Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt [FDR], reversing the policy of four presidents and six of their Secretaries of State not to recognize the Soviet government, in 1933 extended “normal diplomatic relations” to the Soviet Union, the totalitarian slaughterhouse of Josef Stalin. As meticulously researched by Diana West in her new book, “American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character,” the reasoning behind Roosevelt’s decision was never made clear; what was clear, however, since the 1917-1919 Bolshevik seizure of the Russian government by force, was the Soviet reign of blood and terror. According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, by the late 1930s, Stalin’s regime was shooting tens of thousands of people per month. Yet, for reasons that remain murky, FDR was influenced, inspired, or somehow persuaded to normalize U.S. relations with Stalin, in exchange for a page of Soviet concessions, not worth the paper they were written on, which pledged that the USSR “would not attempt to subvert or overthrow the U.S. system.”
What West documents is the subsequent process of infiltration, influence, and “occupation” by an army of communist agents and fellow travelers; here, however, the focus is on what that original 1933 decision has meant for future generations, most especially our own, when confronted with decisions about whether or not to recognize enemies who make no secret of their enmity and intention to destroy us.
Whatever FDR’s thinking, West points out that this decision — not just to recognize the blood-soaked communist regime, but to keep on recognizing it — fundamentally transformed what Robert Conquest, the great chronicler of Stalin’s purges, called “the conscience of the civilized world.” And perhaps not just our conscience: as West writes, “[b]ecause the Communist regime was so openly and ideologically dedicated to our destruction, the act of recognition defied reason and the demands of self-preservation.” In other words, quite aside from the abdication of objective morality represented by FDR’s decision, there was a surrender of “reality-based judgment,” the implications of which on the ability of U.S. national leadership to make sound decisions involving the fundamental defense of the Republic resonate to the current day.
Fast forward to late September 2010, when Mohammed Badi, the Egyptian Supreme Guide of the openly, avowedly jihadist Muslim Brotherhood [MB], literally declared war on the United States (and Israel and unfaithful Arab/Muslim rulers). Badi spoke plainly of “jihad,” “force,” and “a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.” There was no ambiguity in his message: it anticipated the “demise” of the U.S. in the face of Muslim “resistance.” Even as the Muslim Brotherhood, from the earliest years after its 1928 founding, has always been forthright about its Islamic supremacism and objectives of global conquest, a caliphate, and universal shariah [Islamic Law], Badi’s pronouncement was as clear and menacing as Usama bin Laden’s 1996 “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” or his 1998 declaration of “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” – and garnered about as much understanding from the U.S. and Western political leadership of the time – which is to say, very little.
As explained, in fact, in a series of masterful online lectures for the Center for Security Policy [CSP] by Stephen Coughlin, a former Major in the U.S. Army and one of this country’s foremost scholars of Islamic Law, Badi’s October 2010 declaration of jihad against the U.S. followed in direct response to al-Qa’eda’s call to war as published in the inaugural issue, in July 2010, of its online Inspire magazine. This was the alignment of forces that shortly would plunge the Middle East and North Africa [MENA] region into chaos and revolution.
The third and final element to fall into place came in January 2011, in the form of a fatwa from Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the pre-eminent seat of Sunni learning in the Islamic world for over 1,000 years. That landmark declaration, issued at the IslamOnline.net website by Dr. Imad Mustafa, Professor of Fiqh and Its Origins, at the Universities of al-Azhar and Umm al-Qary, made clear that “offensive jihad is permissible in order to secure Islam’s border, to extend God’s religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it…and to remove every religion but Islam from the Arabian peninsula…”
As we know from Islamic books of law such as the “Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law,” “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada signifying warfare to establish the religion…” (Reliance, o9.0, ‘Jihad’). So, there was not much room for doubt about what was being discussed: an alignment of al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood under the theological sanction of al-Azhar to transition together to a more militant phase of jihad against the West, Israel, and westernized Middle Eastern regimes that have failed to enforce shariah. The green light from U.S. President Barack Obama had already been given months previously, at his milestone June 2009 Cairo speech.
Yet, with every menacing signal plainly presented by the Brotherhood, as with the blatant criminality of the Soviet regime, the senior national security leadership of the U.S. in 2010-2011 still seemed oblivious to the jihadist threat. So oblivious, in fact, was the Department of State under Secretary Hillary Clinton that in early July 2011, it changed a long-standing policy of no official U.S. government recognition of the Muslim Brotherhood, and indicated that henceforth the U.S. proactively would pursue “engagement” with the Egyptian jihadis. The timeline is just about eight months from the Muslim Brotherhood’s declaration of war against the U.S. to full normalization of relations — initiated by the United States — minus any cessation of Muslim Brotherhood hostilities against the U.S. or its allies or even so much as a hudna [temporary ceasefire].
Even after the Egyptian military, urged on by huge numbers of the Egyptian people, ousted the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohammed Morsi in early July 2013, in a decisive coup d’état, followed by bloody street battles with the die-hard jihadis who were also busy slaughtering Coptic Christians across Egypt, the U.S. administration still could not bring itself to turn against its Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood penetration of top-level U.S. policy-making circles (as documented by Patrick Poole in a comprehensive June 4, 2013 essay for the MERIA Journal, entitled, “Blind to Terror: The U.S. Governments Disastrous Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy”) is certainly part of the explanation for such irresponsible behavior. The self-destructive legacy of 1933 that bequeathed to FDR’s successors a conditioned willingness to turn away from reality, engage in endlessly wishful thinking, and accept appeasement as an alternative to assertion of national will may well account even more directly for the apparent inability of America’s most senior leadership to acknowledge and confront even those enemies who declare war on us.
The next example of the apparently endless capacity of the human mind for self-deception is the U.S. decision, in March 2011, to enter the Libyan civil war on the side of al-Qa’eda. According to news reports, in early 2011 President Obama issued an “Intelligence Finding” that authorized covert assistance to the al-Qa’eda-dominated rebels fighting to overthrow the longtime Libyan ruler, Muammar Qaddafi. Among the known jihadist militias with which Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the State Department’s official envoy to the Libyan rebel forces, coordinated during the 2011 revolution were: the February 17 Martyrs Brigade; the local al-Qa’eda franchise; Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG, led by Afghanistan veteran Abdelhakim Belhadj); Libya Shield (which fought Qaddafi under the black flag of Islam); and various branches of Ansar al-Shariah, another Libyan al-Qa’eda franchise. Now, even if the most senior levels of the U.S. intelligence community somehow were actually under the impression that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” organization that “has eschewed violence,” al-Qa’eda surely was generally acknowledged to be an Islamic terror group, man-caused disaster organization, or at the very least, in early 2011, a group that still posed some level of threat to U.S. national security interests. Yet, all the same, the Obama White House took the decision to dedicate diplomatic, financial, intelligence, military, and weapons support to these Libyan al-Qa’eda militias, along with our NATO allies, to help them oust a brutal tyrant, but at the time, a true ally of the U.S. and the West in the fight against AQIM (Al-Qa’eda in the Islamic Maghreb). By mid-July 2011, however, the U.S. had formally recognized the Libyan rebel leadership as the country’s legitimate government—al-Qa’eda, Muslim Brotherhood, and all.
To what can such a perversion of reason and reality, of common sense, of any measure of American self-interest be attributed: Poole’s Brotherhood penetration of the U.S. foreign policy cadre? More wishful thinking? The illogic of an upside down world view and America’s place in it? Or the pernicious persistence of that first betrayal, the U.S.’s 1933 recognition of Stalin’s murderous gulag of a regime?
As the world confronts the next horror of innocent Syrian men, women, and little children, hundreds of them apparently, killed in late August 2013 by a rocket barrage of the deadly chemical weapon, sarin, the U.S. and the world once again have the opportunity to react rationally, soberly, and with core U.S. national security interests uppermost in consideration. It seems most likely that the Iranian-and-Hizballah-backed regime of Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad is responsible for this latest war crime, and the outcry to empower his al-Qa’eda- and Muslim Brotherhood-dominated rebel opposition has become overwhelming. U.S. naval forces are positioned near Syria in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, pending a White House decision on U.S. action. Yet, even as one side of this intra-Islamic sectarian civil war is getting the worst of it, with more than 100,000 casualties racked up so far, and no end in sight, with chemical weapons against civilians introduced into the conflict, there has never been a more critical need for rational, sober-minded thinking about where U.S. interests and responsibility lie. While a 2012 Presidential Intelligence Finding for Syria authorized the extensive clandestine CIA, financial, and Special Forces training support that has been channeled to Syrian rebels (jihadis and non-jihadis alike), in the months since then, any decision to expand that support, now that chemical weapons have been used against civilians in a large-scale attack, demands a significantly better informed assessment of the probable beneficiaries of such assistance than has been the case to date.
Any decision to deploy U.S. military force beyond a punishing strike against the specific Syrian base and military unit that carried out this chemical weapons atrocity must take into consideration the consequences of an al-Qa’eda and Muslim Brotherhood victory in the Syrian civil war. It is hard to see how enabling the replacement of Iranian proxies and Shi’ite jihadis in Syria with Sunni jihadis aligned with al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood will advance either U.S. national security interests in the region or those of our closest allies, Israel and Jordan. Providing generous humanitarian assistance to civilian victims is urgent and right; but, before America recognizes any more totalitarian-minded enemies of genuine liberal democracy, it would do well to enlist common sense, good judgment, and a judicious measure of national self-interest. It is high time we stopped empowering those who wish us ill.Clare M. Lopez
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