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Radical Islamist or Violent Extremism: “What difference does it make?”

Earlier today, we posted on the purported contrast in responses at yesterday’s White House joint news conference by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama  to a question raised by BBC correspondent, Nick Robinson about “the threat posed by fighters coming back from Syria”.  See: UK PM Cameron versus President Obama on Radical Islamic Terror Threat.

We learned early on after 9/11 to let public figures, whether media or political figures define themselves by their actions, not their nuanced words. The same is true for demonstrable Islamic terrorist actions seeking to impose self-censorship by deadly actions. The latest examples were the massacres in Paris at the Charlie Hebdoeditorial offices and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket. Then there was the stunning slaughter of thousands in Baga, Nigeria by Boko Haram. Jews in France, Belgium, and the UK  have been the subject of Islamic terror attacks by Al Qaeda and Islamic State sympathizers and vets resulting in tens of deaths over the past decade. They no longer feel secure and contend they have no future in countries that cannot protect them. Despite the great play by the media following yesterday’s Joint White House Press Conference where PM Cameron used the “Radical Islamic expression while President Obama painfully avoided it. He choosing instead the opaque expression “violent extremism” full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing. The reality is there is no difference between Cameron and Obama. They both ultimately avoid the “M” word for fear of arousing more unsettling Islamic terrorist actions begetting another round of public self-censorship. Have they evaded their responsibilities to define the doctrinal Islamist threat? Our Iconoclast post prompted Canadian Lawyer, Bill Narvey to write the following response.

Too much is being made of the descriptive differences employed by President Obama and PM Cameron in their speaking of the terrorists that attacked Charlie Hebdoand the kosher market.

What they are saying is really not that much different.

Obama refuses to use the words Muslim, Islamist, Jihadist, Muslim fundamentalist and the like to describe the terrorists.  Whereas Cameron does use those words, but then says these terrorists are not real Muslims or that they are perverting the teachings of the peaceful or great religion of Islam.

Obama has made that same point before a number of times.  For instance, several months ago he made a big thing about denying that Islam had anything to do with ISIS/ISIL.  He too, since his Cairo apology tour has been speaking of the peaceful or great religion of Islam.

Both Cameron and Obama also are quick to emphasize the point that the extremists or Muslim terrorists, whichever description your tongue can tolerate, are relatively few and that the vast majority of Muslims are good, decent and law abiding people.

They think that saying these things will be appreciated by the Jihadists and thus not piss them off more than they already are.  That the so called vast majority of the Muslim world will thank them for saying such nice things about them and Muslim relations with non-Muslim Westerners are enhanced by saying such nice things like the vast majority of the Muslim world are really good guys.

Even conservative commentators, such as those on Fox News are quick to qualify whatever criticisms or reporting they are doing on Jihadists, with those disclaimers.  While they pat themselves on the back for not shying away from calling Muslim terrorists, Muslim, Jihadist, Muslim fundamentalists and Islamists. unlike their media competition.  They exhibit by their own disclaimers that they too suffer to some extent from political correctness.  Perhaps it is also even fear they feel, but won’t admit.  If not for themselves, then for the many thousands of Fox employees who might be the target of some Muslim enraged by a Fox reporter who dares to speak bluntly about Muslim terrorism and Islamic scripture Jihadists liberally quote to justify their Jihadism.

The age old wise caution by Sun Tzu, “know your enemy” is obviously very relevant to devising a winning strategy against your enemy.  Both Obama and Cameron fail in that regard as aforesaid.

Strategies and tactics to defeat an enemy however are not just about whether you dare to call your enemy by name, describe your enemy’s nature and know what moves them to be your enemy.

If you know who it is who wants to kill you and you know that they will not stop until they succeed, what you call these people and understanding what moves them becomes far less important than just focusing on devising strategies and tactics to kill them first.  After the enemy is dead one can spend more time navel gazing on what made them your enemy.

Both Obama and Cameron, like Cameron’s fellow EU leaders are failing miserably in this regard.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.