Much has been discussed of the spectacle that’s become the Obama administration’s inability to preface the word “extremism” with the word “Islam”. Political-correctness run amuck? The desire to cut the West down to size through moral relativism? Those theories may explain part of it. There is another theory though that ought to be discussed.
Obama’s success – and domestically he has unfortunately been quite successful – has depended on two things. Ridicule and polarization*. It’s why, during the 2012 Presidential debates he snarked “the 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back” in response to Mitt Romney’s observations regarding a resurgent expansionist Russia. It’s why, when immigration reform is discussed, Obama’s chorus-line of adherents asks “are we going to deport everyone?” as though anyone is suggesting mass deportation of millions overnight.
When it comes to the threat posed by Islamic State, it’s why Obama on more than one occassion has stated “we are not at war with Islam”. No one is suggesting that we, the western world, are at war with the billion or so Muslims that live around the globe. The threat is posed by a specifically virulent strain of radicalized Islam, rooted in the Middle East, with appendages in northern Africa and select portions of Asia, and which finds a home within Middle Eastern expatriate communities in western Europe. Obama can’t admit this.
He can’t because he doesn’t do well with competition. Radlicalized Islam represents competition for his agenda. It represents a divergence from the rhetoric that won him his Nobel Peace Prize, and a challenge to his claim that leaving Afghanistan and Iraq would establish conditions for peace. It’s at conflict with the idea that unemployment is why Islamic State exists. For that reason, he feels the need to construct a strawman and employ it as the centerpiece of his foreign policy with regards to ISIS.
It’s no different than the strawmen constructed during the health-care reform debate where Obamacare proponents routinely argued “millions have no access to health-care”, as though it were true (and it wasn’t) and as though those opposed to Obamacare wanted to ensure that millions contined to lack access to health-care. Or when Obama declared “if I had a son he’d have looked like Trayvon”. Obama has two daughters, neither of which looks anything like Trayvon Martin. But the idea was to portray those asking for an objective review of the Zimmerman-Martin case as being bitter clinger racists operating on the fringe when contrasted with fringe racial activists like Spike Lee and Al Sharpton. In both examples, Obama can’t tolerate a competing point of view – competition would represent a speedbump for his agenda whether health-care or Trayvon Martin.
Except the Islamic State isn’t at all like health-care reform, Trayvon Martin, amnesty, or any other domestic policy item. They are a radicalized group of Islamists hell bent on restoring the seventh- century caliphate and doing what Al Qaeda and all other terrorist entities have been unable to do — Islamic State controls territory. While the Obama team may wish to ridicule and polarize the word “extremism” from “Islam”, it’s ineffectual as a strategic imperative to counter the rise of the Islamic State. Judging by present domestic discourse, it’s also ineffectual as a method by which to guarantee Obama’s monopoly on policy discussion.
* “Ridicule” and “polarization” come directly from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Specifically, “rule five” states “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions” and “rule twelve” states: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions”.