MSNBC’s Alex Wagner: Why Won’t Holder Say We’re at War with Radical Islam?

‘I wonder what you thought of Eric Holder’s refusal to say that the United States is at war with radical Islam, something that the French have already done’

MSNBC’s Alex Wagner: Why Won’t Holder Say We’re at War with Radical Islam? (RealClearPolitics)

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC: David, both Jane [Harman] and you were talking about this sort of changing nature of the enemy here. And I wonder what you thought of Eric Holder's refusal to say that the United States is at war with radical Islam, something that the French have already done. Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, today seemed to take that line as well. Explain to me what you think the calculation is behind not acknowledging that.

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: I think red hot rhetoric like a War on Terrorism, or a new War on Terrorism, is read in the Muslim world as a war on Muslims. It shouldn't be, but I think it tends to be read that way.

The new language that is countering violent extremism, and it says, I think correctly, that there's a way in which this problem of young jihadist youth is like young gang oriented youth in Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, or in Mexico or in Colombia. I know that our law enforcement intelligence officials are looking carefully about what Colombia did to turn a super violent narco problem around.

So, I think the idea of turning this into a war using military rhetoric takes us down a road the United States went down after September 11th, 2001. And as we have seen, that's a bumpy road with a lot of mistakes. And I think the White House and Attorney General Holder are right to caution about that kind of rhetoric and the whole mindset that goes with it. You need to be smarter this time around and understand much of the work is not military, it's not even going to be done by governments. It's going to be done by people in these communities and the question is how do you facilitate them without delegitimizing or stigmatizing them?

ALEX WAGNER: Jane, do you think [Obama not sending anyone] is part of a broader calculation to separate America from this in some way? I guess I wonder when you see Netanyahu, Abbas, Merkel Sarkozy, and Hollande in linked arms, what would the idea be behind not sending anyone?

JANE HARMAN: I think they've admitted a mistake and they made a big one. Whether or not he went, Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, George Bush. There were a lot of options of high level people who have their head in this game and would have send a very strong message. That photo op was very meaningful. You were talking about social media. What messages are we sending? We need to send a message and the rhetoric was there last weekend. John Kerry was very powerful in English and French that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally. But it meant a lot to me to see the president Keda of Mali right in the front row with all the others.

One other thing about Muslim communities, we have done a pretty good job in the United States, a better job than France has, in building trust with Muslim communities. The LAPD has built bridges to the Muslim community, which is fairly large in the Los Angeles area, and built trust by doing that. Community policing can work. That means that these communities, when they see something in their own families or in their neighbors' families that looks weird, talks to law enforcement and trusts that they will help. Most Muslims are law abiding people who believe in a version of the Koran that hasn't been hijacked by these crazies. David is right. We have to keep the rhetoric down, but we also have to keep the messages to the Muslim community positive.

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