Religious Freedom Coalition, March 6th, 2015, by Andrew Harrod, PhD.
“Radical Islamic terrorism” is the “new existential threat” to free societies after Communism’s Cold War demise, declared political commentator Deroy Murdock on February 28 at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Murdock’s panel “America’s Security in the Age of Jihad” on CPAC’s center stage demonstrated that vitally important Islamic aggression and authoritarianism were finally receiving CPAC’s attention after past neglect and uninvited analysts.
The preceding noon panel “The Middle East: The 30 Years War” packed a standing-room only crowd of about 80 into a conference room near the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center ballroom where Murdock spoke. Among others in attendance was the ubiquitous Muslim grandstanding gadfly Saba Ahmed, whose participation drew afterwards obscene comments from individual audience members. Moderating the panel, defense consultant Van Hipp critiqued its title by describing a “war that’s been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years” and involving issues that “need to be on the main stage,” as indicated by the large audience. Hipp’s statement that “radical Islam is really the challenge of our time” foreshadowed Murdock, but Hipp criticized policymaker reticence in naming this threat as equivalent to “refusing to call Nazi fascism Nazi fascism” during World War II.
Making his CPAC debut, Middle East analyst Walid Phares discussed the “very specific ideology” of “jihadism,” something that is “not yoga,” although jihad in Islam can have nonviolent meanings. He was “very firm” in claiming that jihadists seeking Islamic political rule with various means including violence were a minority among Muslims. He cited the 33 million Egyptians whose June 30, 2013, protests helped bring down the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government of Mohammed Morsi. In his estimation a truly liberating Arab Spring “could have been possible” if President Barack Obama’s administration had supported “all sorts of peaceful people” in Arabian civil society. Since Obama’s June 4, 2009, speech in Cairo, however, he has taken the “wrong side” in the MB.
Phares’ Powerpoint “Catastrophes in the Middle East” indicated jihadism’s growing global dangers. He mocked how some American policymakers were “on a different planet.” They believed in things like the nuclear nonproliferation agreement with Iran, “nothing but a maneuver” for nuclear weapons development “to gain time.” Chastising Obama’s flawed historical understanding, Phares noted that the “Crusaders were in a confrontation with another empire,” not “Boy Scouts.” Looking beyond the Middle East, he worried about Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the “ISIS of Africa,” and how Afghanistan unaided by foreign troops is “not going to be left to Social Democrats.”
Similarly debuting at CPAC, former CIA agent and international security analyst Clare Lopez agreed with Hipp that warfare with and among Muslims “goes a little farther back” than the panel title suggested. She described modern jihadist behavior being “almost directly taken from the life of Muhammad,” Islam’s prophet and the “first jihadi.” “Jihad rises again now,” she added, “because the West has fallen back” under an Obama who entered office with an “agenda already formed” for the United States “to be more on the level of Greece.”
Under this agenda, diminished American influence would concede the North Africa region to Sunni Muslims under MB influence and the Persian Gulf area to Shiite-majority Iran. This strategy entailed abandoning dictators like Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi and Egypt’s Hosni Muburak. They were “never going to be a choirboy” but had aided the West against Al Qaeda (AQ) and in keeping peace with Israel. American acquiescence in Iran’s rise, meanwhile, could involve in the future nuclear weapons that are “not just for Israel,” but could strike the United States as well on Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Lopez focused on Iran’s Islamic Republic. Since its 1979 creation, this “jihadist state” has sought “export of the revolution” as expressed by Quran 8:60 in the Iranian constitution’s preamble. Among other things, nuclear weapons acquisition would help Iran “seize the leadership of the global jihad” from Islam’s Sunni majority. Yet Shiite Iran has also cooperated with Sunni groups like AQ, with which Iran and its Lebanese Shiite proxy militia Hezbollah have had a relationship involving training and logistics since a “jihadi jamboree” in 1990s Sudan.
Likewise, Iran currently aids its Shiite allies fighting against the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS’ top target, Lopez however notes, are the Sunni “hypocrites” who rule Saudi Arabia. The eastern provinces of this Iranian archrival are oil-rich and Shiite-populated, making them a tantalizing prize for an Iran that would be a secondary beneficiary to any ISIS attack on the Saudi kingdom.
Joining Murdock at CPAC’s central venue, former Department of Defense spokesman and career navy officer J.D. Gordon echoed Lopez. The “radical Islamist threat is a two-headed” among both Sunnis and Shiites, he observed, but “Iran long term is the greatest threat.” Gordon meanwhile noted a “de facto alliance” between the “international left and the Islamists” in areas such as an “anti-colonial movement” condemning Israel. Such dangers were “not about jobs” he mocked while criticizing an Obama administration that had more to say about climate change than jihad in its Quadrennial Defense Reviews.
Army officer veteran and political analyst Pete Hegseth also dismissed such socioeconomic root cause analysis of Islamic violence. “The age of jihad,” he analyzed, presents the “Nazism or Communism of our time” in a “particular interpretation of the Quran.” “The only way to defeat an enemy like this is to put many, many, many of them into the ground.” Yet Obama’s Iraq withdrawal showed that he “was more interested in ending wars than in ending them properly.”
Former army intelligence officer and military analyst Anthony Schaffer, also in his first CPAC appearance, emphasized “déjà vu all over again” feelings in discussing Islamic threats. In his own career he had helped protect American troops in Germany during the Cold War against Libyan plots. “Fighting Islamic jihadists,” he noted, “goes back to Jefferson” as the “shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps hymn recalls. Obama’s current “refusal to define the Islamic threat” is dangerous and his “high school debate team in charge of national security” shows official “criminal neglect.”
Navy veteran and Muslim political activist Zuhdi Jasser also stressed clear definitions for freedom’s “battle…within Islam.” “You have to name it to tame it” and describe explicitly political Islam or Islamism, political correctness notwithstanding. Not just ISIS, but Islamic states plural and the “neo-caliphate” of the 57-member state (including “Palestine”) Organization of Islamic States form a multifaceted Islamist “continuum” in an “evil empire today.” “We can only win this if we empower reform-minded Muslims” willing “to die for liberty,” yet Obama had supported an “Islamic mafia” of “Islamists ideologues” both domestically and abroad. In contrast to voluminous Cold War government Communism studies, today’s government Islamist scholars can be counted “on one hand” and fear losing their jobs.
The presence of Jasser and other panelists at the center of CPAC indicated that Islamic issues will in the future receive the attention it deserves at America’s premier conservative gathering. Conservatives, who pride themselves as national security experts, will not be AWOL concerning these various ongoing, increasingly important faith-based threats to freedom. This welcome development could not come sooner, for a long, hard road leads to Murdock’s laudable goal for Islamism: “Let’s throw it next to Communism on the ash-heap of history.”
While the “The Middle East: The 30 Years War” panel video has not been made available, (I wonder why?) here is the “America’s Security in the Age of Jihad” video: