Knowing the Enemy, Understanding the Enemy
One of the greatest weaknesses five years after 9-11 is the striking inability of the political leadership and body politic to define and reach a consensus on who the Islamist enemy is and what the enemy wants. There is a striking lack of intellectual curiosity, or perhaps fear because of concerns about political correctness, that have blocked a serious discussion of what bin Laden and al Qaeda really think, what their real targets and objectives are and how that group fits into the broader Islamist project of converting the world to an Islamic state ruled by sharia law.
Hence we have the absurd ridiculing in Newsweek magazine of President Bush’s use of the word “caliphate” in discussing the Islamist project (and the even more absurd CAIR response that talking about the caliphate is anti-Islamic). We have the inability of senior people whose job it is to study and understand the Islamist project unable to identify the two major branches of Islam, never mind how they differ and what such divisions might mean.
The caliphate, from its historical signficance to the dream of its recreation, is perhaps the best way to understand how the different currents of Islamist thought relate to each other, support each other and form a coherent whole that embraces the Muslim Brotherhood to the historic al Qaeda.
I cannot do better than my friend Walid Phares on the Counterterrorism Blog in describing the history and signficance of the term. But what is most disturbing is that this is an issue at all. The Islamist project to recreate the caliphate is not a secret plot gleaned from suspicious methods of intelligence gathering that are subject to manipulation and political usage.
Rather, it is written and rewritten, as an intergral part of the Muslim Brotherhood strategy, al Qaeda, affiliated al Qaeda groups in Europe, by Islamists themselves. They provide the roadmap that they hope to follow, in official publications and in open conferences.
Not all who support the Islamist project support violence to bring it about, but support a more gradual political take over of different countries. Many, perhaps most, of the Islamist community, focus on the conditions in the Arab world and how to get rid of the corrupt, secular regimes there. But the Islamist project does specifically and clearly embrace the concept of re-establishing the caliphate at its time of greatest territorial conquest. From there, the war with the rest of the world will begin.
This is what I find so disturbing about this debate. It is intellectual laziness, not a lack of information, that has led to the paucity of understanding of what the Islamist project it.
The administration, from the beginning, has done an abysmal job of explaining this to the American people. The Democrats have not done any better in presenting an alternative view. Yet it is written out, and we quibble over using the very Islamist terms that the Islamists use to define their Islamist project. And listen when they tell us that those words make us anti-Islamic. Alice in Wonderland would feel right at home on this side of the looking glass.