Is President Obama Sabotaging America By Fighting Al Qaeda?

Over at True/Slant, I wrote recently about the manifold inaccuracies in Andrew McCarthy’s new book, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. They’re sufficiently egregious that the editor at The Washington Examiner who ran the relevant excerpts should offer a lengthy note to readers that corrects the record.

I’ve since purchased the whole book. A review will be forthcoming somewhere if I can find the time to get to it amid my other projects. In the meantime, I want to note a back-and-forth between Mr. McCarthy and Kathryn Jean Lopez, who interviewed him about the book at National Review. Do check it out for yourself. The most astonishing portion comes in a discussion about President Obama, who is said by Mr. McCarthy to be a member of the hard left who is allied with Islam in an effort to sabotage America.

As you can imagine, this is a tricky argument to make, seeing as how President Obama is presiding over ongoing wars against Islamist radicals in Afghanistan and Iraq, even as he expands the conflict into neighboring Pakistan, where he orders that other Islamic radicals be killed by American drones. It is, you might say, an unorthodox alliance between President Obama and the Islamists! This is the kind of inconvenient fact that I’d expect the author of a book like Mr. McCarthy’s to elide. Actually, however, he addresses it directly in the interview with Ms. Lopez — and here is his answer:

LOPEZ: Has the Obama administration done anything right? Has anything pleasantly surprised you?
McCARTHY: Yes. The military attacks on al-Qaeda havens overseas have been very good. There are things with which to quibble. For example, it doesn’t make sense to ramp up troop levels while simultaneously announcing that you’re going to leave. I still disagree fundamentally with the nation-building exercise for the reasons laid out in the book (and often on NRO), but in that regard the administration is essentially continuing the Bush policy. And the administration, particularly by the irresponsible campaign rhetoric of Obama and Eric Holder and other spokesmen, has made it unduly difficult to detain war prisoners.
Marc Theissen and others are right to worry that we are killing people we could be capturing and interrogating — denying ourselves the intel that would improve the effectiveness of our combat operations. But those are quibbles. I said during the campaign that I thought Obama’s position — namely, his promise to attack al-Qaeda safe havens even in Pakistan — was considerably superior to that of McCain (who foolishly regarded Pakistan as a great ally and tried to paint Obama as reckless). My only hesitation was that I believed Obama wasn’t serious — I thought he was just engaging in campaign rhetoric to make himself look stronger and that he’d never actually follow through. He’s proven me wrong on that one, and I’m glad of it.
Of course, the “Why is he doing it?” is the intriguing part. Some of the explanation is domestic politics. But the interesting part goes to the heart of what I’m talking about in the book.
These days, the vibrant debate in Islamist circles — the circles Obama has courted assiduously — is over whether al-Qaeda has outlived its usefulness, at least when it comes to attacking our homeland. Many Islamist thinkers believe the Islamist movement is making such progress marching through our institutions (and Europe’s) that terrorist attacks at this point are a tactical blunder. They cause a blowback effect that retards the progress of what Robert Spencer aptly calls the “stealth jihad.”
Don’t get me wrong: The Islamists are still supportive of terrorist aims, and they still applaud al-Qaeda’s attacks on American troops operating in Muslim countries. (We don’t seem to get this, but even if we think we are doing humanitarian service, Islamist ideology construes sharia to condemn as acts of war attempts to plant Western ideas and institutions in Islamic countries, and to call for violent jihad in response.) But the Brotherhood and the Saudis will sing no sad songs if the U.S. kills bin Laden or crushes al-Qaeda. In Muslim countries, they’ll use it as propaganda against us; in the West, they’ll pretend that they always condemned terrorism (they do that now — even as they urge the destruction of Israel and attacks against American troops). So Obama knows the Islamists he wants to engage have decided al-Qaeda is expendable. He won’t lose any ground with them by smashing al-Qaeda.

I’d love to know what Mr. McCarthy’s colleagues who edit National Review think about this argument, especially since the magazine is doing its utmost to support the book and its author.