“We are 15 years in to what is going to be a multigenerational war, because we are talking about defeating an idea” of jihadism, stated retired Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Waltz during a February 24 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) panel. The former Green Beret and his fellow panelists discussing “When Did World War III Start?” brought stimulating center-stage discussions of Islamic jihad threats to CPAC, where they had often suffered neglect before.
Waltz was one participant in CPAC panels concerning America’s domestic and foreign security challenges on successive days in the ballroom of National Harbor’s Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center near Washington, DC. New Zealand conservative author and filmmaker Trevor Loudon initiated the February 23 panel by noting the “red-green” confluence of seventh-century Islam and twentieth-century Marxism. “World War III started about 1,400 years ago and it got a big boost in 1917 with the Bolshevik Revolution and those two streams, Islam and the Bolsheviks, have never parted company.” Today “you have got the Muslim Brotherhood operating in this country; you have got the radical left, Communist groups.”
Loudon’s fellow panelist, Center for Security Policy Vice President for Research and Analysis Clare Lopez, delineated these Islamic threats. “We are not fighting terrorism. We are fighting the forces of Islamic jihad and sharia to live free.” While terrorist attacks globally are increasing, the “main line of effort here in the United States is the civilization jihad, for which the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] is the vanguard.”
Lopez elaborated upon sharia subversion “taking aim at the pillars of our society,” such as in the American judiciary and with current Canadian legislation condemning and perhaps even criminalizing “Islamophobia.” She similarly warned about how “our government and national security which have been so deeply penetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood,” such as with law enforcement training by Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups. In American religious institutions such as churches, there is also “interfaith dialogue, where the bridge only goes one way: towards Islam.”
Lopez described this “civilization jihad” in terms of an insurgency. Thus an “insurgency is won or lost at the local level, and so will be this one.” Accordingly, she exhorted that an “informed, engaged and patriotic citizenry, like all of us here today, is the very best defense to keep America as great as the Founding Fathers ever envisioned it to be.”
Taking the CPAC center stage with Waltz the day after Lopez’s presentation, American Forum for Islam and Democracy President Zuhdi Jasser echoed her ideological concerns. “We see the invocation of blasphemy laws through using the term ‘Islamophobia,'” a term with totalitarian origins often used to silence any criticism, including that of self-professed Muslims like Jasser, of Islamic doctrine. “Don’t use the term ‘Islamophobia,’ because they are trying to shut us all up from criticizing Islamic State ideology.” (Perhaps another CPAC panelist from later that day, The Hill editor Nicholas Hahn, should have considered such censorship concerns, given The Hill‘s deletion under criticism of an article by Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer.)
Like Lopez, Jasser emphasized the broad-based nature of threats anchored in Islamic doctrine, such as the Islamic State (in Iraq and – Greater – Syria, or ISIS). “We could get rid of ISIS tomorrow or next year, and then in a couple of years there will be another radical Islamic group,” he warned. Citing Saudi Arabia’s Islamic kingdom or Iran and Pakistan’s Islamic Republics, he noted that ISIS is “this monster that got created from their ideas.”
Jasser therefore sounded a call for a battle of ideas and advocated an ideological policy shift from “this nebulous, blasé ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ to ‘Countering Violent Islamism.'” Like Loudon, Jasser noted that Islamist groups are “parties that embrace the collectivism of Islam as a faith.” Therefore, there is a “bargain between the Left and Islam; it’s because they are both collectivists.”
Ideology also played a prominent role in the thinking of Jasser’s fellow panelist, Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s deputy assistant. “The definition for victory for us is a very simple one,” he declared. “We are going to make the black flag of jihad as repugnant around the world…as the black, white, and red swastika flag of the Third Reich. The brand of jihad has to be destroyed.”
In this ideological warfare against jihad, Jasser reprised his description of what he has previously termed an Islamic civil war. This son of Syrian-American refugees judged that “there are Muslims across the world that share our values, are against dictatorship, be it the secular military fascists and the monarchs, or the Islamist theocrats” in the Middle East. Therefore “we need to start taking sides within in the House of Islam, with the Green Revolution in Iran, with the secularists that are fighting for freedom against both the Assadists and the ISIS Islamists.”
Yet the sobering failures in America of the Muslim Reform Movement led by Jasser belie his exceedingly rosy assessment of the 2011 “Arab Spring” or, more accurately, “Islamist Winter.” Contrary to this bitter experience, he concluded that the “Arab Awakening proved that these populations are ready for a revolution, for a grassroots movement against the establishment across the Middle East.” Astonishing also are Waltz’s echoes of President George W. Bush’s Middle Eastern “freedom agenda” and current National Security Advisor Lieutenant-General H. R. McMaster, who has called jihadist terrorists “un-Islamic.” Recalling Afghans who fought against the Taliban, Waltz stated that “they want a better future for their children. They want the ability to have free markets to make a living.” This contrasts with a supposed “bastardization of what is otherwise a peaceful religion” in Islam.
Irrespective of strategy debates over defeating jihad, Waltz struck a more realistic note when discussing the longterm nature of fighting against a faith-based ideology. As an Afghan tribal elder explained to Waltz:
Until you are prepared to commit your grandchildren, not your children, but your grandchildren, to stand shoulder to shoulder with my grandchildren and fight Islamic extremism, then you will never be successful here.
A version of this piece also appeared on https://www.jihadwatch.org/