Islam between Radicalism and Reform

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Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, PhD. – July 28, 2015:

“We can give up the business of saying that this has nothing to do with Islam,” stated Hudson Institute scholar Hassan Haqqani while discussing jihadist violence at Washington, DC’s American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on July 21.  Haqqani and AEI’s conference “Islamic Extremism, Reformism, and the War on Terror” examined insightfully radicalism’s literal rootedness in Islam and its reform prospects to a conference room filled with about 80 listeners.

Notwithstanding prevalent “political correctness,” AEI moderator Danielle Pletka stated that the atrocious Islamic State (in Iraq and Syria, or ISIL) “may not be the form of Islam that should be, but it is, in fact, certainly a form of Islam.”  The ideology of groups like ISIL, noted the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Haqqani, “may be a variant, it may be a distortion, it may be an extreme view, but it does have to do with Islam.”  Brookings Institution scholar Shadi Hamid noted that Graeme Wood, the author of the “great Atlantic article,” had once expressed on a panel with Hamid that, theologically speaking, “ISIL is an example of the Islamic reformation.”

Hamid explained that, by reverting to the sources of Islamic doctrine, Muslim “reform and reformation can lead to ascendant conservative forces.”  A “reformation of sorts” by late 19th and early 20th century Islamic thinkers, for example, led to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).  Their “mainstream Islamism” is an “attempt to reconcile pre-modern Islamic law with the modern nation-state.”

Hamid questioned whether “Islam is uniquely resistant to secularization.”  “Prophet Muhammad,” Hamid noted of Islam’s founding figure, “was not just a prophet or theologian, but also a politician, a warrior, a merchant, and, perhaps most importantly, a head of state, a small kind of mini-state.”  Thus any advocacy in Islam of separating religion and politics must “go up against the prophetic model,” which “even not particularly religious Muslims really value.”  “There are ways to do that,” he qualified, “but they are challenging and it’s unlikely to get a critical mass of support in the Muslim world.”

Hamid added that Islam’s “Quranic inerrancy” entails a “creedal requirement to believe that the Quran is not just the word of God, not just inspired by God, but God’s actual speech.”  Contrary to Christian understanding of divinely-inspired, but man-made scripture, in Islam’s view of the Quran “every single letter and word is not mediated.”  “Even a lax Muslim has a more intense commitment to the [Quranic] text theoretically than a right-wing evangelical does to the Bible.”

Against such dogmatism Abbas Kadhim, a School of Advanced International Studies professor originally from the Shiite holy city of Najaf, Iraq, presented a more flexible understanding of Islamic reform.  For him this entailed “going back to the roots of Islam and then trying to derive from those roots what works for this time and this age, just like the Muslims throughout the centuries.”  Appearing on the panel after Kadhim, the Gallup pollster Mohamed Younis appeared to concur, stating that Islamic law or “sharia is the utopian ideal” mediated in implementation throughout history by complex, prudential human jurisprudence.  “ISIL is not a traditionalist movement,” he argued, but “actually a complete deviation or walking away from the traditions of jurisprudence within Islam,” demonstrating a “need to increase the jurisprudential literacy” of Muslims.

Kadhim took an almost iconoclastic approach to various Islamic tenets befitting his background in which, he argued, Shiite theology’s greater emphasis on ijtihad or individual intellectual exertion contrasted with Sunni doctrine.  The Islamic doctrine ofQuranic abrogation, for example, entails that later revealed (and often more violent) verses in the Quran replace earlier (often more benign) verses.  Yet German orientalist Theodor Nöldeke showed that “this is a mess here” trying to determine the Quran’s chronological order.

Kadhim also noted that Islam’s second canonical source, the hadith relating what Islam considers as Muhammad’s exemplary biography, are sayings about him recorded some 200 years after his death.  Hadith validity therefore depended upon a narrator “chain of transmission” or isnad, yet Kadhim rhetorically questioned his audience “how many of you can reproduce what we said in the last 15 minutes?”  He concluded that “Muslims have lied and attributed things to the prophet for 1,400 years,” dishonestly using Quran and hadith to “advance a certain agenda.”  Nonetheless, “in certain schools of Islam certain dead people have an omnipresent authority,” like the 13th century Ibn Taymiyyah among the Sunni Hanbali legal school dominant in the Arabian Peninsula.

Such outside-the-box Islamic thinking appealed to Haqqani, who noted that groups like ISIL have a “radical ideology, and all ideologies when they are fought need an ideological counter-narrative,” like Cold War Communism.  “Give a voice to the voices in the Muslim world that are being shut up” was his global strategy for encouraging Islamic diversity in the face of often repressive Muslim-majority societies.  He noted, for example, an Egyptian scholar for whom the initial Muslim community under Muhammad in seventh-century “Medina was not really a state in the modern sense.”  Similarly, panelist Jennifer Bryson, an Arabic scholar whopreviously questioned Pletka and others calling the Islamic State as such, described Muhammad “as more of a community leader.”

In this view, Haqqani stated, the “purpose of Islam is piety and not power” and the “whole notion of an Islamic state is flawed.”  Given his apolitical, pietistic understanding of Islam, he noted that Islam’s Shiite-Sunni division derives from seventh-century conflicts over Muhammad’s choice of succession in the initial Muslim caliphate.  “What relevance does it have in the 21st century?” he asked, and proclaimed among his mixed Shiite-Sunni fellow panelists “let the Shia be Shias, and let the Sunnis be Sunnis.”

Kadhim’s fellow Iraqi Shiite conference presenter, Zainab Al-Suwaij from the American Islamic Congress, concurred in a “need to diversify the voices” among Muslims.  In particular, “certain organizations” in the United States habitually unnamed by her inappropriately claim to speak for all American Muslims.  Did she have in mind the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose representatives were in the AEI audience?

Islamic diversity and nuance formed Bryson’s antidote for aggressive and authoritarian Islamic agendas.  For the recentChattanooga jihadist, the “problem was that he was disconnected from the very rich and complex traditions of Islam” characterized by “ongoing discussion.”  Yet precisely such variety explained for Hamid Islam’s recurring malign manifestations throughout the world.  “If you want to find something in Islamic tradition to justify whatever you are doing,” he stated, “you probably will be able to find it somewhere because Islam is such a diverse, rich tradition.”

While groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or ISIL in fact have an anchoring in Islamic canons, protestations by Bryson and others of Islam’s diversity do not explain how benign Islamic views would necessarily overcome opposition.  Kadhim’s scriptural critiques could just as well call into question Islam in its entirety and outrage the devout as lead to religious refinement.  Haqqani’s appeal for Shiite-Sunni tolerance downplays recurrent historical hostility within a divided Dar al-Islam among theological groups whose cosmic conflicts are no less passionate than America’s Civil War.  Making Islam, a faith not known for accepting debate and discussion, into a true religion of peace will be difficult indeed.

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School.  He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies.  He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

PART II: Michael Rubin on Obama: ‘He is Constructing an Imaginary Iran’

unnamed1-640x480Breitbart, by Adelle Nazarian, April 17, 2015:

Breitbart’s Adelle Nazarian had the opportunity to speak with renowned Middle East expert and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Dr. Michael Rubin recently. Dr. Rubin provided his analysis on U.S.-Iran relations under the Obama Administration and provided a look into the future through the periscope of the past.

This is Part II of a two-part series. For the first installment, click here.

BREITBART: Why didn’t the Obama administration look back at Khomeini’s letter from 1988 calling for nuclear weapons and compare it to Khamenei’s supposed nuclear fatwa today when approaching the nuclear talks?

RUBIN: You’ve got a situation where the Obama Administration is cherry picking dishonestly. And frankly, if Obama acted this way as a university professor, he would be dismissed. He is constructing an imaginary Iran. Take the case of the fatwa.

Does the fatwa actually exist? According to open source center there was something delivered in 2014 that purports to  be the text of the fatwa to the United Nations. But in that text — according to the open source center of the United States — it doesn’t use the word “never.”

Here’s another problem. It’s Diplomacy 101 to know that you don’t rely on anything that’s not written down. Even with North Korea, we got the North Koreans and the Americans to agree on a piece of paper.

I’m not sure John Kerry is even competent to negotiate with a 5-year-old over chocolate or vanilla ice cream. I mean how could you not get something in writing? It’s the same thing with Obama and the fatwa. Get it in writing. How come Obama can’t put this up on the White House website? He puts up everything else.

BREITBART: Is it true that a fatwa, either verbalized or written, can be changed at any time?

RUBIN: Yes. It can. And Obama is operating in a vacuum.

It’s like Groundhog Day. In 2003, Mohammaed Javad Zarif negotiated with the Americans with regard to non-interference in Iraq. According to the Iranian press, the Iranians proceeded to break that agreement and inserted 2,000 Revolutionary Guardsmen into Iraq.

Now the question is, did Zarif lie? Or was he sincere but he didn’t have the power to ensure that all aspects of the Iranian government would abide by the agreement? And why is it that, 12 years later, we’re having the same discussion about the same man? Either Zarif is a liar, in which case we never should have sat down with him again. Or he’s powerless and a conman, in which case we should have never sat down with him again.

There is a major misconception under the current administration– with Obama and Kerry– that it was due to a lack of diplomacy under the Bush Administration that the number of centrifuges skyrocketed in Iran.

#1: Between 2000-2005, the European Union almost tripled its trade with Iran and sat down with them regularly. That directly corresponds to the rapid increase in Iranian centrifuges. It was because of diplomacy, not because of coercion.

#2. During that same period, the price of oil almost quintupled and the bulk of hard-currency windfall went into Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. That was under the so-called “reformists,” and this is why the so-called reformists like to claim that they are responsible for the success of the nuclear program. But this raises questions about why Obama would again repeat the same issue.

The Iranian economy, according to Iran’s Central Bank, had declined 5.4% in the year before we sat down to negotiate the joint plan of action. Now, Iran’s economy is in the black because we’ve given them an infusion of cash. But if we hadn’t given them that infusion of cash in conjunction with the halving of the price of oil, then we could literally force Iran to drink from the chalice of poison.

Those were the words that Khomeini said when he ended the Iran-Iraq War after swearing he would never do it until Jerusalem was liberated.

Giving someone $12 billion is not forcing them to drink from a chalice of poison. What Obama did was the equivalent to giving a five-year-old dessert first and then asking him to eat his spinach.

BREITBART: What has to be done strategically to stop Iran from expansion?

RUBIN: It’s the same thing with Putin and any other expansionist dictators. The more you appease, the more you show that your red lines are drawn in pink crayon and the more they are going to test you. What we forget is when Iran tested the U.S. under Reagan, Reagan responded with Operation Praying Mantis. He sank the Iranian Navy which gave way to a joke from that time. “Why does the Iranian Navy have glass bottomed-boats? So they can see their air force as well.”

Operation Praying Mantis was the largest surface naval engagement since WWII and it taught the Iranians that you don’t mess with the United States. Obama doesn’t understand that the Middle East isn’t a neighborhood to organize. He doesn’t understand that he’s the leader of the free world and not a zoning commissioner. In effect, the bad guys are running all over him. And the problem is, he’s too naive or too arrogant to care.

BREITBART: Should the next President of the United States of America be an expert on Iranian issues?

RUBIN: What you need in a presidential candidate is not someone that knows the Iran issue inside and out. What you need is someone that is true to their values, can provide moral leadership, is not afraid of moral clarity and understands the following:

#1. The importance of individual liberty, because individual liberty is a character which no dictatorship can withstand. You need someone who isn’t afraid of understanding that we should not live in a morally and culturally equivalent world.

#2. The United States is not the equal to countries like Iran or Russia. We are their moral superiors and as such it is important that we win and our adversaries lose. It’s important that freedom and liberty triumph.

You don’t need to be an expert in Iran to understand that. But you need to be someone who is not going to calibrate their foreign policy to the latest poll. Principles have to trump polls and I think that’s where Bush and Clinton are going to be disasters.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Rubin: Obama Enabling Iran in Middle East, Economic Coercion Is the Answer

unnamed1-640x480Breitbart’s Adelle Nazarian had the opportunity to speak with renowned Middle East expert and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Dr. Michael Rubin recently. Dr. Rubin provided his analysis on U.S.-Iran relations under the Obama Administration and provided a look into the future through the periscope of the past.

He is the author of Dancing With the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes and a former Pentagon official. With a June 30 deadline for a final nuclear deal swiftly approaching, Rubin draws upon heightened concerns surrounding President Obama’s destructive handling of this most pivotal moment in international relations and national security with regard to U.S.-Iranian relations.

BREITBART NEWS: Do you think President Obama, John Kerry and the American team of negotiators were aware of how the Iranians operated?

RUBIN: No. I honestly think they were in a bubble and they were also blinded by their own personal ambition. Obama is arrogant. He thinks that all the problems with diplomacy were because of his predecessors rather than with his adversaries. Therefore, he has repeatedly gotten us into trouble with dictators and rogue regimes like Russia ad now Iran. They play the United States.

Obama is willfully naive and he doesn’t understand that evil exists in the world and that it wants to destroy the United States.

BREITBART: Considering he has former NIAC employee Sahar Nowrouzzadeh and Valerie Jarrett advising him, wouldn’t you think he would be better prepared to deal with the Iranians?

RUBIN: He surrounds himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear. But a low-level and a c-staffer is hardly someone that you could say advises the president accurately.

BREITBART: Many in the media and on the left have suggested that the conservatives see war and bombing Iran as the only option should the nuclear deal fail. What viable alternatives could you offer?

RUBIN: That’s just such nonsense and what we see is that, when it comes to diplomacy, the only people who you can trust are the conservatives. President Obama likes to credit sanctions — both United Nations sanctions and otherwise — despite the fact that he was consistently against sanctions whenever he had the chance. He’s too busy making John Bolton into a straw cartoon to recognize that John Bolton was the man who crafted the Untied Nations sanctions.

And whether it was John Bolton as under secretary of state or ambassador to the United Nations, it was Bolton who rallied the international community and gave us unanimous or near-unanimous U.N. security council resolutions that ultimately brought Iran to its knees.

BREITBART: So what do we do with Iran?

RUBIN: Economic coercion. When Hillary Clinton came into office as secretary or state she almost lectured Republicans and said, if you’re not going to talk to your enemies, who are you going to talk to? And she cited Ronald Reagan who sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev to end the Cold War. But she didn’t understand the importance of leverage to Reagan.

Reagan had prefaced his diplomacy with Gorbachev with a military buildup in order to negotiate from a position of strength. In order to bring Iran to the table and have them adhere to their international agreements, you have to maximize your leverage. Obama agreed to give Iran $11.9 billion in sanctions relief in unfrozen assets just to sit at the table and talk to the American team.

To put this in perspective, the annual, official budget of the Revolutionary Guard is about $5.6 billion. In order to get the Iranians to sit at the table, Obama gave Iran enough money to pay the salaries of a group responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans for two years.

BREITBART: It has been suggested that up to $150 billion in frozen Iranian assets could be released to the Iranian regime. Would this guarantee the regime’s longevity?

RUBIN: Yes. The Soviet Union ultimately fell due to an unstable economy. The analogy would be that, instead of bankrupting the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan decided to flood them with cash. What Obama is doing with the potential release of those funds, is taking a hateful, racist regime and throwing it a lifeline.

The IRGC dominates the Iranian economy. The revolutionary foundation and what’s called Khatam al-Andia control perhaps 40% of Iran’s economy, including anything involved with import and export. So rather than allowing reformism to flourish inside of Iran, the net impact of the rush to do business inside Iran and to bring Iranian oil into the market will be to empower the Revolutionary Guard even further. It would allow them to consolidate control.

The IRGC is involved with the military aspects of the nuclear program, which of course aren’t included in this framework yet. And they are also in charge of export of revolution. And we see that this isn’t mere rhetoric when we look at what is happening in Gaza and Yemen. Simply put, if Obama and his national security team were to sit down and ask themselves what a strategy to enable Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East would look like– I hate to say it, but it would not look any different from the strategy they are now pursuing.

BREITBART: What are the Iranian mullah’s plans in the region? Now that not only Tehran but Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and even Sanaa are under their control, what is their ultimate goal?

RUBIN: This is something else Obama simply doesn’t understand or he ignores. Iran is not a status quo state. It is an ideological revisionist state. Its goal is to export revolution. Ordinary Iranians may not subscribe to this, but in any dictatorship it’s the guys with the guns that matter. And in this case, the Iranians used to describe themselves as a regional power. Then about four years ago, they began describing themselves as a pan-regional power, meaning the Persian Gulf and the North Indian Ocean.

Well, this past November they started talking about themselves in terms of having strategic boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden. And again, we see that this wasn’t mere rhetoric when we look at the weapons shipments to Syria and to Hamas. And when we look at Iranian activities in Yemen.

BREITBART: Is it then safe to say that Iran’s goal is not very different from the goal of ISIS, which is to establish an Islamic Caliphate and regional hegemony, except that they have two different fundamental Islamic ideologies?

RUBIN: Correct.

BREITBART: What do you think will happen when Khamenei passes away?

RUBIN: We only have one example of this happening before and that was when Khomeini died. On paper, you have an 86-member particle body called the Assembly of Experts which decides who replaces him. In reality, from 1989 we know thats not the case. What happened in 1989 with Khomeini’s death was that all the power centers got together and basically came to a consensus. That consensus was Khamenei.

Now who that consensus figure will be, I don’t know. But it is possible to have a council. And that is the Iranian way of kicking the can down the road. But this is what concerns me; and this is also where Obama’s outreach is so short-sighted. Any strategy which empowers the Revolutionary Guard gives the Revolutionary Guard additional powers to impose its will as the next choice. After all, if they’re powerful, they’re not going to subordinate themselves to someone with whom they disagree.

The important thing about this is you have a cycle of radicalization in which the supreme leader picks the most radical, ideologically pure officers to staff the highest levels of the Revolutionary Guard. Those same officers then have predominant influence in choosing the next supreme leader. And so President Obama is not only pursuing a deal which is bad for the United States and Iranians in the short term. He is pursuing a deal which is going to perpetuate this radicalization for at least another generation or two.

Report: Obama Admin Never Defined Al Qaeda

Al-Qaida-linked fighters in Fallujah, Iraq / AP

Al-Qaida-linked fighters in Fallujah, Iraq / AP

By Daniel Wiser:

The Obama administration never actually defined what the al Qaeda terrorist group is before declaring that it was on the path to defeat, according to a new report that says the group now has its largest-ever global presence.

The report from Mary Habeck, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and author of numerous books on al Qaeda, argues that the administration’s vague definition of the terrorist group has hampered America’s response to its global threat.

President Barack Obama’s “National Strategy for Counterterrorism,” released in June 2011, divided al Qaeda into three parts: its “core leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” its “affiliates,” and its “adherents.” While never fully explaining what it meant by “core,” the strategy stated in a footnote that affiliates included groups and individuals whom the United States is not authorized to use force against.

Adherents included individuals who engage in violence to further the goals of al Qaeda, “regardless of whether such violence is targeted at the United States, its citizens, or its interests.”

Habeck said the administration’s strategy implied such a narrow view of al Qaeda that it only permitted attacks against groups and individuals who planned, committed, or aided the Sep. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That policy is virtually the same as the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).

However, many of those originally tied to the attacks have been killed through military engagement or drone strikes. “People have not been added to this list,” Habeck said at an AEI event, adding that al Qaeda has since replaced its leaders and expanded its affiliates.

Al Qaeda now has active insurgencies in nine countries compared to just three in 2011, according to the report, with the latest arising in Syria and Iraq. Affiliates that do not directly interact with al Qaeda’s core leadership still endorse its goals and threaten U.S. interests, Habeck said.

“It doesn’t matter whether you have command and control behind these groups with this specific ideology, because they’re committed to the same objectives,” she said. “It will cause precisely the same amount of damage whether or not there’s command and control from the core.”

Al Qaeda’s stated goals often do not mention the United States, she said. While the group and its affiliates aim to expel all U.S. forces from the Middle East, they also seek to impose an extremist vision of sharia law on unwilling Muslims, overthrow secular leaders, and establish a new caliphate.

Read more at Free Beacon

Report: No Victory in Sight Against al Qaeda Without Change in Strategy

Smoke rises from an explosion in the Tornal Farms Al Qaeda training camp / AP

Smoke rises from an explosion in the Tornal Farms Al Qaeda training camp / AP

BY: :

The failure to identify the true scope of the al Qaeda network is threatening America’s interests abroad and at home, according to areport released Tuesday that concludes the United States cannot win a war against an enemy it doesn’t understand.

Throughout the war on terror, both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought core-focused campaigns against terrorist leaders, operating on theories that removing prominent figures would cause the network’s infrastructure to collapse.

However, after the deaths of thousands of al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, the terrorist network continues to gain traction throughout the Middle East.

“Our strategy has been very focused on certain groups and certain individuals, and the rest of the network has been permitted, to some degree, to prosper,” Katherine Zimmerman, author of “The al Qaeda Network: A New Framework for Defining the Enemy,” said in an interview.

The American Enterprise Institute report found that local elements have largely been ignored, allowing them to grow and gain influence. Vacuums of power in the wake of the Arab Spring has given an opening for groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to expand their reach.

Without a reassessment of how al Qaeda actually operates, America has “no real prospect of winning” a war that has lasted for more than a decade.

“America’s strategy to fight al Qaeda is failing because we’re not basing it on a current understanding of how that network is operating,” she said.

Read more at Free Beacon

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Islam

Ayaan Hirsi AliMichael Coren interviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Responds to Questions at Ohio University:

 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken defender of women’s rights in Islamic societies, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. She escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992 and served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. In parliament, she worked on furthering the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society and defending the rights of women in Dutch Muslim society. In 2004, together with director Theo van Gogh, she made Submission, a film about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures. The airing of the film on Dutch television resulted in the assassination of Mr. van Gogh by an Islamic extremist. At AEI, Ms. Hirsi Ali researches the relationship between the West and Islam, women’s rights in Islam, violence against women propagated by religious and cultural arguments, and Islam in Europe.

See also:

The Counter Jihad Report’s Youtube playlist for Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Help Wanted: A National Security President

By Frank Gaffney at Big Peace:

Until recently, most politicians, pundits and others among the so-called “smart people” insisted that Election 2012 was all about jobs, jobs, jobs.  The more broad-minded contended that the related issues of the lousy economy and the imperatives of deficit reduction might also feature.  But that was all the mattered, especially in the presidential contest.

Then, GOP candidate Herman Cain – a successful businessman who has risen in the polls in no small measure on the strength of his claim to have actually created jobs – gave an interview in which he seemed unaware that Communist China has the bomb.

Without skipping a beat, the elites denounced him as unfit to serve on the grounds that a man who was not proficient in national security and foreign policy matters could never become president. The jobs-jobs-jobs leitmotif gave way, at least for a time, to a new theme: the White House is no place for on-the-job-training about the nation’s defense.

How quickly they forget.  What Barack Obama knew about U.S. security policy before he became president amounted to little more than the anti-colonialist sentiments of his father and the virulently anti-American agitation of PLO flak Rashid Khalidi, terrorist William Ayers, revolutionary Saul Alinsky and radical pastor Jeremiah Wright.

Unfortunately, despite the on-the-job foreign and defense policy training Mr. Obama has, in fact, received during his time in office over the past nearly three years, he still seems largely clueless about U.S. security interests – and what it takes to safeguard them.  Consider the following sample of his myriad, unforced errors:

  • President Obama has embraced the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization dedicated to imposing worldwide – including in the United States – the totalitarian Islamic doctrine known as shariah.  His policies have helped bring the Brotherhood to power in North Africa and are legitimating its various fronts inside this country and otherwise facilitating their efforts to penetrate the U.S. government and dominate the American Muslim community.
  • Mr. Obama is effectively surrendering Iraq to Iran by removing all U.S. forces from the former for purely domestic political reasons and without regard for the consequences in the Middle East, and possibly beyond.
  • The Obama administration appears to be hell-bent on doing the same with respect to Afghanistan.  The latest news is that U.S. official have not only begun negotiations with the Taliban.  They have begun a dialogue as well with what is, if possible, an even more dangerous, despicable and irreconcilable adversary: the Haqqani network, based in Pakistan.
  • Mr. Obama’s much-touted “reset” of relations with Russia has been shown to be a Potemkin exercise, with the end of the pretense that Washington had a more friendly and reliable partner in President Dmitry Medvedev giving way to the reality that the unremittingly hostile and authoritarian Vladimir Putin has been calling the shots all along – and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
  • Team Obama’s massive investment (financial and political) in the United Nations has also proven a bust.  Its willingness to diminish the U.S. role to more-or-less that of any other nation, while insisting on continuing to pick up more than a fifth of the organization’s tab has reduced America not just to a paper tiger but a patsy, to boot. Meanwhile, the 57-member bloc known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is increasingly calling the shots, with help from the Russians and Chinese who can be relied upon to block anything remotely useful to us.
  • Matters are made vastly worse by President Obama’s decisions to hollow out the United States military.  As he memorably put it, “the nice thing about the defense budget is that it’s so big, it’s so huge, that a 1 percent reduction is the equivalent of the education budget.”  That sort of attitude has resulted in at least $460 billion worth of cuts in defense spending to date.

The associated damage is likely to be compounded by further reductions at the hands of the congressional supercommittee or, failing acceptance of its recommendations by the full Congress, via a meat-ax known as “sequestration.”  The latter would impose a further roughly $600 billion across-the-board reduction in Pentagon spending.  The Obama administration’s own civilian and uniformed defense leaders have warned that the effects of such a one-two punch would be catastrophic.

Should expertise on national security and foreign policy be a prerequisite for the presidency?  The answer obviously must be a resounding “Yes” – especially in a world as dangerous as ours.  Have we had it over the past nearly three years?  The answer is equally resoundingly, “No.”

We have to insist on a level of competence in the defense and foreign policy portfolio of our elected national leaders.  In that connection, it is heartening that twoof the upcoming debates between Republican presidential candidates – one on November 12th at Wofford College in South Carolina and one sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and CNN in Washington on November 22nd – will focus on national security-related topics.

While the liquidations of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and a number of other high-profile terrorists on President Obama’s watch are welcome, those accomplishments are, regrettably, more than offset by his serious failings like those noted above.  The American people deserve, and need, a competent Commander-in-Chief.  And they had better insist on getting one.