There’s a bunch of good news coming from one senior official in the State Department. According to this unnamed source, “the war on terror is over,” and “people who once might have gone into al Qaeda see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.” That may be true if—and only if—you accept the Obama Administration’s outlook on the Muslim world and the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan—and if you believe that Islamist ideology can, in fact, be legitimate.
The news of this new perspective comes from the National Journal, which reports that the White House has come to believe that it “has no choice but to cultivate the Muslim Brotherhood and other relatively ‘moderate’ Islamist groups emerging as lead political players out of the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere.”
Before even considering whether the war on terrorism is over, it’s worth dissecting the unnamed State Department official’s shocking claim about the nature of Islamism. Though Islamists and terrorists might disagree on strategy (not all Islamists would state that the slaughter of innocents is acceptable), their goals are indistinguishable from those of al-Qaeda—a totalitarian society lacking in fundamental human liberties, including fair justice for all, freedom of expression, and economic and religious freedom. To argue that it is a legitimate ideology is on par with saying that totalitarianism, fascism, and communism are legitimate as well. Is that truly the view that President Obama wishes to adopt?
The turning point in the President’s perspective, according to the National Journal’s Michael Hirsh, came from “the double impact of the Arab Spring, which supplies a new means of empowerment to young Arabs other than violent jihad, and Obama’s savagely successful military drone campaign against the worst of the violent jihadists, al Qaida.” But just how safe is that assumption?
Heritage’s James Carafano wrote in January that the end of the war on terrorism does not necessarily have a definitive end. Even though Osama bin Laden is dead and U.S. troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, the enemy is still standing in the field, the Taliban could return to Afghanistan and regain control of parts of the country, and al-Qaeda could follow while it spreads its tentacles in the Middle East and North Africa. What’s more, America remains a target, and at least 44 Islamist-related terrorist plots have been launched and foiled since 9/11. Even if the President can find a symbolic end to the Long War, all may not be well—though he might spin it as such. Carafano explains:
A war’s end is not always unmitigated good news. Especially if the way it ends sows the seeds of future conflicts.
When Americans abandoned South Vietnam in 1975, we paid a heavy price. The Soviets interpreted the U.S. withdrawal as a sign America was in retreat.
The Kremlin redoubled its nuclear weapons building program, sowed dissent in Western Europe, instigated insurgencies in Africa and South Africa, funded transnational terrorist attacks on the U.S., and invaded Afghanistan. The world became a more dangerous [place] after we ran away from Vietnam.
A belligerently aggressive Iran…an anti-democratic Russia…an expansive China…a wet-behind-the-ears “Dear Leader” in North Korea…enduring threats from narco-terrorists and Islamist terrorists…there is every sign that, when Obama’s four years are up, the world will be a potentially far more dangerous place than it was when he first took office.
Whatever iconic image comes to mark the end of this Long War, it may also be regarded as the harbinger of the next one.
It’s understandable that the President would like to declare the war on terrorism to be over, especially under his command. But a symbolic victory could be a Pyrrhic one if the United States turns its back on the Islamist threat that remains in the Middle East.