- - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In the past few days, we have seen two horrific attacks on Western civilization. The first, in an Orlando nightclub, left 49 innocent people dead and dozens more injured. The second, in Paris, live-streamed the slaughter of a French policeman and his wife in their home, as their three-year-old son watched.

These terrible events raise many questions about how we should confront the threats we face. Among those questions, one is fundamental: how do we explain the atrocities?

An obvious response is that both were perpetrated by Islamist supremacists who were sincerely motivated by their ideology. For some reason, however, President Obama believes this basic fact isn’t important to say. On Tuesday, the President called the use of phrases like “radical Islamism” a “political distraction” and “a political talking point.”

“There’s no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam’,” he said, addressing the Orlando massacre. “…What exactly would using this language accomplish? What exactly would it change?”

It was surreal to watch a commander-in-chief stand in front of the American people, just days after the most deadly terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, and explain why he did not think it was important to tell the truth about the individuals and the ideology responsible. It is difficult to imagine how the President could more clearly have demonstrated his willful dishonesty about the threats we face.

And he was not just dishonest—but flippantly so. None of the President’s advisers, he remarked, have ever told him, “‘Man, if you use that phrase we can really turn this thing around.’ Not once.”

Even in the wake of monstrous terror, the President refuses to take the threat seriously—and he’s facetious about it in the process.

But to answer his question—what exactly would it accomplish to accurately describe our enemies? There is a simple response: It would give us a chance to win the war we are engaged in.

If we do not acknowledge that our enemies are Islamist supremacists, we cannot hope to address the fact that they are united by an ideology that is virulent, violent, and apparently seductive to millions of people.

And if we lie to ourselves about these facts—as President Obama did when he described the Orlando attacker in the language of mental illness (“an angry, disturbed, unstable young man”)—we are willfully blind about the scale of the potential threat. That scale, of course, is catastrophic beyond anything we have seen in American history.

These were not random acts of violence. They were motivated by a clear doctrine—a doctrine that calls for many more attacks, in more places, killing more people in even greater numbers and in ways that are very difficult to stop. This doctrine, which our president considers a distraction, in fact makes plain how serious, dangerous, and committed our enemies are.

If we ignore that doctrine and the ideology behind it, we don’t just completely fail to appreciate the danger. We also fail to develop the proper strategies to confront the threat, or to reassess our assumptions about existing policies. That is how we find ourselves believing silly things, like the idea that more gun control laws are the real solution to the terror problem. That, amazingly, is exactly what President Obama suggested on Tuesday.

“We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents,” he said. “Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism.”

Of course, the Orlando attack that prompted the President’s remarks echoed last year’s attack on a theater in Paris—a place with some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. The laws did not hinder that massacre. But if they had, the terrorists would certainly have used some other method to carry out their killings.

What has happened this week is terrible. The fear and the horror of the innocent people caught in the attacks is unimaginable. As we reflect on the victims and their families, we should remember that until we are serious in confronting this threat honestly, there will be more violence, and there is a real danger that it will be worse than we can imagine. President Obama on Tuesday may unintentionally have made the best case for candor about this fact. He said, “Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.” Indeed, Mr. President, it does not.

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