December 7, 2015
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Monday, December 7, 2015. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Pres. Obama concedes reality of war with terrorists despite denouncing view in past
Last night, the President of the United States addressed the nation from the Oval Office. President Obama has been reluctant to do so in the past and that added a bit of gravity to the President’s decision to speak to the nation last night from one of the most historic spots in the United States, not only from the White House, but from the Oval Office. That does lend an air of seriousness to what the president had to say, because when presidents have addressed the nation from the Oval Office they have done so in order to invoke the full authority of their office and that’s what President Obama was doing last night, or at least what he was expected to do.
The background to the President’s speech and the need for that speech had to do with the events over the last several days, most importantly, the terror attack in San Bernardino, California. President Obama and his administration have been largely on the defensive and especially in recent days with the horrible headlines coming out of Paris and elsewhere, especially, San Bernardino, making especially clear the reality of the threat of Islamic terrorism, not only elsewhere in the world and not only in the Middle East, but in Europe and now here in the United States. Just hours before the terror attack in Paris, President Obama had made a public statement that the Islamic State had been contained; clearly that is not the case. Barack Obama ran for President in 2008 largely by suggesting that the United States had been involved in an unnecessary war on terror. President Obama ran for that office in 2008 largely by asserting that the administration of President George W. Bush had overestimated and exaggerated the threat of Islamic terrorism. Barack Obama said that the use of language like the war on terror was something that should be avoided as he pledged to lead America into a new era. But even as the president had long stated an opposition to the phrase war on terror, last night he said,Show Full Transcript
“Our nation has been at war with terrorists since Al Qaeda killed nearly 3000 Americans on 9/11.”
The challenge facing the president was made clear on the front page of yesterday’s edition of the New York Times when reporters Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt said,
“The day before Thanksgiving, President Obama reassured Americans there was “no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland.” Seven days later came an explosion of gunfire and the deadliest terrorist attack in America since Sept. 11, 2001.”
Note their following paragraph,
“What may be most disturbing is not that Mr. Obama was wrong, but that apparently he was right. By all accounts so far, the government had no concrete intelligence warning of the assault on Wednesday that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.”
They went on to say,
“Swift, ruthless and deadly, the attack appeared to reflect an evolution of the terrorist threat that Mr. Obama and federal officials have long dreaded: homegrown, self-radicalized individuals operating undetected before striking one of many soft targets that can never be fully protected in a country as sprawling as the United States.”
That same challenge facing the president was made abundantly clear in an editorial published over the weekend in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The editors declared,
“President Obama entered the White House believing that the “war on terror” was a misguided overreaction driven by political fear, and his government even stopped using the term. Seven years later Mr. Obama is presiding over a global jihadist revival that now threatens the American homeland more than at any time since the attacks of September 11, 2001.”
The editors went on to say,
“Every instinct of this Administration, starting with the President, has been to minimize the terror risk on U.S. soil—perhaps because it contradicts Mr. Obama’s political belief that all we have to fear is fear of terrorism itself.”
They went on,
“The President made this explicit in his May 23, 2013 speech at National Defense University in which he said Americans should move past the country’s post-9/11 war footing and compared the Islamist terror threat to “many forms of violent extremism in our history.” Few speeches in presidential history have been repudiated so quickly by events.”
The seriousness of the threat Americans now face was made clear by Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security. On Saturday he said,
“We have moved to an entirely new phase in the global terrorist threat and in our homeland security efforts.”
He went on to say that terrorists have,
“In effect outsourced attempts to attack our homeland. We’ve seen this not just here but in other places. This requires a whole new approach, in my view.”
Alberto M. Fernandez, who until recently had headed the effort by the US Department of State to counter it Islamic propaganda. He said that the San Bernardino attack is what he would call,
That is do-it-yourself jihad. He said,
“It forces the administration to look at where it does not want to go and is weakest, at jihadist ideology and its dissemination.”
Last night the president referenced the massacre in San Bernardino, California that took place last Wednesday and he spoke of the assailants in that case now identified as Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik and said that they,
“Had gone down the dark path of radicalization embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West. He went on to say they had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition and pipe bombs.”
In his very next sentence the president said what he been reluctant to say previously and that this was an act of terrorism on American soil. Immediately after the president concluded his speech, it was clear that he had not indicated any major new direction on the part of his administration in the war on terror. That former State Department official that described this as do-it-yourself terrorism had said that the administration was weakest at the point of Islamic ideology and the spread of jihadist ideas and that gets to the issue of worldview and that’s why Christians looking at this have to understand what the president was attempting to do last night.
Popularity of ISIS reminder of weakness of theologically disarmed American worldview
But we have to look even closer at what he actually said. The president said in his address,
“Here’s what else we cannot do. We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want.”
The President went on to say,
“ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.”
The president also said,
“If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.
That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse.”
Saturday’s edition of the New York Times ran an editorial the headline of which was,
“Fear Ignorance, Not Muslims.”
And the same day the paper ran an op-ed piece by Timothy Egan, a columnist for the newspaper entitled,
“No More Thoughts and Prayers.”
In one certain sentence in that article he wrote about some he described as cowardly politicians who,
“Will refuse to see that hundreds, maybe thousands of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims find justification for mass murder of innocent people in their holy book.”
To be honest, once I read that sentence I had to sit back and stare at it in disbelief. Here you have a columnist for the most influential newspaper in the world that states that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims who,
“Find justification for mass murder of innocent people in their holy book.”
Reality compels us to state very clearly that 1.6 million Muslims are not at war with the United States or the West and as we have stated emphatically over and over again for that we should be very thankful. But there is a significant number of Muslims who have been radicalized. If you’re looking at a column like this and once again, the columnist said there are hundreds, maybe thousands of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims who been similarly radicalized, his own newspaper reports that there are thousands of jihadist involved with the Islamic State and similar Jihadi movements around the world. We’re not talking about hundreds, we’re talking about thousands, but similarly, there have been reports over and over again, giving headlines that the majority of Muslims in the world find great disdain for ISIS. Once again, that’s very good news, but looking beyond the headlines and looking at the actual report that is here being cited, a report released on November 17 by the Pew Research Center, it’s actually cause for far more alarm than comfort.
Jacob Poushter for the Pew Research Center wrote,
“Recent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have once again brought terrorism and Islamic extremism to the forefront of international relations.”
Then he wrote,
“According to newly released data that the Pew Research Center collected in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations, people from Nigeria to Jordan to Indonesia overwhelmingly expressed negative views of ISIS.”
That is really good news. But there is really bad news underneath that headline. Even if a significant majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims oppose ISIS, again that’s very good news, what would the minority constitute? And here’s where pew actually gives us the data, country by country in the 11 countries considered in their research. For example, one of the countries is Malaysia that has 30 million population, 64 percent expressed an unfavorable view of ISIS, that’s good news, 25 percent said they didn’t have an opinion, but 11 percent said they had a favorable opinion of ISIS. Now 11 percent of 30 million is over 3 million people. We’re not talking about hundreds or even thousands, we’re talking about over 3 million who according to this research would at least have a favorable view of ISIS and that’s just Malaysia. In Nigeria, 14 percent had a favorable view, 20 percent said that they had no view. In Pakistan, only 28 percent said that they had a negative view of ISIS, leaving 62 percent saying they had no opinion and 9 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of ISIS. Now Pakistan has a population of 182 million. 9 percent of 182 million is 16.4 million people. Now keep in mind that another 62 percent, the vast majority of those who are in Pakistan, said they had no opinion of ISIS, they certainly do not indicate they have a negative view, that was held only by 28% in Pakistan, and remember, Pakistan is supposed to be one of our most crucial allies in that entire region of the world.
Again, the Pew study considered 11 different countries with large Muslim populations. Just taking the data on the front page of their report, looking at the numbers that Pew cited, we’re talking about the good news that the majority of Muslims around the world do not support the Islamic State, but the bad news is that looking at just three of these 11 countries we’ve come up with what represents about 20 million people who are favorable in the Muslim world to ISIS and that’s counting just three of the 11 countries cited in the report. What we’re looking at here is a vast collision of worldviews and one that secular leaders in Europe and in the United States starting in the White House seem to be incapable of understanding. At its base we’re talking about a worldview conflict between Islam and modernity and what becomes apparent not just looking at the headlines but looking at the very reports that are now being cited there is the indication that there are millions of Muslims around the world who have a favorable view of ISIS, preferring that vision of Islam to that which would accommodate itself to the modern world.
As we’ve had to say of Europe, we now have to say increasingly and depressingly about the United States. A country that has disarmed itself theologically, even from the ability to think in theological terms, now finds itself confronting a determined theological foe and what was clear last night is the continued refusal of President Obama and his administration to come to terms with what we really do face. As the New York Times reporters Michael Shear and Gardiner Harris report this morning and this is their summary,
“The president’s speech was not intended to announce a dramatic shift in strategy or new policies to combat the terrorist threat at home and overseas. Instead it was meant to inform Americans of the administration’s efforts against the Islamic State and to urge people not to give in to fear.”
Until our leaders are willing and ready to address this issue at the level of worldview, you can expect more speeches like this one.
Effects of including women in all combat roles begin to sink in
Next, at least some Americans have a deeper understanding now of what’s really at stake when the U.S. Defense Secretary announced last week that without exception, all forward combat units would now be equally open to men and women. Secretary Ashton Carter made that decision public last week and even in the midst of other headlines it did get some attention. It deserves a great deal more, because what we’re looking at here is not just an announcement about combat units in the U.S. military. We’re talking about a fundamental shift in society and some on both sides of the issue are honest enough to acknowledge that. Mariette Kalinowski writing in the pages of the New York Times declared this to be,
“A Victory for Women at War.”
She works at the New School in New York City and had served in the Marine Corps from 2002 to 2010 and was deployed to Iraq twice. The New School in New York is one of the most liberal academic institutions on the planet and the worldview that this woman represents is very indicative of that institution and its stance. Her article is also very instructive about the truly revolutionary character of what this change represents. She writes,
“The ability of women to perform in combat will be a direct result of how they are trained. If you consistently train women to march and fight under 85-pound loads, they will match or exceed these demands. But we have to move beyond simply demanding equal performance, and look to the potential to transform gender relations in military culture.”
But later in her article, almost immediately, she comes to say that the changes should reach far beyond the military, in her words,
“Change could extend to life outside the military as well. Narrow and distorted messages about young women and their bodies could be challenged.”
“Women could be raised to know that weight training and functional applications of strength are a form of empowerment consistent with feminism.”
In worldview terms that is an explosive sentence. Kalinowski is arguing that this is a revolution in the armed services that should reverberate elsewhere in the culture and she’s talking about a fundamental reshaping of our understanding of gender and gender relations. Very openly she’s suggesting that consistent with the ideals of feminism is the idea that women should consistently be trained to March and fight under the weight of an 85 pound load. In making the announcement Secretary Carter said last week,
“This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”
In mathematical term,
“The move will make available”, said the Wall Street Journal, “the 10 percent of positions still closed to women.”
That’s about 220,000 positions in infantry reconnaissance and special operation units. Now as I said last week, one way to look at this is that this will allow women or to use the secretary’s statement,
“Women will now be able to contribute in this way to America’s military efforts.”
But we need to look extremely closely at that language. Last week I talked about the fact that behind the logic of what women can do will be the argument of what women must do and we did not have to wait long. The issue of the draft came out over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal and in Congress. Felicia Schwartz, reporting for the Journal wrote on Saturday,
“The Obama administration is considering proposing changes to the Selective Service Act following Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision Thursday to open all combat positions to women without exceptions.
The White House said Friday it will work with Congress to consider the Defense Department’s analysis of how the shift will affect the Selective Service Act, which requires all men ages 18 to 25 to register for the draft.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said straightforwardly,
“We’re going to work with Congress to look at that analysis, to review it, and sort of get others’ opinions to determine if additional reforms or changes to the act are necessary in light of this specific decision.”
To put the issue bluntly, once you declare that there is a right of all women to serve without distinction, the secretary’s words were “without exception” in all of these units, then how can that continue to be merely voluntary when it’s not voluntary for men? Even as we have an all- voluntary force now, the selective service doesn’t exist even as a registration for an all-volunteer force. It is there in case there would have to be a restart of the draft, of involuntary conscription into the armed services. Right now, young males, that’s what the law states, between the ages of 18 and 25 have to register. Why now? The question will have to be not young women as well. And even if the armed services in general are well described as an all-volunteer force, Eric Olson, Chief of U.S. special operations command from 2007 to 2011 said in July that about 30 percent of forward infantry units in the United States are currently men who didn’t volunteer to be in front-line combat. Just before the secretary made his announcement, but in anticipation of it, Mark Thompson, writing for Time magazine wrote,
“And if women seek to take the final step toward full participation in the military. It hardly seems fair that they should be up to say no thanks if they’re needed to fight.”
Admiral Olson, again, who had been head of U.S. special operations command in 2007 to 2011 asked the question,
“Are we willing to cause women to serve in infantry units against their will as we do men?”
Astoundingly on Sunday the New York Times in its lead editorial seemed to call for the draft to be extended to young women, just within days of the secretary’s announcement. The editors wrote,
“Some lawmakers have asked whether women should now be required to register in the Selective Service System, as young men are required to do.”
The next sentence simply said,
“Congress would have to change that law, but it could be done easily.”
You just have to wonder how many Americans who believe they’re supposed to be for this in terms of the sexual revolution would actually be willing to have their daughters conscripted much less sent to infantry units against their will. But that’s not the logic of some abstract sexual revolution somewhere else or at some point in the distant future. That’s the logic of what the United States Secretary of Defense announced last week. A logic that’s actually being admitted just days after the announcement was made. Those who are for the decision and those who are against it should be agreed on one point of basic worldview honesty. What this represents is a fundamental reshaping of our understanding of gender, of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. This is a very clear signal not only of what our military will look like in the future, but our entire society as well.