Donald Trump and Barack Obama took very different approaches to dealing with terrorism.
While president, Barack Obama referred to the “evil ideology” in extremists that engaged in barbarous acts of violence, without referring to it as “radical Islamic terrorism.” His handling of the “evil ideology” essentially broke down into four categories, as detailed in “Grading Evil and Evil Doers.”
- Evil to Destroy: those terrorist groups that threaten America like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State
- Evil to Condemn: terrorist groups that target other countries, but not the USA, like al-Shabaab and Boko Haram
- Evil to Tolerate: These are countries that slaughter their own citizens including minors, like Syria, Iran and America’s ally Saudi Arabia
- Evil to Ignore: This is from governments and aspiring countries like the Palestinian Authority that routinely incites violence against an American ally, Israel.
Obama used direct military action against the first category, when he felt that American lives were at stake, while only lending support against the second. When it came to countries that harbored evil ideologies, Obama opted to remain inactive and relatively silent.
In short, the “evil ideology” itself was not the barometer of whether Obama took action; it was the nature of the threat to American lives, and whether he could act narrowly against relatively small groups of people rather than entire countries.
Trump’s Approach to Radical Jihadist Terrorism
In his first week in office, Donald Trump is seemingly approaching his obligation to protect Americans in a manner quite different than Obama.
- Name: For one, Trump clearly labeled the “evil ideology” as “radical Islamic terrorism.” While Obama felt that attributing the extremist actions specifically to Islam was unfair, Trump thought that avoiding the connection between the terrorists’ motives and Islamic teachings masked the problem.
- Breadth: While Obama sought to target a narrow audience for military attacks, and giving a pass to others with “evil ideologies,” Trump seems more willing to go broader and use more tools to address the issues. He has advocated for using torture to get information from terrorists (he said he would be willing to reconsider it if his defense advisors warn against it). Trump has instituted restrictions on immigrations from several countries that have been unable to deal with terrorists, to minimize the probability of terrorists coming to the United States.
Trump has only been in office for ten days, so it is difficult to ascertain how he will use the military in fighting groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda that Obama targeted, and others where Obama acted indirectly like Boko Haram and al-Shabaab. He has already authorized an attack in Yemen in an operation that reportedly killed 14 militants. Will he use troops rather than relying mainly on drones as Obama did in countries like Yemen and Somalia?
Beyond combatting terrorism, how will Trump interact with countries that promote radical Islamic terrorism like Iran and Saudi Arabia? Obama traded with them and gave them billions of dollars. Will Trump treat them as potential business partners too and ignore their support of terrorism?
The United Nations called on the world to not label violent extremism as “Islamic” as they argued that doing so would be unfair to the religion. The UN preferred to only use the term “extremists” in regards to Jews, as part of its ongoing attack on Israel.
Obama lied to the world that the birthplace of extremism was in poverty, rather than a twisted view of the world. His #AlternativeFacts were parroted by the members of his administration, even though every study on the subject showed the statement to be bogus.
So now that Trump has opted to call out the root of terrorism as not being from lack of economic opportunity, but having distinct Islamic origins, will the US push to take actions against Islamic countries rather than a limited number of terrorist groups? Is Trump calling out a clash of civilizations? If so, how will such a clash play out?
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