The Foxies are airing a truncated version of this showcasing the part where Brennan says “jihad is a legitimate tenet of Islam,” but this longer version, via the Right Scoop, is truer to his point. There’s actually nothing here you haven’t heard a thousand times before in other guises. The U.S. wants to limit Al Qaeda’s recruiting pool to whatever extent possible so it emphasizes a distinction between “false Muslims” who blow things up and “real Muslims” who don’t. In so doing, it has to reconcile two goals: (1) convincing impressionable young members of the ummah that we don’t hate their faith and (2) addressing the fact that, according to the Koran, jihad is a legitimate tenet of Islam. The obvious rhetorical move? Arguing that “jihad” refers only to a peaceful internal spiritual struggle etc etc and that anyone who reads it a tad more aggressively not only doesn’t know what he’s talking about but is actually offending the faith. For the same reason, you sometimes hear Middle Eastern pols refer to terrorists as “takfiris” rather than “jihadis.” The former is pejorative while the latter isn’t.
Again: These are all standard Bush-era diplo-talking points, and they’ll remain standard talking points under President Palin or Romney or Rubio or whoever for the simple reason that the U.S. isn’t about to ask a billion Muslims to renounce the Koran over the repulsive idea of holy war. The only thing that’s somewhat unusual here is his use of the word “legitimate” to describe jihad. I think he means legitimate according to Muslims, not in the abstract sense, but this guy’s enough of a pandering tool to make me wonder. Not only does he occasionally refer to Jerusalem by its Palestinian revanchist name “al-Quds,” he’s also the one who recently advocated reaching out to, er, “moderate elements” of Hezbollah. Imagine how surprised they’ll be when they find out they’ve misunderstood what “jihad” means.