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Opening Arguments

A radical policy

Why President Obama, following the precedent set by President Bush, can't say "radical Islam" -- because the long war against radical Islamic terrorists requires at least the tacit support of many radical Muslims:

All of this gets to a paradox of the war on terror. It has never been a war on the tactic of terrorism, and it has always been a war against networks of radical Islamists. But in order to wage that war, the U.S. has had to ally with Muslim countries and people, many of whom believe the state should punish apostates, adulterers and blasphemers.

Sadly, large pluralities of Muslims in countries allied with the U.S. in the war on terror disavow the tactics of terrorism but endorse the aims of radical Islam. For example, 74 percent of Muslims in Egypt feel that sharia should be the "country's official legal code," and an equal majority say it should apply to non-Muslims as well as Muslims, according to a 2013 Pew Survey. Three-quarters of Pakistani Muslims support laws banning blasphemy. A majority of Muslim Iraqis said they supported "honor killings" of women who engage in premarital sex or adultery.

Given these popular attitudes, even the governments in the Muslim world most actively aiding in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have to tread a fine line over fundamentalist religion, and Washington doesn't want to make that task harder.

It’s possible to imagine a world in the future where American presidents would speak plainly about radical Islam. It would likely be a world in which the U.S. stopped waging a global war on terror. 

So for the time being, don’t expect the U.S. to publicly speak of a war against radical Islam, even as it continues to kill radical Muslims throughout the Islamic world.

 I don't know if that's disturbing or just depressing, but it makes sense in a warped geopolitical sort of way. It seems a little like the devil's pact we made with Russia against the Nazis. It helped us beat back Hitler, but then we had to cope with the Communism that we had helped nurture and that was far more successful in spreading its evil that the enemy it helped us defeat. What we seem to be doing here seems similar. We're helping nurture radical Islam, which is strongly antithetical to the church-state separation we depend on, even as we deplore the violent means some radical Islamists have adopted.

We have always taken the lesser-of-two-evils approach to alliances,making deals with slighly less bad guys to fight the really, really bad guys (as most countries throughout history have done). But this takes the practice to a whole new scary level. I do not see this ending well.