Trump was right to call out our shared enemy of global extremism
The US left-wing has been busying itself attacking President Donald Trump’s daring move in unequivocally calling out radical Islamist terror as a scourge that must be eradicated. I was privileged to have attended the inauguration ceremony in Washington last week, and to witness his historic speech live.
“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones, and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” said Trump. While some leftists referred to his speech as “terrifying,” and Washington’s “insider” pundit class predictably mocked it, his call for unity and vow to reinforce old alliances have deeply resonated among traditional US allies in the Middle East.
The leader of the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, sent a congratulatory message to Trump. Saudi Arabia has faced a recent wave of attacks and plots by terrorists adhering to an extremist, warped understanding of Islam. Many Western analysts and cable TV commentators do not realize that both the leaders of Daesh and Al-Qaeda have made numerous statements calling for attacks against Saudi Arabia.
In that regard, the US shares a common enemy with the Muslim world. In addition to last week’s terror attacks in Jeddah, horrific Islamist extremist attacks killed dozens in Muslim-majority Pakistan and Mali.
Barack Obama ended his term gloating that in the past eight years, “no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland.” However, multiple domestic terror attacks have occurred in the US, inspired by a foreign extremist ideology.
This is why reinforcing America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, and charting a common path to defeat Daesh and Al-Qaeda, are exactly the right prescription for ensuring the security of the US homeland and defending stability in the Middle East.
Trump understands the importance of building alliances. By declaring a clear objective of eradicating extremist groups such as Daesh during his inaugural speech, he rightly recognized the global threat as a clear and present danger to the US and civilization as we know it.
The ancient Chinese warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu said: “Those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle, and are not brought there by him.” Unfortunately, Obama was overly hesitant and late in the game when it came to accepting the reality that global extremist groups such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda have gained momentum since he became president in 2009.
The Obama doctrine was reactionary and allowed extremists to dictate the pace of the fight and field of battle, to which his administration would haphazardly deploy forces with little foresight or strategy.
Taking the initiative away from extremist adversaries entails developing a resolute network of strategic alliances. Sun Tzu said: “To be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.”
Trump’s inaugural speech indicated the end of the US spurning its allies (i.e. the Iran “deal”) while arrogantly opting to ignore growing international extremist networks due to narrow political agendas. More than anything, Trump’s declaration of war against the global extremist threat marked the official end of the Obama doctrine.
The contrast is clear: Trump’s National Security Adviser is Gen. Michael Flynn, who as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency oversaw prescient analysis that warned Obama in 2012: “The deterioration of the conflict (in Syria) has dire consequences on the Iraqi situation and… creates the ideal atmosphere for Al-Qaeda in Iraq to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi, and will provide a renewed momentum…”
Obama’s White House did not want to hear this bad news, and to this day will not acknowledge its mistake lest it tarnish Obama’s legacy. Flynn told the New York Times: “Frankly, at the White House it didn’t meet the narrative.”
The constructed narrative that Obama and his acolytes seek to promote is that the Syria “red line” fiasco was the “single best decision” of the Obama White House (despite the resulting humanitarian catastrophe that gave rise to Daesh and Hezbollah’s expansion) and that the international terror threat has diminished (it clearly has not).
Trump has now set a new corrective narrative. Defeating Daesh, Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the global Al-Qaeda network is not a political partisan matter. Neither should developing a real policy to counter Iran and its Shiite extremist proxies, which threaten American and Arab lives, be a politicized issue. Setting the tone from Day 1 is the correct way to go.
That is what leaders do. Hopefully Trump, unlike Obama, will stand by US allies in this joint fight. If he does, then eradicating Daesh and Iran’s “Islamic” extremist terrorists is an ambitious goal within reach.
• Oubai Shahbandar is a former Department of Defense senior adviser, and currently a strategic communications consultant specializing in Middle Eastern and Gulf affairs.