it will be costly.
What no one who has a voice in the public arena seems to grasp is that, to defeat an enemy, one must first understand him, so as to exploit his weaknesses while working from our strengths. Doing this will help facilitate the greatest victory at the least cost. It will also avoid making unnecessary enemies in the process.
We’ve tried both. Neither has gotten the job done. As long as we believe our own lies, we are washed up.