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About Dr. Walid Phares
Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy and the author of the War of Ideas. Dr. Phares was one of the architects of UNSCR 1559. He is also a Professor of Middle East Studies at Florida Atlantic University and a contributing expert to FOX News. Dr. Phares teaches Global Strategies at the National Defense University. He serves as the secretary general of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism. Professor Phares’ is the author of two critical books on the Islamofascist threat to Western Civilization, "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West” and "The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy."
Past Articles
Obama's Withdrawal from the War with the Jihadists, Is Dangerous
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Dr. Walid Phares
Obama's Withdrawal from the War with the Jihadists, Is Dangerous
August 14, 2009

This commentary is in response and conjunction to a report by Anthony Kimery titled, "Rejection of ‘Jihadist,’ ‘War on Terrorism’ Terms Draws Fire, Debate," as published in HSToday, Homeland Security Insight & Analysis.

Commenting on the Administration's report on dropping the use of words such as War on Terror and Jihad, the director of the Future of Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the author of, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West, and The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy, told HS Today: "as we read [Brennan’s speech], we realize that the administration is going backward in understanding the threat and explaining it to the public.


Going Backward

"They say the doctrine is ‘to safeguard the American people from the transnational challenge that poses one of the greatest threats to our national security -- the scourge of violent extremists who would use terrorism to slaughter Americans abroad and at home.’ What does that mean?


Nothing. It is as if they speak in abstract. Which ‘transnational challenge is posing the greatest threat to US national security?’ It is the global jihadist threat, with its two networks, the Salafists and the Khomeinists, not the Nazis, the Soviet Communists or militaristic regimes. Why is the Obama administration regressing into a level way below what most educated Americans understand?”


Wishful Thinking Can't Change Ideologies

Phares said "the administration criticizes the narrative of its predecessor and we do as well, but instead they propose something weaker and in some aspects dangerous to US national security. After eight years of confrontation with a world web of jihadists, both Salafists and Khomeinists, on two major battlefields in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and in various regions of the world such as Pakistan, Somalia, Indonesia, the Levant, the Maghreb, and as the threat penetrates the West with homegrown cells, the administration's doctrine on the threat understanding is entirely disconnected from reality.


"In short, " Phares said, "the new doctrine asserts that the US is no longer engaged in a ‘war on terrorism.’ They disengage from the conflict as if is in a wishful, thinking that they can redesign world realities in different colors and names. As if one party in a conflict can decide on the ideology and the strategies of the foe.”


We Are at War, Words Won't Change It

Phares stated that "this is a unilateral withdrawal from this conflict and its war of ideas but this policy decision is not going to change the fact that terrorism is going to continue to strike us and our allies. Actually, terrorism is escalating and expanding, not regressing from the moment the administration began its retreat from the confrontation. This policy is not going to change the fact that there is a ‘war.’ A war means mobilizing your national defense, intelligence and economic resources to defeat a foe of a size that can jeopardize your national security. As long as the administration and Congress are spending billions of dollars on several battlefields, deploying task forces around the world, funding the homeland security department and other agencies and talking about strategic communications across the defense institutions, they are still waging war. Such a policy is dangerous for the United States, as it puts it against international law, bypasses the will of its own people, and strengthens the enemy's ability to expand and to legitimize itself.”


Speaking to more specifically about the "administration's apparent intent to abandon the term, 'war on terrorism,' Phares said "the administration can quit using words it doesn't like, but that would not pull the other side away from conflict, won't deter it, won't sway hearts and minds against the terrorists, won't create a change in the terminology used by the jihadists.”


Fighting the SS But Not Nazism?

"The President does not describe this as a 'war on terrorism,' yet [Brennan] said also Obama outlined a ‘new way of seeing’ the fight against ‘terrorism.’ So, it is about terrorism, it is about a fight, but they don't want to recognize it as such,” Phares said. "It would be to say that during WWII, the US was fighting the Wehrmacht, the SS, the Luftwaffe, but not at war with the global threat of Nazism.


"The only terminology the administration wants to use is that the US is ‘at war with Al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on Al Qaeda's murderous agenda.’ This slogan raises many questions: How can you be at war with Al Qaeda and not state what Al Qaeda's ideology is? What does ‘extremists’ mean? How can the US be at ‘war’ with a non-state actor if the administration has decided to abandon the concept of ‘war’ to begin with? It sounds like the architects of the new narrative have created a doctrine that doesn't add up.”


Turning his attention to the administration’s position that that fighting ‘jihadists’ is wrongheaded because it is using "a legitimate term, 'jihad,' meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal” which "risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve,” is "wrong,” Phares cautioned.


Jihadism Is an Ideology Not a Religion

"Jihad is not a simple legitimate term as described. Jihad doesn't mean to purify oneself because there are other terms to mean that. It is an effort 'fi sabeel allah' (on the path of Allah) on the theological level. And a secular government like the United States has no business to issue theological explanations of what theological jihad means,” Phares said.


"Historically, jihad was an injunction by the caliphs to mobilize for war. But today, we're talking about a jihadist movement; ideology in this century meeting us in battlefields and also attacking Muslim societies. The jihadist movement and the jihadists are one thing, which we can and have to deal with in national security matters, and jihad as a theoretical concept, which is a matter the US government must refrain from meddling in either positively or negatively.”


The Administration's Doctrine Is Dangerous to the US

Phares continued: "The secular government of the United States has no business declaring what term is legitimate and what term is not in religious affairs. The jihadists are a movement, with an ideology and strategies. The Nazis and the fascists were a movement and an ideology. You can't say that because nationalism and socialism are legitimate that national-socialism was as well.


"The declared doctrine of the Obama administration that this 'risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself' [is] absolutely wrong," Phares said. "By being precise that it is in conflict with the jihadists not with Muslims, the US will show that it is countering the actions of a radical terror network. There are Muslims fighting the jihadists in several countries: Iran, Algeria, Iraq, Sudan, and Lebanon, let alone in other places such as Nigeria. If the US will call off the confrontation with the jihadists, the Muslim moderates will loose the confrontation with extremism. The Obama administration is using a lexicon that goes against the national interest of the United States.”
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