Bush’s Oct. 6 speech transforms the official American understanding of who the enemy is, moving it from the superficial and inadequate notion of “terrorism” to the far deeper concept of “Islamic radicalism.” This change has potentially enduring importance if it convinces polite society to name the enemy. Doing so means, for example, that immigration and law enforcement authorities can take Islam into account when deciding whom to let enter the country or whom to investigate for terrorism offences. Focusing on Muslims as the exclusive source of Islamists permits them finally to do their job adequately.
Yet Bush’s speech is far from perfect. While he limits the “radical Islamic empire” (or caliphate) to just the Spain-to-Indonesia region, Islamists have a global vision that requires control over non-Muslim countries too – and specifically the United States. Their universal ambitions certainly can be stopped, but first they must be understood and resisted. Americans must realize that the Islamists intend to replace the U.S. Constitution with Shari’a (Islamic law).