One of the biggest ongoing problems of U.S. foreign policy is a failure to understand what we’re really up against. This problem is nothing new, although Barack Obama took it to new heights by banning all mention of Islam and jihad from counterterror training, with many of his loyalists still in place and hampering our ability to deal realistically with the jihad threat today.
This myopia goes back decades. In Theodore H. White’s America In Search of Itself, there is this telling passage about the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979:
Of the negotiating effort, the most biting summary was that later made by Captain Gary Sick of U.S. Naval Intelligence. “Nobody knew what kind of person Khomeini was,” said Sick…”In every day of this early crisis,” he said, “and right through until this day, there’s been this American inability to understand the true fanaticism of this man, not moved by any sense of compassion, by any concern for law, by any understanding of international tradition. We’d been dealing with people like Kim Il-Sung, Mao Tse-tung, and other dictators. So it was difficult for us to grasp the total, unyielding, unwillingness of this man to consider any other factor outside of his own limited view of the world. Khomeini was beyond the experience, if not the imagination, of anyone in the United States government. We made that mistake repeatedly — of trying to deal with Khomeini as if he were a government.”
Khomeini’s Islamic regime was a government, but not in any sense that American diplomats were used to dealing with. What set Khomeini and his regime apart from the likes of Kim and Mao was Islam, and few, if any, foreign service professionals in the State Department understood that or knew how to deal with it.
And it wasn’t just Khomeini. American Presidents and policymakers of recent times have consistently shown an inability or unwillingness to understand the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat in general. This willful ignorance persists and his gotten worse, with the Bush/Obama policies of denying that the jihad terror threat has anything to do with Islam. The wrong diagnosis of the problem leads to the wrong solutions being applied. This is true of the Israeli/“Palestinian” conflict, the incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan, the immigration issue, and more.
This pervasive lack of understanding is glaringly exposed in my forthcoming book The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS, the first and only comprehensive one-volume treatment of jihad activity from the beginning of Islam, around the world from Spain to India and elsewhere, told in the words of eyewitnesses and chroniclers who were close to the events. This is the history that most Americans don’t know, and that American policymakers need to know.
If Jimmy Carter’s State Department had known what is in the book when they were deal with the Iranian hostage crisis, the world would likely be very different, and calmer, today. If American Presidents and policymakers had known what was in this book when trying to broker peace between Israel and the “Palestinians,” and trying to establish Western-style republics in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of lives and trillions of dollars would not have been wasted.
What American policymakers didn’t understand in 1979 they still don’t understand. Unless this willful ignorance is addressed and corrected, the policy errors will continue to multiply. A President who wants to secure America’s defenses not just during his term of office, but for future generations, will require all American diplomats and foreign service officers to study the jihad doctrines of Islam, as well as the history of jihad. But in that current environment, such a requirement is virtually inconceivable, as it would result in a cascade of accusations of “Islamophobia” and hysterical claims that Muslims are subjected to widespread discrimination and harassment in the U.S.
And so the foreign entanglements and misadventures are likely to continue.