In the furor over President Obama’s remarks last week at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he compared the rise of the Islamic State with the history of Christian extremism, it’s been lost that the president was carefully retreating from the idea that the U.S. is engaged in a grand civilizational war against Islam — a longstanding fallacy which many American politicians are apparently loath to abandon.
After the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington DC, then-President Bush made a memorable rhetorical choice to invoke the Crusades when describing the scope and nature of the coming American military response.
While the implications of such a statement were not evident at the time to many Americans, the same was not true abroad. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine reacted with alarm, saying: “We have to avoid a clash of civilizations at all costs,” and cautioning that “one has to avoid this huge…
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