Originally published under the title "Democrats Don't Know the Islamic State."
President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton think American words and actions offer ISIS powerful "recruitment tools."
With each new speech they make, the nation's two top Democrats continue to reveal their profound ignorance of what motivates the enemy both promise to defeat.
The White House trope that the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay must be closed because it inspires, recruits and ultimately creates terrorists is a stark illustration of the Obama administration's failure to understand the threat posed by Islamism. Without offering any evidence, the president tells audiences that "Guantanamo has been an enormous recruitment tool for organizations like ISIL." He argues that GITMO "is part of how they rationalize and justify their demented, sick perpetration of violence on innocent people."
In reality the prison in Guantanamo Bay is not even a catalyst to the growth of the Islamic State. And until there are credible reports of jihadists, mid-attack, shouting "This is for Gitmo!" and "Release KSM!" rather than "This is for Syria!" and "Allahu Akbar," no thinking person will believe otherwise.
Contrary to the president's thinking, terrorists released from GITMO have demonstrated a very high recidivism rate, even graduates of the much-exaggerated Saudi terrorist detox program. And since so many of the terrorists released from GITMO have joined ISIS, their return to battle is a far more potent recruitment tool than the camp's mere existence. After the president frees captured and confessed terrorists from the military prison, many go on to become recruiters for the global jihad.
Another illustration of the president's intellectual failing is his fatuous assertion that he "cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric coming out here in the course of this [GOP primary] debate."
But at his year-end press conference, the president made his most ridiculous statement to date when he implied that Islamic State fighters are motivated by their disillusionment with the American dream.
Does Obama really believe ISIS will end its jihad if the U.S. begins 'living up to its professed ideals'?
Explaining how American Muslims with "no criminal record or a history of terrorist activity" are motivated to join the Islamic State, the president pointed to a "notion of a gross injustice, that America is not living up to its professed ideals. We know that. We see the Internet traffic. We see how Guantanamo has been used to create this mythology that America is at war with Islam. And for us to close it is part of our counterterrorism strategy that is supported by our military, our diplomatic and our intelligence teams."
Even Barack Obama can't possibly believe that the Islamic State fighters would end their jihad if only the U.S. would change course and begin "living up to its professed ideals."
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the second most influential Democrat, seems to believe that Donald Trump is the chief motivator of Islamic State fighters, declaring him "ISIS' biggest recruiter" in the Dec. 19 primary debate. Is it wishful thinking on her part when she concocts tales of Islamic State propagandists "going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists?" Or has blaming jihadist violence on obscure and unseen videos become habit?
Neither Obama nor Clinton ever mentions the three primary motivators of the Islamic State: Islamic tradition, its own successes and American weakness.
First, the desire to impose Sharia Law through a global Caliphate adhering to Islamic tradition is the number one motivational force behind the Islamic State. As it expands, the Islamic State is returning to the 7th-century practice of offering limited options to those it conquers: submission (i.e., conversion to Islam), death or the third choice, dhimmitude — a Jim Crow-like system under which the Caliphate forced non-Muslims to live in disarmed, captive thralldom. The Democrats never speak the word "dhimmitude," let alone explain ways that the Islamic State imposes it on the conquered.
American weakness in the face of ISIS expansion is a powerful recruitment tool.
Second, the phenomenal success that the Islamic State has achieved in a relatively short time has inspired many to join. Even the New York Times has recognized this fact.
And third, American and Western weakness in the face of the Islamic State expansion is a powerful motivator. As Osama bin Laden liked to say, when people have the choice between a strong and a weak horse, they invariably choose the strong one. Since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the restoration of the Caliphate, the Islamic State looks like the strong horse while the U.S. policy of "leading from behind" seems the epitome of weakness.
That the two most important Democrats fail to understand the enemy they face is a terrifying development, one that should undermine the public's faith in their leadership and honesty, if not their intelligence.
A.J. Caschetta is a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.