The Long War Part 1: President Obama's First Two Failures


Wesley Smith

June 27, 2016

4 min read

National Security



(Part 1 of 3)

Our nation has been at war for almost fifteen years.  Nearly half of this period has been under the presidency of Barack Obama. For two years we have confronted ISIS (the Islamic State)—with the President initially dismissing them as a junior varsity terrorist group.

In all of this, two things seem to be constant:  The refusal by President Obama and his Administration to use any term like Radical Islamic Terrorism, or Islamic Extremist, or even something as simple as Radical Jihadists.  Evidently the Administration is committed to the opinion that using the word Jihad might offend the sensibilities of Muslims, as the word originally meant to “strive in the way” or to be a faithful and active servant of Allah. During the last generation jihad has become a violent “striving in the way” in order to kill infidels and to promote a world-wide caliphate of Islamic Rule.  Put simply:  The Obama Administration refuses to name the enemy.

The second constant under the present Administration is the lack of a consistent, coherent, stated strategy of how to defeat the Jihadists, especially ISIS. Indeed, Marine Corps General James Mattis, former CENTCOM Commander, testified recently before Congress and said Iraq, Syria and Libya are “strategy-free zones.” What a telling indictment from one of our nation’s top generals.

The unwillingness on the part of the President to use any term related to Islam or Muslims in describing the nightmarish conflict in which the West finds itself has received much criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. While his choice to decline to refer to the enemy for who they are is deeply troubling to many, the President adamantly defends his untenable position.

This issue made new headlines last week when an edited transcript from the 911 call by the perpetrator of the massacre in Orlando was released. The Department of Justice eliminated all references made by Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, to ISIS or Islam. It was only after much public outcry made the Justice Department’s position seem preposterous that the FBI released a more complete transcript. But even this release was not completely accurate. The FBI translated Mateen’s repeated references to “Allah” to “God” as he slaughtered innocent people, when in fact Mateen never used the term God.

When questioned about this, here is what President Obama said on June 14, 2016:  “What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? . . . Is there a military strategy that is served by this? . . . This is a political distraction.” President Obama went on to say the demand for him to accurately describe America’s enemy as “radical Islamists” was a mere “political talking point” and that to use such terminology would provide a recruiting tool for ISIS.

ISIS has a number of recruiting tools. This is not one of them. Accurately calling ISIS and its sympathizers radical jihadists does not enable their recruitment. Acknowledging that the terror the whole world faces is based on a perversion of the Islamic faith neither insults the millions of Muslims who reject terror and are peaceful, nor does it somehow enable ISIS to increase its ranks. Using words and references that are true to the evil purposes and narrative of ISIS is not a recruiting tool for them, nor is Guantanamo Bay, for that matter.

Naming the enemy is crucial to winning a war. It bolsters public opinion in support of the war effort and informs the public as to the nature of the enemy we face. Naming the enemy is also vital to understanding the enemy and the ideology that drives them. It is clear that naming the enemy is imperative to defeating the enemy. The Administration’s refusal to do this is wearing thin. Whether in Texas, California, Chattanooga, or Orlando—when shooters kill innocents in the name of Allah and ISIS, we know who our enemy is. For the President and his staff to refuse to even say the words comes off as disingenuous and insults the intelligence of the American people. It is a costly and demoralizing decision to not clearly identify and name those who would kill us. To name them would bring clarity and unity for all lovers of peace and freedom, including our Muslim American brothers and sisters