In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Obama administration is grappling with how to handle Islamists, radical adherents to Islam. Particularly, the issue has come to the fore in regards to Egypt, which, as Reuel Marc Gerecht notes, "is now certain" to elect "an Islamist" as its leaders the next time the Egyptian people go to the polls.
But some in the Obama administration are now seeing things differently.
"The war on terror is over," a senior official in the State Department official tells the National Journal. "Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."
This new outlook has, in the words of the National Journal, come from a belief among administration officials that "It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists."
The National Journal explains:
The new approach is made possible by the double impact of the Arab Spring, which supplies a new means of empowerment to young Arabs other than violent jihad, and Obama's savagely successful military drone campaign against the worst of the violent jihadists, al Qaida.
For the president himself, this new thinking comes from a "realiz[ation that] he has no choice but to cultivate the Muslim Brotherhood and other relatively 'moderate' Islamist groups emerging as lead political players out of the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere."
This new outlook is radically different than what was expressed under President George W. Bush immediately after September 11, 2001. "Over time it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity," Bush said on November 6, 2001. "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror."
For President Barack Obama, it would seem, one can be both with us and against us--or not with us, but not quite against us.