The Artlessness of War: Don’t Name Thy Enemy

The measure of intelligence, Einstein reputedly observed, is the ability to change. By this measure, how can one not find Obama woefully wanting? It is one thing to assume the presidency and eschew the phrase “radical Islam” on the presumption that its use would be polarizing. It is something else to witness over the course of one’s tenure in the Oval Office the Boston Marathon Bombing, the attack in Benghazi, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, and Orlando shootings, to say nothing of Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, and the Brussels bombings, as well as the interminable slaughter that has taken place across Africa and the Middle East and still refuse to call a spade a spade. Obduracy of this sort approaches lunacy. At the very least, it bespeaks nothing of intelligence.

Obama, of course, is cognizant of the enemy. As he dismissively put it, “So someone seriously thinks that we don't know who we're fighting?” Yes, Obama knows who we are fighting; he just does not want to denominate them for fear of offending those whom we are not fighting. Sophistry this farcical is nigh Aristophanean. 

Acknowledging that Islamic extremism lies at the heart of the current discord does not “paint all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion.” By that logic, characterizing the actions of the Animal Liberation Front as animal rights extremism – something the U.S. government readily has done – vilifies animal rights advocates everywhere. The very fact that one qualifies Islam with radical suggests that in and of itself, Islam is not radical; otherwise, to what end the qualifier?

To be sure, as Obama glibly noted, “calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away,” but doing so can help to illuminate precisely what the threat is. A doctor who diagnosed his patients in this fashion would not be worth his smelling salts. Calling a formation of malignant plasma cells multiple myeloma will not make the cancer go away, but it does allow a person to better understand and thereby combat the malady with which he is afflicted.

America’s inability to apprehend its present affliction is evinced by the fact that instead of being united against a common enemy, Americans are divided over who or what the real enemy is. A discussion of gun laws and the LGBT community no doubt is merited in the wake of Orlando, but thinking that the issue centers on gun and gay rights is delusional. There is a common thread that unites the aforementioned instances of terror, and as the Boston Marathon bombing (to take but one example) makes plain, firearms and sexual orientation are not it. A baleful ideology besets the West and the open and pluralistic societies embodied therein, and criminalizing the possession of firearms and protecting members of the LGBT community will do effectively nothing to curtail the bloodletting that devotees of that ideology have sworn to let loose. To contend otherwise is to suggest that in the absence of those variables (guns and gays in the case of Orlando), means of unleashing mayhem and victims to unleash mayhem upon would be in short supply.

Obama’s boast about the “thousands of terrorists who we've taken off the battlefield” was intended to show that he has no illusion about who the enemy is. In some ways, it demonstrated just the opposite. Increasingly, this is a war that is not being carried out on the conventional frontlines, but one that is being waged in the workplaces, public spaces, and private establishments that pervade this vast republic. It would behoove the American people (who find themselves in a theater of war they did not wittingly enter) if their commander-in-chief (who once professed that his “single most important responsibility… is to keep the American people safe,”) would spell out the nature of that war and dispel any illusions about the enemies who are prosecuting it. To account for Obama’s failure on this score, one need not resort to the hyperbolic and opprobrious accusations that are leveled at the President with quotidian regularity. Suffice it to note that what one does not grasp, one cannot explain. 

The measure of intelligence, Einstein reputedly observed, is the ability to change. By this measure, how can one not find Obama woefully wanting? It is one thing to assume the presidency and eschew the phrase “radical Islam” on the presumption that its use would be polarizing. It is something else to witness over the course of one’s tenure in the Oval Office the Boston Marathon Bombing, the attack in Benghazi, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, and Orlando shootings, to say nothing of Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, and the Brussels bombings, as well as the interminable slaughter that has taken place across Africa and the Middle East and still refuse to call a spade a spade. Obduracy of this sort approaches lunacy. At the very least, it bespeaks nothing of intelligence.

Obama, of course, is cognizant of the enemy. As he dismissively put it, “So someone seriously thinks that we don't know who we're fighting?” Yes, Obama knows who we are fighting; he just does not want to denominate them for fear of offending those whom we are not fighting. Sophistry this farcical is nigh Aristophanean. 

Acknowledging that Islamic extremism lies at the heart of the current discord does not “paint all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion.” By that logic, characterizing the actions of the Animal Liberation Front as animal rights extremism – something the U.S. government readily has done – vilifies animal rights advocates everywhere. The very fact that one qualifies Islam with radical suggests that in and of itself, Islam is not radical; otherwise, to what end the qualifier?

To be sure, as Obama glibly noted, “calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away,” but doing so can help to illuminate precisely what the threat is. A doctor who diagnosed his patients in this fashion would not be worth his smelling salts. Calling a formation of malignant plasma cells multiple myeloma will not make the cancer go away, but it does allow a person to better understand and thereby combat the malady with which he is afflicted.

America’s inability to apprehend its present affliction is evinced by the fact that instead of being united against a common enemy, Americans are divided over who or what the real enemy is. A discussion of gun laws and the LGBT community no doubt is merited in the wake of Orlando, but thinking that the issue centers on gun and gay rights is delusional. There is a common thread that unites the aforementioned instances of terror, and as the Boston Marathon bombing (to take but one example) makes plain, firearms and sexual orientation are not it. A baleful ideology besets the West and the open and pluralistic societies embodied therein, and criminalizing the possession of firearms and protecting members of the LGBT community will do effectively nothing to curtail the bloodletting that devotees of that ideology have sworn to let loose. To contend otherwise is to suggest that in the absence of those variables (guns and gays in the case of Orlando), means of unleashing mayhem and victims to unleash mayhem upon would be in short supply.

Obama’s boast about the “thousands of terrorists who we've taken off the battlefield” was intended to show that he has no illusion about who the enemy is. In some ways, it demonstrated just the opposite. Increasingly, this is a war that is not being carried out on the conventional frontlines, but one that is being waged in the workplaces, public spaces, and private establishments that pervade this vast republic. It would behoove the American people (who find themselves in a theater of war they did not wittingly enter) if their commander-in-chief (who once professed that his “single most important responsibility… is to keep the American people safe,”) would spell out the nature of that war and dispel any illusions about the enemies who are prosecuting it. To account for Obama’s failure on this score, one need not resort to the hyperbolic and opprobrious accusations that are leveled at the President with quotidian regularity. Suffice it to note that what one does not grasp, one cannot explain.