An administration adrift on denial

The president famously cannot even name the ISIS threat forthrightly, and that is a criticism not of semantics but of his thinking. ISIS isn’t the only terrorist group, he says, Christians have committed their own sins over history, what about the Crusades, don’t get on your high horse. It’s all so evasive. Each speech comes across as an attempt to make up for the previous speech’s mistakes in tone and substance. At the “violent extremism” summit this week he emphasized Islamic “legitimate grievances” and lectured America on the need for tolerance toward American Muslims.

Of extremists he said: “They say they are religious leaders—they are not religious leaders, they are terrorists.” But ISIS and its followers believe they are religious leaders, prophets who use terrorism to achieve aims they find in religious texts.

On the closing day of the summit the president said, “When people are oppressed and human rights are denied . . . when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism.” Yes, sure. But isn’t ISIS oppressing people, denying their human rights and silencing dissent?

“When peaceful democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorist propaganda that violence is the only available answer.” Yes, sure. But the young men and women ISIS recruits from Western nations already live in peaceful democracies.