It is generally agreed that foreign policy and national security will be subordinate to the economy in this election. At least one man who has the ear of Mitt Romney, though, believes otherwise.
That man is Dr. Walid Phares, current Senior Adviser of National Security and Foreign Policy to the Romney campaign, adviser to the House Caucus on Anti-terrorism, former member of a Christian militia group during the Lebanese Civil War, and current “expert” on terrorism and Islam. In fact, he is no expert at all, but a man with such outlandish views on Islam that Rep. Peter King, a man who has never been known for sensitive and nuanced views on Islam, would not allow him to speak at his controversial congressional hearings on Muslim radicalization. Dr. Phares is nothing more than an ideologue who has devoted his life to warning of fantastical plots to bring all of Western civilization under the control of radical Islam.
The story of Dr. Phares begins in the war-ravaged Lebanon of the 1980’s, where his official biography describes him as a writer and a lawyer. That is true, but it neglects to mention what else he was doing while living there. Mother Jones revealed that he served as chief ideologist for the Lebanese Forces, a belligerent group of Lebanese Christians during the civil war, where he worked to promote a vision of an independent Christian state carved out of Lebanon.
“There were lots of horrendous, horrendous atrocities that took place during that civil war, in part fueled by that fairly hateful ideology,” said a State Department official quoted in the article. Most notoriously, elements from the group conducted a massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982. Dr. Phares was not personally involved, but the ideology he was promoting was. Victims were found with crosses carved into their corpses.
Unfortunately, since leaving Lebanon and becoming a commentator on terrorism and Middle Eastern affairs, Dr. Phares’s worldview has undergone remarkably little change. As Muhammad Idrees Ahmad wrote, “the future as seen by Walid Phares is the Lebanese Civil War writ large, with the whole globe as the battlefield.”
For example, in 2009 he lent his “expertise” to The Third Jihad, a documentary that claims to have revealed, for the first time, documents revealing a secret Muslim plot to undermine Western civilization and take over all of North America. The obviously manufactured documents at the center of the film have drawn comparisons to the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which were cited for decades by anti-Semites of all stripes to justify their crimes.
His defenders portray him as a leading academic who has a firm grasp on Islam’s threat to the West. Yet they are throwing their support behind a man who once appeared on The O’Reilly Factor with a bizarre warning to beware of the Arabic language, claiming, “Linguistically, the Arabic language is a very powerful one. It has a lot of codes. It could be used in a lethal way.”
He has been strongly critical of scholars who try to inject nuance into discussions of concepts such as jihad. An attack was written by Dr. Phares in 2007 and published in The American Thinker where he took issue with the work of scholars such as Douglas Streusand, derisively quoted by Phrases as telling CNN the radical notion that, “Jihad is a term of great and positive import in Islam. It is commonly defined as striving or struggle, and can mean an internal or external struggle for faith.”
Dr. Phares would prefer us to base our decisions off of propaganda videotapes from terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, describing them as “all the evidence necessary” for the American public to understand the concept of jihad. There is no room for nuance in his Manichean worldview.
Perhaps as a result, his work has failed to gain traction within academia. Dr. Martha Crenshaw of Stanford University, an actual expert in terrorism, was quoted in The New Republic as saying that she had never come across his work, while Dr. As`ad AbuKhalil of California State University-Stanislaus noted that he wasn’t exactly a regular at Middle Eastern Studies conferences.
His defenders don’t deny any of this, but find his exclusion from mainstream academia as evidence not of poor scholarly work, rather of a conspiracy of leftist and Israel-bashing academics determined to silence the dissenting voice in their midst.
What does all of this mean for Mitt Romney?
It is not difficult to determine what Dr. Phares is telling Gov. Romney, because he laid out his political priorities in 2008 when he endorsed the former governor the last time he ran for the Republican nomination. In the piece, he writes that he fervently wishes he could base his vote on issues such as health or the environment. However, the looming specter of global jihad forced him to divert his vote to the candidate with the strongest anti-jihadist stance instead. One might describe him as somewhat of a single-issue voter.
The article is a classic work of bloated rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims. According to Dr. Phares, the Western democracies are filled with waves of jihadists who have “penetrated the social and defense layers of Western Europe and the United States.” He writes despairingly of “the fall of Constantinople being repeated on these shores in the next decade or two” a disaster that “humanity will not recover from.”
Among the most absurd predictions include, “By 2012 the Jihadists may recruit one million suicide bombers and could align two nuclear powers. By 2016 they would deploy 10 million suicide bombers and seize five regimes equipped with the final weapon.” He never qualifies what exactly the second fall of Constantinople would entail, but apparently it involves at least several million suicide bombers.
This prophecy is particularly revealing because it encapsulates both his astounding Islamophobia and his shockingly poor grasp on foreign affairs, a field in which he is nominally an expert. The idea of five separate nuclear-armed nations under the control of radical jihadists is a terrifying thought. It would be even more terrifying if it could happen.
Generously granting him a nuclear Iran where the ayatollahs remain in power and a Pakistan under the control of radical Islamists by 2016, we’re still left three countries short. This means that there are three possibilities: either this man either has no idea what countries have nuclear capabilities (yet maintains he is an expert on security matters), he honestly thinks that at least three of the remaining nations with nuclear arsenals (Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Russia, and the United States) are in danger of falling to radical Islamists any day now, or he is simply lying to instill fear into the American electorate. Any of these possibilities should raise troubling questions about what kind of national security advice Gov. Romney is receiving.
Gov. Romney once said that, “I just don’t believe that…divisiveness based on religion has a place in this country.”
Yet by naming Dr. Phares to his team, he made a move that Dr. Omid Safi of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill likened to naming former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke to be an adviser on race relations.
It’s time for Gov. Romney to stand by his statement and show that divisiveness based on religion has no place in this country or his campaign. If he doesn’t, we all need to be aware what kind of advice he will be getting.