Uri Friedman writes: Where Obama sees a weak enemy that is getting weaker, his critics see a strong enemy that is getting stronger. Where Obama sees limits to what the U.S. can do on its own to eradicate radical interpretations of Islam, his critics see an appalling lack of effort by the U.S. government. Where Obama sees a serious but manageable national-security threat, his critics see an ideological and civilizational challenge to the free world.
Trump has gone further than many other Republican leaders in advancing the counterargument to Obama — not just in his proposed policies, like banning or severely restricting Muslim immigration to the United States, but also in his rhetoric. “I think Islam hates us,” Trump said earlier this year. Asked if he was referring to “radical Islam,” he responded, “It’s radical, but it’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.”
Several members of Trump’s emerging team have described the threat in similarly stark and broad ways. “We’re in a world war against a messianic mass movement of evil people, most of them inspired by a totalitarian ideology: Radical Islam. But we are not permitted to speak or write those two words, which is potentially fatal to our culture,” writes Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for national-security adviser, in a book he published this summer with the conservative writer Michael Ledeen.
“I don’t believe all cultures are morally equivalent, and I think the West, and especially America, is far more civilized, far more ethical and moral, than the system our main enemies want to impose on us,” Flynn adds.
“Not all the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are extremists or terrorists. Not by a long shot,” wrote Flynn’s incoming deputy, K.T. McFarland, in March. “But even if just 10 percent of 1 percent are radicalized, that’s a staggering 1.6 million people bent on destroying Western civilization and the values we hold dear. The fascists wanted to control the world. So did the communists. But the Islamists want to brutally kill a significant percentage of the world — and that is anyone standing in the way of their end-times caliphate.” Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice for attorney general, has invoked America’s “containment” strategy during the Cold War, noting that there “can be no compromise with this form of radical Islam.”
As the head of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon hosted a radio show featuring numerous guests who claimed that radical Muslim ideologues were clandestinely infiltrating the U.S. government and trying to extend their belief system across the country. (Flynn has similarly warned, falsely, that Islamic Sharia law is encroaching on the U.S. legal system.) In a 2014 speech to the Human Dignity Institute in the Vatican, Bannon, who will be Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, characterized the current war against “jihadist Islamic fascism” as the latest stage of an existential, centuries-old struggle between the Judeo-Christian West and the Islamic world: [Continue reading…]