“[T]he first rule of war is to know your enemy.” Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer reminded us in a recent column. “If you don’t,” he went on, “you wander into intellectual cul-de-sacs and ignore the real causes that might allow to you prevent recurrences.”
Is the United States following this rule?
For about a decade now, the United States has been actively fighting a war against militant Islamists — a fact that is readily apparent to most Americans. Indeed, Americans are smart enough to connect the dots among the terrorists attacks that have occurred and been attempted throughout the world.
But, as Krauthammer points out in his column, the Obama administration has taken pains to avoid characterizing our fight as a fight against militant Islamists. He quotes Attorney General Eric Holder, who could only admit that “there are a variety of reasons why people” commit terrorist acts, adding that some of those reasons “are potentially religious based.” Krauthammer also highlights the president’s National Security Strategy, which dubs the terrorists “a loose network of violent extremists.”
Krauthammer’s point in cataloguing this willful avoidance among those charged with protecting the country is that this misuse of language is more than just an example of political correctness run amok. It actually risks our war effort.
“[T]he administration’s cowardice about identifying those trying to kill us cannot be allowed to pass,” he writes. “It is demoralizing. It trivializes the war between jihadi barbarism and Western decency, and diminishes the memory of those (including thousands of brave Muslims — Iraqi, Pakistani, Afghan and Western) who died fighting it.”
In failing to call the terrorists what they are — militant Islamists — the administration loses an opportunity to distinguish between those who peacefully practice their faith and those who, in the name of Islam, engage in violence and acts of terror against not only the West, but also against other Muslims who do not share their fundamentalist version of the faith. That failure does a disservice both to our war against the terrorists and the millions of peaceful Muslims.
In order to enhance public understanding of the threat from militant Islamists — and to maintain awareness about exactly whom we are fighting — Senator Joe Lieberman and I serve as honorary co-chairmen of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), a bipartisan education and advocacy group that works to increase public awareness about Islamist extremism and the terrorism it is spawning. The CPD counsels against the appeasement of terrorists, advocates policies that seek victory against this menace to freedom, and encourages policies aimed at the development of civil society and democracy in regions of the world where terrorists have gained a foothold. The CPD works with groups and individuals interested in resisting tyranny, regardless of political orientation.
I wish these advocacy efforts weren’t necessary, but without them, we risk losing focus in the war against terrorists and breaking the first rule of warfare.
The war against terrorists requires more than military strength. It also requires an understanding of the dangerous ideology whose adherents we are seeking to defeat.