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The Islamist movement that threatens Judeo-Christian western culture can be viewed in one of two ways: as a fundamentalist, misguidedly pious religious phenomenon that appeals to a wide swath of the Muslim masses, or as a calculated, cynical attempt to grab both the power and wealth that the West holds — orchestrated by an Islamic elite who don’t actually care about the finer points of the Quran or Sharia law, except when either might serve to further their overall purpose. The important difference between the way that George W. Bush approached the problem of radical Islam and the manner in which Barack Obama deals with the issue – or claims to be trying to deal it – involves these two different points of view.
At various instances during his terms in office Bush tried, mostly in vain, to find and deal with moderates among Islamic leadership, hoping to thus isolate extremist leaders and their radical, fundamentalist followers. It was a flawed vision, but an appealing one, for it attacked the problem at a grass roots level. If radical Islam is primarily a political phenomenon then it should be possible to separate radical organizations like the Taliban, al Qaeda and Hamas from ordinary moderate Muslims who reject fundamentalist dogma and instead blend secular values in with their theology in the western style. That’s a tough road to take, especially given the lack of any meaningful educational system in the modern sense in the Muslim world. Yet, in Iraq the majority of a relatively educated populace (by Islamic-state standards anyway) did indeed reject the radicals in their midst once coalition forces provided the kind of security needed to allow the Iraqi people to take charge of their lives in safety.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, has effectively abandoned any hope of cultivating a moderate, secularlist Islam that might counterbalance the fundamentalist, radical variety. Given the ever-increasing power and influence of the extremists, even in a nation like Turkey that we once thought of as the model of a “moderate Muslim” state, the president’s approach is more realistic than Bush’s utopian visions. Moderate Muslims, cowed by the murderous fanatics who infect Islam throughout the globe, were never of much use in the war on terror anyway and aren’t likely to be in the future. In a practical sense, Obama’s policies reflect the reality that Islam cannot be reformed in any meaningful sense. But his reaction to that reality has been to try to appease the extremists rather than rendering them harmless. It’s a strategy that merely emboldens radical Muslims, who are thus convinced more than ever that the West lacks the stomach to see this war through.
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