President Obama has long been criticized by national security hawks and a Republican presidential field led by Donald Trump for refusing to say the words “radical Islam” to describe threats posed by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.
That reluctance won’t be a problem for the president-elect’s national security team, which is flush with nominees who can be expected to employ the term regularly.
The shift will test two deeply opposed worldviews on how to defeat jihadi terrorist groups. Mr. Obama argued that the term “radical Islam” plays into the propaganda narrative of the Islamic State and other U.S. enemies, falsely suggesting that the West was at war with the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims. Mr. Trump, incoming National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn and many others say the U.S. and its allies can never win the war on terrorism if they fail to honestly call out the enemy by name.
“For eight years, the Obama administration sidestepped the issue of properly defining the threat against the West and its allies and used the nebulous term ‘violent extremists’ to describe our enemies,” said Bill Roggio, an editor of the Long War Journal at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.
“The question is whether the incoming Trump administration will go too far to the extreme and define the war as one against Islam,” Mr. Roggio said in an interview this week. “This risks alienating some of our key allies in the Middle East and beyond, whose support is critical if we are going to defeat the global jihadist threat.”