President Obama unloaded on Donald Trump and other Republicans for criticizing his refusal to label America’s enemy as “radical Islam,” saying that changing the term wouldn’t change anything other than giving more fuel to the propaganda from ISIS and other terrorist groups that the West really is at war with Islam.
But a top Trump foreign-policy adviser says Obama has it exactly backward. He insists that identifying the enemy creates clarity to the public and America’s allies, and not creating distinctions actually risks the alienation of all Muslims.
On Tuesday, Obama made comments following his latest briefing in the wake of the horrific Orlando terrorist attack that left 49 dead and another 53 wounded. At the end of his comments, Obama unloaded on Trump and others who demand that Obama admit who America is fighting.
“What exactly would using this label accomplish?” Obama asked. “What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Would it bring in a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above.”
Walid Phares is a top foreign-policy adviser to Trump. He’s also a longtime terrorism and Middle East scholar and author most recently of “The Lost Spring.” He told WND and Radio America Obama got it entirely wrong.
“The president’s statement is counter-productive to our counter-intelligence activity,” Phares said.
“Our analysts, at least since 2009, have been denied the perception that there is an ideology,” he explained. “They can use information about a specific jihadist ideology precisely because of what the president has said today. Therefore, we are missing an opportunity to detect a manifestation of that ideology which would allow us to stop the terrorists before they act.”
He said accurately describing the enemy is imperative. He used World War II as an example.
“What would be the profit of calling Nazis Nazis or during the Cold War calling the Bolsheviks or Communists Communists? This is the number one goal when you are in a confrontation, is to identify for your allies and for your people who you are fighting against,” Phares said.
He said the importance begins in America’s own counter-terrorism efforts.
“We need our experts within our own agencies to be able to make a distinction between those who are jihadists and those who are not,” Phares said. “If we don’t have this capacity, we’re going to end up having a Maj. Hasan killing people in Fort Hood without us being able to detect him.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Walid Phares:
He also said the government can’t expect the public to be an asset in the war against radical Islam if the government can’t define America’s enemy.
“You need to educate your public. If the public doesn’t know who the enemy is, what the ideologies, narratives and words are, how will the citizens help you?” Phares asked. “How will they detect? How can they report if they see something, say something? What is that something they’re going to see or hear about?”
He said clarity is also vital in building alliances to eradicate radical Islam.
“President Obama is talking about the world looking at us if we use these words. Precisely. The French use Islamist. The British do the same. The Russians have the same terminology,” said Phares, who reports even the Arab and Muslim world uses specific words to describe radicals.
Even the grand imam of Egypt, whom Phares says is the equivalent of the Sunni pope, has no problem using clear terminology.
“He calls them Islamists, takfiri, jihadists. So if the highest figure in the Arab and Muslim world and so many other figures do designate them with these words, what is the president talking about?” asked Phares, who met with the grand imam and the Egyptian president.
So where does Obama get the idea that using terms like “radical Islam” would turn all Muslims against us?
“That’s exactly the platform of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Phares said. “That’s exactly what Muslim Brotherhood analysts and advisers are telling our government,” said Phares.
Both Obama and Hillary Clinton are skewering Trump for insisting that the terrorists be labeled as radical Islam. As a result, Phares said voters have a clear choice in November “between one camp that is in denial” and Trump who is trying to specify who our enemy is.