By Michael Goodwin
Coming nine years into the world created by 9/11, his words are haunting. And timely.
"The problem is not simply the extremism. And I think one of the mistakes is in thinking that if you deal with the extremists, you deal with the problem."
Ideally, such words of wisdom would come from President Obama. But they didn't, because Obama remains stuck in the feel-good myth that the problem is limited to a "tiny minority" of Muslims distorting Islam and that America must prove it is worthy of trust.
We therefore turn to Tony Blair for the clear-eyed view that the problem is larger and more complicated. The former British prime minister, in a TV interview, laid out his realizations about global jihad. His conclusions are a must-read for anyone serious about understanding Public Enemy No. 1.
The false narrative fueling the terror movement, Blair told interviewer Charlie Rose last week, "is basically that Islam is under oppression from the West, that the West is hostile, and that by the leadership of Muslim countries being in alliance with the West, they are somehow complicit in a betrayal of the fundamentals of their religion."
The myth attracts believers well beyond the actual terrorists, Blair said, adding, "That is a narrative that has a broader reach than we think."
The last point is as critical as it is controversial. It helps explain the "X factor" -- why most Muslims around the world, including millions in America, remain silent in the face of the grisly atrocities committed under the banner of their religion.
It also explains how scores of "homegrown" terror cells of young men educated in the West become radicalized and plot to blow up airliners, trains and buildings in Times Square and London.
Blair, summarizing his new memoir, said many Muslims who believe in the Al Qaeda narrative do abhor its violence. But suggesting their divided sympathies and sense of victimization create a fertile ground for terror, he also said: "You would get a worrying proportion of people who subscribe to the view that the West is, in fact, hostile to Islam."
The difference between Blair's view and Obama's is not academic. By his misguided actions and words, including apologizing to foreigners for America's pursuit of its national interests, Obama inadvertently feeds the myth that our nation is Islamophobic.
That myth, as Blair aptly describes it, is the central justification for indiscriminate slaughter against our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and our civilians at home.
"The world had to be remade as a result of September 11th," Blair said, citing a "completely different type of terrorist threat" willing to use nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
"It's not just the 3,000 people that died that day, but the fact that, if it could have been 30,000, they would have killed 30,000 or 300,000," he said.
For that reason, he defends the invasion of Iraq and believes Iran must not get a nuclear weapon, even supporting a military attack to stop it.
By contrast, Obama's misty-eyed mistake started from Day One, with his groveling in Egypt and elsewhere and abject expressions of respect for the thugocracy running Iran. These genuflections serve to confirm the belief among many Muslims that America has wronged Islam and that Obama will correct the error. It is no coincidence that among U.S. religious groups, Muslims are Obama's biggest supporters.
He continued down the wrong road at his news conference Friday, a revealing performance where he removed any doubt he still supports the Ground Zero mosque and a civilian trial for the mastermind of 9/11, citing the need to bolster "our image in the world."
As for the vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans who oppose both, Obama dismissively referred to "political rhetoric" and said people are "fearful."
"At a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society," he said.
The comments recall his campaign claim that small-town Americans are "bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." Two years later, he still holds the same elite condescension toward his countrymen. The people continue to disappoint their leader, but, as the polls confirm, the feeling is mutual.
Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist.