On MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell last night,The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood succinctly summarized the nature and goals of the Islamic State, or ISIS: they’re Islamic. They’re eschatological. They want to fight against Crusaders and redeem the power and authority of Sunni Islam.
Islam. Islamic. Islamist. There is just no way to avoid using the proper adjective. On the same show, Michael Weiss noted that it would be ridiculous to ignore what ISIS says about its own motivations and objections, and how it creates its mindmap of the world in explicitly religious terms, even if — and Weiss finds this inexplicable — President Obama will not.
From what I gather, Weiss thinks that the fact that the Obama administration won’t label a weed a weed is hurting its efforts to weed out the weeds. It hurts the fight, he thinks. There is no clarity in strategy because, first, there is no clarity in language.
Does Obama really believe that the character of Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam? Clearly he does not. He knows that most Americans believe that Islamic terrorism is the appropriate way to describe Islamic terrorism. I think Obama is trying to make two points, one historical and aimed at American audiences, and one rhetorical, aimed at the enemy itself.