What Are the Metaphysics of Islamic Denial?

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media

Photo via PJ Media
Photo via PJ Media

After six years, it is no surprise that the Obama administration does not see the Taliban as “terrorists” or that it will not associate “violent extremism” with radical Islam or just Islam.

After all, when Maj. Hasan murdered U.S. soldiers it was nothing more than “workplace violence,” as if he were a disgruntled post office employee of the 1970s. Our two top intelligence chiefs assured us that the Muslim Brotherhood was “largely secular” and that jihad “was a legitimate tenet of Islam.” Add in “workplace violence” and the old “overseas contingency operations.” Do we remember that Ms. Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security warned us about right-wing returning veterans as the most likely to terrorize us? When someone blows up people at the Boston Marathon, beheads a woman in Oklahoma, or puts a hatchet in a NYPD officer’s head, he is not a terrorist or proselytizer fueled by Islamic hatred of non-Muslims as much as mentally confused. (I suppose in a way that a Hitler or Stalin was not.)

The problem is not that the administration is just too fond of euphemisms. At times it can be quite candid. The Republican House has been characterized as “terrorists” [1] in their efforts to stop more federal borrowing. The Tea Party was slurred as “tea-baggers” [2] — a derogative sexual term [3].  Mr. Netanyahu is variously a “coward” or “chickensh-t” [4] — pejoratives not floated for even the vicious Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

So why the elaborate façade about the Islamic roots of global terrorism and spreading instability in the Middle East? There are a few possible explanations.

I. Strategy

The Obama administration knows full well that the Taliban, ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram and the rest of the pack draw their zeal from the Koran. But to say such might turn off two or three useful constituencies — the hard Left at home that hates any judgmentalism, “moderate” Muslims in the Middle East who are essential to nullifying the “radicals” in their midst, and the global community that is always suspicious when America goes to war against a particular group or ideology. The Obama administration with a wink-and-nod, then, accepts radical Islam as the problem, but for strategic reasons, and in the manner occasionally of the Bush administration, prefers euphemisms. Nonetheless, the administration goes on Predatoring thousands of suspected Islamic terrorists even as it won’t say what its targeted victims all have in common. Given that Americans know that the enemy is radical Islam, why turn off potential allies by reiterating that fact?

II. Appeasement

The Obama administration is terrified of radical Islamic terrorism, in the manner that [5] Europeans are — and were scared stiff in the 1930s of Nazi Germany. They know full well that caricaturing Islam is dangerous in a way joking about other religions is not. They are afraid of more televised beheadings, more torturing, and more Benghazis. If they can blame a pathetic U.S. resident for making a video for the deaths in Benghazi, then perhaps the appreciative Islamist culprits will leave it at one harvest at Benghazi (especially before the 2012 elections). If the Taliban sense that Obama will not dare to call them terrorists, then maybe they will negotiate in good faith and enter a stable “coalition” government when we depart entirely from Afghanistan. Bowing to a Saudi royal might assuage his anger at the U.S. Carefully avoiding reference any longer to Syrian regime change might win back Assad to our side. When we don’t condemn “Islamic terrorism,” then perhaps even ISIS mutters, “Hmmm, these Americans are not that bad after all; shoot rather than behead the next hostage.”

Note that essential characteristic of appeasement, the narcissism of the appeaser: An FDR lecturing Churchill that he alone had the skills to win over “Uncle Joe” Stalin, a Jimmy Carter’s unique understanding of Iranian theocracy that as thanks would release the hostages, and the locus classicus of Neville Chamberlain alone with the fluency and sensitivity to make Herr Hitler see what is in his real interest. So, too, only the Peace Prize winner Obama can suavely appease radical Islam and convince them why leaving America alone suits their interest as well. The more we accommodate radical Islamists through euphemism and circumlocution, the more likely they might just go away.

III. Postmodern Therapy

The Obama administration has a fuzzy therapeutic view of human nature in general, as does much of America by now. There is no “welfare” anymore, just “pubic assistance” or better “health and human services.” Beau Bergdahl is confused and complex, hardly a “traitor,” a slur that leaves no room for nuance. The purpose of language is not disinterested and accurate description; rather, language is employed for the political, whether you know it or not [6].

So the unwillingness to use the world “Islam” in connection with global terrorism simply reflects the leftwing, relativist view that nothing is ever absolute. There is not good versus evil, failure or success, but only gradations that are conditioned by the preexisting prejudices of elites who make up these categories largely to protect their own privilege. Generalization is always reactionary stereotyping. “Islam” or “Muslim” hardly can characterize 400 million people from Indonesia to Dubai. (To be fair, I think the Left’s postmodern relativism is itself mostly political and ad hoc; after all, it often enjoys blanket categorization and has no problem with disparagement like “Republicans,” “tea-baggers,” “conservatives,” “males,” or “whites” as inclusive terms that serve well enough to stereotype millions — or for that matter “gays” and “women” in the hagiographic sense.) “Islam” and “Muslim” are meaninglessly vague, and are used as pejoratives rather than descriptive terms; like most of our race/class/gender vocabulary these rubrics cannot be used as inclusive terms when the aim is not laudatory.

IV. Multicultural Understanding

Finally, perhaps the Obama administration does not see us in a war at all or at least a righteous conflict against cold-blooded religious fanatics from the Islamic world. While it disproves of the methodology of terrorism, it is ambiguous about the origins of such anti-Western rage. Thus Obama chose to skip the march after the Paris killings in a way he would not miss going overseas to lobby for a Chicago Olympics. Collate the apology tour, the initial Al Arabiya interview, and the Cairo speech, and perhaps add in the relevant passages from Dreams from My Father and keen voluntary attendance at Rev. Wright’s sermons. What arises is a consistent Obama worldview that the present U.S.-inspired global order is not fair, but rather fuelled by neo-colonialism, past imperialism, racism, and capitalist exploitation, Western but especially American in nature. In such a moral landscape, obviously some liberationists, revolutionaries, reformers and dissidents will go too far, in the manner that Castro killed or jailed a bit too many or Arafat himself was on occasion a little bit too much the killer.

But as Andrew Young once said [7] of Khomeini that he “will be somewhat of a saint when we get over the panic,” so, too, the Obama administration more or less understands why young men in the Middle East take up arms against the U.S. Note the leftwing hatred of American Sniper [8], or Michael Moore’s (the object of hero-worship at the Democratic Convention of 2004) rationale for September 11 (“If someone did this [9/11] to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, D.C., and the planes’ destination of California — these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!”). In the world of Michael Moore’s leftism, the problem was not that Islamists had killed Americans, but rather that they blew up the wrong Americans who were against what the other bad red-state Americans — quite deserving of death — had done.

The point is not that the administration simply sympathizes with radical Islamists or thinks in lockstep with a Michael Moore or Bill Ayers, only that it is intellectually, politically, and culturally unable to damn entirely the Islamist cause by dubbing it “terrorism” or Islamism, given the complexity of past Western culpability for the present mess of the Middle East.

Why do they hate us? For Obama, it is not because of Islamic self-induced pathologies that are the logical result of entrenched tribalism, gender apartheid, religious fundamentalism and intolerance, statism, anti-Semitism, and autocracy, which can only lead to stagnation, poverty, and repression that in turn present as envy, jealousy and hatred of the West.

No, the West is responsible for the lack of parity, and thus the anger of the Middle East is somewhat legitimate and understandable. Just as Obama has apologized for Western culpability of Middle East pathologies, so, too, he does not necessarily see Islamic terrorists as primordial enemies driven on by religious zealotry, as much as variants of more legitimate groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority.


These four exegeses are not entirely constant, but transmogrify to meet the administration’s current political realities (e.g., the euphemisms may cease for a while should there be another 9/11).  They also overlap and are not mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, which of them most often drives the Obama’s administration peculiar institution of Islamic denial?

I doubt Strategy is the prime mover, although many naïve people in the administration may mistakenly believe that it is. Appeasement is closer to the mark, but perhaps in this case better applies to individuals such as journalists and cartoonists than the U.S. government that protects its own and is all-powerful. Moreover, appeasement is a tactic. It can be conditioned by ideology or individual temperament, but is not a consistent ideology (Chamberlain was a conservative appeaser). Most liberals embrace Postmodern Therapy’s view of human existence, but not all of them to the degree to deny Islamic culpability for global terrorism. I am left with explanation IV, Multicultural Understanding. The Obama administration is preconditioned to consider anti-Americanism not as a logical tic of anti-capitalist, anti-democratic systems or just the whining abroad of the jealous and envious of an exceptional United States, but rather as something often legitimate that has its origins in our inequality, unfairness, and exploitation.

In such a mental landscape, it is almost impossible for those in the administration with any confidence to say that Islamists or even radical Islamists hate us for what we are and will do everything in their power to destroy us, and that the larger neutral Middle East is watching the struggle to see which side proves the stronger horse and thus is worthy of alliance with, or at least worthy of not offending.

Article printed from Works and Days: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson

URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/what-are-the-metaphysics-of-islamic-denial/

URLs in this post:

[1] “terrorists”: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2014/04/18/harry-reid-terrorist/

[2] “tea-baggers”: http://hotair.com/archives/2010/05/04/good-news-obama-using-the-word-teabaggers-now/

[3] derogative sexual term: http://newsbusters.org/node/32722/print

[4] “chickensh-t”: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2014/10/28/obama-official-netanyahu-a-chickenshit/

[5] in the manner that: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2013/01/22/neville-again-4/

[6] whether you know it or not: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

[7] once said: http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/detail/a-review-of-to-hell-in-a-handbasket-carter-obama-and-the-arab-spring-by-ruthie-blum

[8] the leftwing hatred of American Sniper: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2015/01/26/american-sniper/

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14 thoughts on “What Are the Metaphysics of Islamic Denial?”

  1. The matter is simpler. Islam is a Third World religion. Thus, it is coded as People Of Color, and therefore granted all the rights and privileges and exemptions and excuses and other-blaming thereunto appertaining. Attacks on Islam are often called “racist.”

    A simple thought experiment will suffice. If a religion much like Islam were professed by European-descended people –segregation of women, glorification of holy war, theocratic domination of societies, public executions, etc.– it would be coded as NAZI in a heartbeat and no quarter would be given to it.

    Occam’s razor works here: Muslims are Brown and Black. All else follows.

  2. The obvious key to this is race. Islam is a Third World religion and therefore coded as Black/Brown and granted all the rights, privileges, excuses, justifications, suppressions and exculpations thereunto appertaining.

    A simple thought experiment will illustrate this. Imagine a new religion, founded by a European, which demanded theocratic control of territory, segregation of women in long dresses and scarves, public floggings, mutilations and executions, praise of holy war, etc.

    Now tell me that this cult would not immediately be excoriated at NAZI, etc. and given no quarter at all.


    It’s race.

  3. It is because you’ve nailed where Mr. Obama is coming from with respect to Radical Islam, I am most interested in your speculation as to where he plans on taking US from here with less than 2 years to go in office. Currently, he’s leading a coalition of around 40 countries to “degrade and destroy (or defeat)” The Islamic State which is based upon a very sound strategy of getting them out of Iraq. Syria is another kettle of fish entirely. For me, to just leave The Islamic State in Syria to fight it out with Assad and the other Al Qaeda groups suits me fine! Anyway, Mr. Obama still needs to send to Congress an authorization for funds to continue this operation and what has got him flummoxed is to do so without defining our enemy, Radical Islam! Then, you have his busted Bergdahl trade to deal with, plus the next home terrorist attack. And that’s not to mention all the illegal (Islamists) entering through our open borders per the IBD. ugh!

  4. Thanks for unraveling in such subtle detail the tangled metaphysics underlying the Obama administration’s Islamic denial. What I think it all adds up to, ultimately, is one plain, simple Big Lie, repeating itself, over and over again, in many different guises.

  5. I am afraid you are guilty of euphemism as well: “Obama Administration” = Obama. If his hirelings don’t toe the line, they don’t work for him. It may be cliche, but certainly apropos: “if it walks like a duck…”

    1. I think we can give Mr. Hanson a pass for using this handy generalization. If we’re really looking for the specific heart of the metaphysics of the “Obama Administration” we might have to consider the Rasputin-like influence the enigmatic Valerie Jarrett has over the Obama family. Although it’s pure supposition in my case, I have a sneaking suspicion that for all his bravado, the president is highly insecure in his manhood, and depends intently upon this woman, who appears to be leading the president and the first lady around by their noses. Now there’s a relationship I’d like to see exposed in the harsh glare of daylight. But we won’t hold our breath waiting for Frontline or Sixty Minutes to dig in and investigate, will we?

  6. Multi-culti probably is closest to the mark. As I put it on my own blog,

    “In Leftist mindset, America is the main cause (if not the only cause) of the misery of the rest of the world. The world has been literally suffering from a United States that is too rich, too militarily powerful and to capitalist for the health of the world. And this is exactly the world view of our president and all his top operatives. For the United States to be displaced from its “perch” is not merely laudatory, in their view it is positively desirable.”

    And that is what we are seeing.

  7. I see three more metaphysical

    1) Since WW2 military engagements have rarely followed a formal declaration of war. The patterns of denial on the one hand, and military action on the other, swims with that stream. It is a tradition and reflects the wish that wars shall be absent from a modern and more educated world.

    2) The French Revolution produced the idea and practice of a new religion of rationalism. Today’s left movement resembles that image. To put a sharp point to it: Leftism sees itself as the only true religon and all other religions indicate in fact no more than politics. There’s no room for an Islamic problem.

    3) The US in particular has yet to admit to the idea of defeat on 9-11. The logic of: what defeat – which weakness – which enemy – what to do, cannot get off the ground unless one admits to defeat first. The US still suffers some post-Vietnam trauma here. Understandably it feels uncomfortable to admit that an ancient religious book can get people moving and deliver victory in an emotional intensity that the entire US administration and its military cannot.

  8. BHO can’t and won’t acknowledge that God/Allah inspires or motivates Good or Evil. So he can’t and won’t attribute evil/terror/military acts to Islam, because to do so would require him to acknowledge that the only historic (and I believe Future) counter to military Islam is military Christianity. Think: Prince Sobieski and Pope Innocent XI – the Siege of Vienna, 1683. The beginning of the retreat of the Ottoman expansion. BHO asserts that there has to be a competing ‘ideology’ to ‘violent extremism.’ He will never assert that Christianity is the competing (at least in the West) religion. His father thought that Christianity, with its emphasis on forgiveness and virgin birth, was fine for women but otherwise worthy of only contempt. The closest BHO has ever come to Christianity was his 20 years in Wright’s Liberation Theology (another version of Critical Theory). The West needs another Sobieski. Instead we’re likely to get another Clinton.

  9. Political correctness is a type of lying designed to make you ignore blatant truths acquired through common sense. If it could also be considered a mental disease, Barak Obama suffers from the worst case since Jimmy Carter.

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