Theodore's World: Best Person for the Job by Walid Phares

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February 04, 2008

Best Person for the Job by Walid Phares

The Best Person for the Job by Walid Phares, Ph.D.

Family Security Matters

Walid Phares is the Contributing Editor, Walid Phares is the director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy, and the author of The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy.


When it comes to US Presidential elections, the post 9/11 era has changed the rules of engagement for national security experts and for those who can read the Jihadists’ minds. While the counterterrorism community should let the voters chose their chief executive first, then later offer expert advice to the President, unfortunately, the world has changed.

Indeed, since the 9/11 and the engagement of the nation in the war with Jihadism, the selection of the US President can fundamentally affect the very survival of the American people. Whoever occupies the White House in 2009, for the next 4 to 8 years will have to make decisions that will have cataclysmic consequences on the physical security and the freedoms of 300 million citizens in this country, and eventually on the free world as a whole.

The leader of the most powerful democracy in the world has to be able to know who the enemy is so that all resources are put into action against it. Without this, the next US President could cause a major disaster to happen to this nation. American voters cannot afford to install a man or a woman who can’t identify and define the enemy. If you can’t see an enemy, you simply cannot defeat it.

The 2004 Presidential elections took place in quasi-popular ignorance. The sitting -- and fighting -- President was reelected by the basic instincts of Americans, but not by enlightened citizens. An overwhelming majority of voters was not fully informed as to the real stakes. The country was told that the war in Iraq was wrong, and about half of the country believed it. They were also told there was no war on terror, but worse, they were never told who the enemy was or what it really wanted.

The 2008 elections are crucial

In 2008, America is quite different and the outlook of the forthcoming confrontation is, by far, much more dramatic. US forces are still deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Jihadists -- of all types, regimes and organizations -- are still committed to reverse the move towards democracy in these two countries. The war there is not over. Rather the greater challenges are yet to begin.

Al Qaeda got beaten badly in the Sunni Triangle and in Somalia but a younger generation of Jihadists is being put into battle across the region. Not one single Sunni country will escape the rise of Salafi Terror in the next US Presidential term.


· Iran’s regime is speeding up its strategic armament, testing American resolve when possible;

· Syria is surviving its isolation and bleeding our allies in Iraq and Lebanon;

· Hezbollah is about to seize Lebanon;

· Hamas has seized Gaza;

· Turkey’s Islamists are reversing secularism; and

· Pakistan’s Jihadists are eying the nuclear missiles.

Even worse than this, three generations of Jihadists have penetrated the social and defense layers of Western Europe and the United States.

In his or her first term, the next President may have to witness European cities burned by urban warfare, and in the second presidential term, could be forced to arm doomsday devices for the first time in this century. Thus the choice of the best candidate is not a matter of routine this time around.

As never before, Americans must scrutinize the agendas of their candidates and find out which platform is the best suited for what is to come, and decide who among them can face off a lethal enemy while building the vital coalitions the world needs. At this point in US and world history, Party, gender, race, and social class affiliations are insufficient reasons by themselves to choose the forthcoming President.

Americans should not pay attention to who said what and who flip flopped when. Frankly, it doesn’t matter at this stage if it is a he or a she, of this or that race, of this or another church, or if the President is single, has a large family or has been divorced twice. The stakes are much higher than the usual sweet, but irrelevant, American personality debate.

I want to know if the candidates are strong willed, smart, educated about the world, informed about the threat, can define it, can identify it, can fight it, are not duped by their bureaucracy, cannot be influenced by foreign regimes or special interest groups, have the right advisors, can run an economy while commanding a war and still see the threats as they handle daily crises and take drastic measures as hard times confront them. I want to know if the candidates will be very specific when they educate their public about the menace. In short, I don’t want to see the fall of Constantinople repeated on these shores in the next decade or two. Humanity will not recover from such a disaster.

If we knew where we are in the world, we’d look at survival first before we debate anything else. I am among those who believe -- and see -- that this country (and other democracies) are marked for violence, aggression and terror. All our hopes about the economy, social justice, cultural harmony, wealth, and technological advancement are thoroughly dependant on the ability of the rising menace to crumble this country’s national security and all that would collapse with it.

Probably I am among the few who see the clouds gathering around the globe and thus have been urging leaders to act fast, decisively and early on to avoid the future Jihad that already has begun. Were these dangers not there, I would be fully eager -- like any citizen -- to argue forcefully about the crucial matters of our existence: health, environment, nutrition, scientific discoveries, animal protection and space exploration. But that is not the world I see ahead of us in the immediate future.

Hence, we must postpone the social and philosophical dreams to better times. As a nation, we must all be concerned with who among the candidates can simply understand the tragic equation we’re in and be able to use the resources of this nation to meet the dire challenges ahead of us. This year, Americans need to see and certify that the next occupant of the White House lives on this planet, in this age, knows that we are at war, and above all knows which war we are fighting. The margin of error is too slim to allow anything else.

Future Jihad is coming

By 2012 the Jihadists may recruit one million suicide bombers and could align two nuclear powers. By 2016 they would deploy 10 million suicide bombers and seize five regimes equipped with the final weapon. In the next eight years, NATO’s European membership and US interests worldwide could be battling urban intifadas. To avoid these prospects of apocalypse, the offices on Pennsylvania Avenue must catch up with lost opportunities before next winter.

And that potential hyperdrama hinges on the mind and the nerves of the next President of this country.

I am looking at the most terrifying item on any Presidential agenda: national security. Here is what I’ve found so far.

The Obama and Clinton agendas

Senators Obama and Clinton acknowledge that a “war on terror” is on. Both have pledged to pursue al Qaeda relentlessly. Also, Obama and Clinton, to the surprise of their critics, have enlisted good counterterrorism experts as advisors. But from there on, the findings get darker.

The Senator from Illinois wants to end the campaign in Iraq abruptly, which would lead to the crumbling of the democratic experiment and a chain of disasters from Afghanistan to Lebanon, opening the path for a Khomeinist Jihadi empire accessing the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean. Obama’s campaign needs to radically transform its agenda on worldview so that the voices of the oppressed peoples in that part of the world can be heard. Maybe a trip to Darfur and Beirut can help rethink his agenda. Unfortunately the latest news from the campaign isn’t encouraging. The Senator wants to shake the hands of Dictator Assad, authoritarian Chavez, apocalyptic Ahmadinejad and perhaps even the Khartoum bullies of Sudan’s Africans. No need for further evidence: such an agenda in the next White House is anathema to the progress of human history.

Senator Clinton has a powerful political machine and happens to have enlisted top national security experts in her team. She will commit to stand by Israel and would not visit the oppressors of women in Tehran. But beyond this, her foreign policy agenda (despite the knowledgeable expertise available to her) is “a bridge back to the twentieth century.”

Indeed, the plan is to withdraw from Iraq without defeating the Jihadists, without containing the Iranians and without solidifying democracy. A retreat from the Middle East will be paved with a commitment not to let Israel down; a commitment which would lose its teeth, once the Pasdarans march through Iraq and Syria and install Armageddon’s Shahhab missiles in the hands of Hezbollah. On the Senator’s agenda, there is no definition of the enemy or commitment to contain it, reverse it or defeat it. There are no policies of solidarity with oppressed peoples and there is no alliance with the democratic forces of the region. Mrs. Clinton won’t befriend Ahmadinejad but would let him -- and other Islamists -- crush her own gender across many continents.

But more important, from an American perspective, would be the crisis to expect in Homeland Security if one or the other agendas advanced by these two Senators come to pass. An army of experts, activists and lobbyists would invade all levels of national security and reinstall pre 9/11 attitudes. In short Jihadophilia would prevail, even without the knowledge or the consent of that future White House. It already happened in the 1990s and led to what we know.

The reading of political genomes has no margin for error. The electoral platforms of the two Senators are enemy-definition-free. Not identifying the enemy is equal to not defining the threat. Thus, and unless the right advisors rush to fill that gap before the national election, Democrat voters will not have a chance to bring in a solid and knowledgeable defender of the nation.

The Republicans' two options

On the other side of the spectrum, Republicans are struggling with a different choice, nonetheless as challenging and with long term consequences. McCain and Romney are ready to engage battle with the enemy, pursue the so-called War on Terror and continue fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their agendas attempted to define the threat, leaping ahead of their competitors on the other side of the aisle. Their statements and posted documents are irrefutable evidence that, if they gain the White House, they would neither surrender the country to domestic infiltration nor disengage from the confrontation overseas. On this ground alone, and unless the Democrat contenders and their final nominee change their counterterrorism approach, the final choice American voters will have to make -- on national security -- will be dramatically different and irreversibly full of consequences.

The single most important ingredient in the War with Jihadism, the identification of the threat, is at the heart of our success or failure. The leading Republican candidates are equal in fingering what they perceive as the enemy: they have called it “radical Islam” and have given it different attributes - “Islamo-fascism,” “extremist Islamism,” “Islamic terrorism,” and other similar descriptions. In that regard they are at the opposite end of their Democrat contenders.

But in my analysis, after more than 25 years of study and observation of the phenomenon, and seven years after 9/11, the term “radical Islam” is not enough when a US President (or another world leader) wants to define the danger and build strategies against it. The term, “Radical Islam”, falls short of catching the actual threat doctrine, which is Jihadism. In my judgment, those candidates who take the ideological battle lightly are not as well equipped as those who have done their homework fully and offered the voters and the public a comprehensive doctrine on counter Jihadism.

We’re not dealing with semantics here, but with keys to unlock the stagnation in the current conflict. Short of having a future President who knows exactly who the enemy is, how it thinks, and how to defeat it, the conflict cannot be won. There can be no guesses, no broad drawings, no general directions, no colorful slogans, and no good intentions alone.

This next President has to understand the Jihadist ideology by him or herself, and not rely on advisors to place descriptions in the speeches, and change them at the wish of lobbyists or other interest groups.

This nuance in understanding the threat and in articulating the rhetoric has gigantic consequences. All strategies related to fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan, in Iraq and within the West, and related to containing Khomeinist power in the region and beyond, emanates from a US understanding of their ideologies and key elements of their global strategies.

Hence, when I examine the agendas of the Republican candidates and analyze their speeches, I look at indicators showing the comprehension of the bigger picture.

McCain and Romney have developed common instincts as to where it is coming from; but that is not enough.

Americans need to see and know that their future President can present sophisticated rhetoric, is ready to go on the offensive and move against the enemy before the latter attacks American and allies’ targets. Being just tough and willing to strike back heavily is not anymore an acceptable threshold.

We need the next President to be aware of what the other side is preparing, preempt it and do it faster than any predecessor. The next stage in this war is will be about moving swiftly and sometimes stealthily to reach the production structure of the enemy. And to do this, our leaders need to identify and define the threat doctrine and design a counter doctrine, a matter the US Government has failed to achieve in the first seven years of the war.

The two leading contenders on the Republican side, McCain and Romney, both recognize that there is an enemy, they are committed to defeat it, but they identify it with different specificity.

Senator McCain says it is “Radical Islam,” and pledges to increase the current level of involvement. On Iraq, the former Navy Pilot says he will continue to fight till there are no more enemies to fight. To me that is a trenches battlefield: we’ll pound them till they have no more trenches.

Governor Romney says the enemy is Global Jihadism, and it has more than the one battlefield of Iraq. And because the Jihadists are in control of regimes, interests and omnipresent in the region and worldwide, the US counter strategies cannot and should not be limited to “entrenchment” but to counter attacks, preemptive moves and putting allied forces on the existing and new battlefields. Besides not all confrontations have to be military.

The difference in wording between the general term “radical Islam” and the focused threat doctrine “Jihadism” says it all. One leads to concentrate one type of power in one place, regardless of what the enemy is and wants to do; and the other concept leads to punch the foe from many places on multiple levels and be decisive in ending the conflict. I am sure Senator McCain can follow the same reasoning and catch up with the geopolitics of the enemy but so far Governor Romney has readied himself better in strategizing to defeat this enemy.

The next stage of the war will be a mind battle with the Jihadists. They aren’t just a bunch of Barbarians who seek to shed blood. They have had, for decades, a very advanced and sophisticated strategy, and they are ready to confront our next President and defeat the United States.

This is why I have come to the conclusion that Governor Romney has the capacity of managing the counter strategies against the Jihadists, only because he stated to the public that he sees the enemy as to who they are. And if a President can see them, he can defeat them. His Republican contender, now leading in the polls, can sense them but hasn’t specifically identified them. The leading candidates on the other side are making progress in the opposite direction: one wants to end the War unilaterally and the other wants to make Peace with the oppressors.

In short, if elected, Romney will try to destroy the mother ship, McCain will supply the trenches, Clinton will pull the troops back to the barracks and Obama will visit the foes’ bunkers.

I recommend Governor Romney for the Republican primaries as first among equals, while believing Senator McCain to be a genuine leader. If Romney is selected, I believe America may have a chance to defeat this enemy with new strategies. If his contender is selected, we will have four or eight more years of the past seven years.

On the other side, I have suggested to counterterrorism experts that they help Democrat candidates restructure their agendas on national security in line with the reality of the enemy. I would like to see both Parties understanding and presenting a united vision of the threat, while differing on how to confront it. That would be the ideal situation for America and, at the very least, a response to the deepest will of the American public.

Wild Thing's comment.........

Dr Walid Phares has written the truth. I realize it is long, but it needed the entire artcle to be shared.

Posted by Wild Thing at February 4, 2008 12:50 AM


The Al-Qaeda kooks are cheering for Obama so they will be able to 'O Bomb Us'?
Love how the NY Giants are sticking it to Hellary Rotten Clinton by having their Super Bowl XXLL celebration and parade in Manhattan on Super Tuesday! How many VOTES will HELLary lose? and click on the sports page and read all about it! - MVP SUPER MANNING

Posted by: darthcrUSAderworldtour07 at February 4, 2008 05:21 AM

I agree with Waleed. He's a smart man and wise as well. Of course, the Muslims want Obamanation to win because he's a "brother." Al Qaeda wants Hitlery to win because she'll give them a free ride.
McCain would hide under his desk and wonder what the hell just happened.
Even though he wasn't my first choice, I'll take Romney. I hope he picks his running mate wisely. Santorum or Thompson would both be good choices.

Posted by: Lynn at February 4, 2008 07:59 AM

Dr Phares makes several pertinent points. The main points being that we have not defined the real enemy, nor publically taken the worldwide war seriously enough. The average American should be as seriously worried about Islamic Jihad as they are interested in the Super Bowl and it's commercials. We are not!

I would hope that a President Romney would be much more adept at informing the American public that we are in a global war of survival. Obama would actually "kumbaya" with the jihadists and Clinton would make concessions with them. I kind of think McCain would react rather than preempt, but I don't know, He might do what was neccessary. I don't know enough about Romney to predict his stance on the war with islam.

I think a very chilling and true statement of Dr Phares is that "three generations of jihadists have penetrated the social and defense layers of Western Europe and the United States." Why, oh why, have we allowed this to happen and to continue, especially since 9-11. This immigration and failure to publically define the enemy are two major failures of Bush's War on Terror. He should be vocally warning the American public instead of pacifying us with the shallow protection of Department of Homeland Security.

Posted by: TomR at February 4, 2008 09:02 AM

Dr Walid Phares has issued the most compelling call in these primaries, and perhaps in the whole US elections process of 2008. He showed us the threat and objectively selected his recommendation. People will understand his choice in few years from now when we will be as a nation engaged fully in a harsh confrontation with a lethal enemy. Phares bypassed all classical stuff in our politics: race, gender, flip flopping and the rest. He has one thing that matters: will the next President be able to lead the confrontation with the Jihadists and run an economy at the same time? Obama and Clinton don't believe that there is a war to start with. McCain is not bad, but not enough for what is to come ahead. That's why I think Phares' note is crucial. He doesn't criticize the other Republican candidates, except the Paul agenda, but he is zooming on the one agenda that talks to the problem, now and tomorrow. I have chosen Romney, ehatever are the results. Just to make sure to send a message.

Posted by: Beth George at February 4, 2008 02:06 PM

Darth when I heard about the parade I loved it.

Posted by: Wild Thing at February 4, 2008 06:05 PM

Lynn if Romney gets that far and wins it would make it so great if he did pick like you said, a real conservative. I pray that happens.

Posted by: Wild Thing at February 4, 2008 06:06 PM

Tom I agree so much. If of course IF is like wishing for something to have been different too. But IF Bush had stuck with the axis of evil thing and if homeland security had been honest with the public of the many attempts of attacks that they were able to stop because there have been those too. Maybe just maybe the media would be forced to tell people about them.
And if the meida was on the side of America too it would have helped. They would present Islam for what it is and tell people the things we all are able to find out about online, the horrors of Islam.

Thanks Tom for your insight and comments.

Posted by: Wild Thing at February 4, 2008 06:12 PM

Beth George , nice to meet you and welcome.

Yes, I have alwasy been impressed with Dr Walid Phares and his articles and his books too. I agree with this latest article he takes it step by step of the why, who and what and presents it so clearly.

Posted by: Wild Thing at February 4, 2008 06:13 PM

Dr. Walid Phares speaks the truth, but I am afraid that his words fall on deaf ears. This country is too far gone and won't know what is going on until we get hit again many times worse than 9/11. By then it will be too late.

Posted by: Les at February 5, 2008 12:14 AM