Photo: Reuters
'Obama's denial regarding Islam prevented him from adopting a coherent Mideast policy'
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Amit Magal
Prof. Yossi Shain
Photo: Amit Magal

Obama still has time to change his approach towards Islam

Op-ed: For too long, US president tried to avoid a real discussion of Islam's role in global politics, and especially of its attitude towards Western culture.

In the past few years, we have been witnessing a troubling phenomenon in American politics: The White House's ongoing foreign policy failure has been denied and even concealed by President Barack Obama's supporters in the administration, in the Democratic Party and in the liberal media.



The president's supporters argued, sometimes rightfully, that the criticism directed at him is automatic, unrestrained, stems from extreme rightist motives and is even driven by racism.


Only recently, the administration was exposed to criticism from within the Democratic camp itself over its failures in the Middle East and on the Russian front. Will this criticism cause the administration to sober up and change its direction?


The radicalization in the internal American discourse between right and left has inflicted huge damage on America and the free world. It has prevented the administration from viewing the world properly and has caused serious people, among both the Democrats and Republicans, to get caught in the bleeding political battle.


Many claim that President Obama, perhaps because of his introvert nature, is very much responsible for this dynamic. In fact, even his associates believe that the president led an arrogant worldview in the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and from Afghanistan.


Two secretaries of defense who served in Obama's administration, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, joined the criticism against him last week. They are not suspected of being rightists. They both say that the withdrawal from Iraq at any cost and the hesitant conduct in Syria led to the rise of the Islamic State organization, and Gates has even warned that the current policy of striking from the air is naïve.


Their voices join the implied criticism of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, who indicated last week that America may have to change its strategy and use ground forces in its battle to destroy ISIS. Obama's mantra that "there will be no boots on the ground," General Dempsey warned, is not a strategy.


Prof. Anne-Marie Slaughter, one of Obama's associates in shaping the foreign policy, wrote against the president as well, and even senior advisor Dennis Ross, which is careful about what he says, blasted the president's illusions that "Islamists can be our friends." Former President Bill Clinton said it was wrong to use the racist card against the president's critics and ruled that Obama would be judged by results.


This criticism joins many voices in Washington, the Western world and Europe, which want to know in which direction the president is headed.


Obama has more than two years left in the White House. This is a long period which must not be defined as a "dead period." The fact that some of the Democrats have joined the right's criticism about the passiveness of the foreign relations may serve as a catalyst for real change, but on the other hand, the progressive left is condemning the president for getting overly involved.


For too long, Obama tried to avoid a real discussion of Islam's role in global politics, and especially of Islam's attitude towards the Western culture. He sought reconciliation with the Islamic world, and even adopted a language completely denying the claims that Islam, as a religion and as a culture, is an antithesis of an open society and democracy.


Obama therefore avoided making a clear distinction between allies and evil force, as President George W. Bush had done, and focused on the al-Qaeda terror as if it were an Islamic mutation rather than a deeply rooted ideological perception. Even when he spoke about ISIS, he argued that the organization "speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents."


Such claims, and Obama's refusal to stress that there are key elements in Islam, not just marginal ones, which sanctify murder, enslavement of women, hatred of Jews and Christians and of course terrorism, prevented him from adopting a coherent policy in regards to the Middle Eastern battles.


In his recent UN address, the president appeared to be changing his approach. While he is still refusing to accept the principle of "the clash of civilizations," as he said, he has begun defining more clearly the borders of the outline of the open society versus the threats of radical Islam.


פרסום ראשון: 09.30.14, 00:26
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