So, President Obama got into trouble at home for some comments he made during the Indian leg of his Asian trip. During a town hall style meeting with students in Mumbai he was asked what he thought of Jihad. His answer has led to a barrage of criticism from the right who claim the President is unable to identify the enemy and therefor an ineffective Commander in Chief. The theory being peddled is that if you do not know who your enemy is, then you cannot fight them. Lets have a listen to Obamas response and an example of the type of criticism he has received, in this case from conservative Fox News pundit Sean Hannity and former Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich.
Ok, let me first say that in a previous post I addressed the issue of terminology when it comes to confronting terrorism in a post entitled Violent Extremists or Islamic Terrorists . In the post I say
The general narrative from the right is that you cannot defeat something if you are unable to identify it. I would generally go along with that. However I have seen no indication in a practical sense that President Obama is unsure where the might of American military power should be directed. He has utterly decimated the Al Quaeda and Taliban leadership with UAV drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If he uses softer language in order to avoid unnecessarily angering the Muslim World then what possible harm can come from this. The only harm I can think of is that flag waving pundits like Crowley and Hannity are denied the use of soundbites which make them look tough.
The key phrase is Unnecessarily. Why would any supporter of the American campaign against global terrorism want to unnecessarily anger the Muslim World. There are times when it will be necessary to be blunt and this can't be helped but the pundits and politicians that seem to get some sort of Joy out of it or are attempting to score brownie points with sections of the public by subtly insulting the Islamic world should be put in their place.
I would use the above argument to counter the claims of Hannity, Gingrich and others who claim that the Presidents response to the Mumbai question was inappropriate and feeble. In fact, I don't think Obama was just being sensible when talking about Islam in a country with hundreds of millions of Muslims and where tension between the religions is often very high. I think he was actually right. I am a Catholic and while I am not a particularly religious man I do have an interest in all religions. One aspect of Islam I admire is the concept of the inner struggle. I personally believe that every human being has to wage a battle within themselves between good and bad, between doing the right thing and the wrong thing. This inner struggle is what most Muslims interpret the word Jihad to mean. Of course there are many other aspects of the Islamic faith that I believe are incompatible with democratic values but on the personal level, I like the concept of the inner Jihad. President Obama was right to note the different interpretations of Jihad.
Next Gingrich is a figure on the right of American politics that I particularly dislike. I dislike his opportunism and his persistent undermining of President Obama's foreign policy. Newts description of the President's view on global terrorism is way off.
This administration is in such total denial about whose trying to kill us and what their motives are that it is dangerous to the country and the President today in this particular performance was following up on this continuous denial. You cannot get this administration to understand who they are
Since his first week in office President Obama has aggressively taken the war to the Al Quaeda and Taliban leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan through the use of UAV drone strikes. He has initiated a troop surge in Afghanistan and successfully lobbied the Pakistani government to confront the Taliban dominated provinces of Western Pakistan. This is one of the reasons many of the Obama bashers do not like to mention Afghanistan. Simply because most objective commentators agree that he has pursued the war in an effective fashion. Newt Gingrich has some cheek saying that the President doesn't know who the enemy is particularly when many on the right wing of the republican party favored chasing Al Quaeda out of Iraq in 2003 when in fact Al Quaeda's presence in Iraq was probably less than that in every other Arab country. Of course, President Obamas domestic strategy is a different issue and I have no objection to the criticism he has been receiving in that regard. Whether I agree or not, it is legitimate criticism. But on the international front, I am prepared at this stage to declare myself a cautious supporter of his foreign policy. Those that continually criticise literally everything he says and does foreign policy wise, are no different than the Bush bashers who never gave the former President a chance.