Why The Obama-Clinton Terrorism Rhetoric Fails

It seems a day does not go by without President Obama or Hillary Clinton making some facially absurd argument about Islamic terrorism. They assign themselves a fool’s errand: convince the world that radical Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. They hope, by their rhetoric, to drive a wedge between the radicals and the rest of the Islamic world.

President Obama has gone so far as saying that the group proclaiming itself an Islamic State is not Islamic, and not a state.

Democrats even released a campaign-style ad knocking Republican use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”


The full Clinton quote, via Caleb Howe:

The bottom line is that we are in a contest of ideas against an ideology of hate, and we have to win. Let’s be clear though, Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. The obsession in some quarters with a clash of civilization or repeating the specific words “radical Islamic terrorism” isn’t just a distraction – it gives these criminals, these murderers, more standing than they deserve. It actually plays into their hands by alienating partners we need by our side. Our priority should be how to fight the enemy. In the end, it didn’t matter what kind of terrorist we called Bin Laden, it mattered that we killed Bin Laden. But we still can’t close our eyes to the fact that there’s a distorted and dangerous strain of extremism within the Muslim world that continues to spread.


While I agree with Howe that cognitive dissonance may play a role, I believe that people who try to separate radical Islamic terrorism from Islam as a whole are making an intentional propaganda play. They know what they are saying is all a fiction, but believe that the power of their words will change reality.

It’s possible that, as Donald Trump said, that Hillary fears indictment if she doesn’t follow the Obama administration line. What is more likely is that she believes the same things Obama does.

Heal’s Rule #1: If you believe your opponent is behaving irrationally, you do not understand your opponent.

Rule #1 applies when analyzing our opponent, as well as our own understanding of our opponent.

Here is the key to the leftists’ propaganda play. In Hillary’s words:

[…] it gives these criminals, these murderers, more standing than they deserve. It actually plays into their hands by alienating partners we need by our side.

They fear that describing terrorism with the term “Islamic” included will make Muslims who are not terrorists into terrorists, or will stop our Islamic allies from defending themselves against the radicals.

Islam, like any religion, has various sects who believe and practice slightly different things. With so many variables, it’s likely that Islamic radicalism forms a bell curve, a normal distribution about some center point. One tail of this bell curve represents disengaged secularists. The other represents the people blowing themselves up for Allah.

There is no magic dividing line between “terrorist”, “extremist”, “radical”, “jihadist”, and “mainstream” Muslim. The normal distribution is a curve.

How unstable does a person have to be that merely describing terrorism using the name of their religion will cause them to become a terrorist? If that is all it takes, there is not likely to be any way to stop them from becoming terrorists.

Shadi Hamid of The Brookings Institution writes that it’s wrong to say that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam:

But if the goal is to understand ISIS, then I, and other analysts who happen to be Muslim, would be better served by cordoning off our personal assumptions and preferences. What Islam should be and what Islam is actually understood to be by Muslims (including extremist Muslims) are very different things.

The President and former Secretary of State do not take this task merely to make their political allies feel good. They truly believe (or appear to believe, or appear to want us to think they believe) that if their narrative can only take hold, then Islam could be stopped from producing radicals, those radicals would stop becoming extremists, and those extremists would stop being terrorists.

That is not how it works, of course. The radicalizing forces come from within Islam, not as the narrative would have it, from the outside pulling ordinary Muslims out of that religion’s peaceful true boundaries.

Islam’s history is one of violent conquest. They are fools who claim there is some “ideology of hate,” instead of simply recognizing that Islam can be taken to extremes, and when it is the world goes to war.