Standpoint: Obama’s Fantasies
Originally published in Standpoint.
A year ago in Cairo, Barack Obama delivered an address promising a new era of wisdom and understanding in confronting the “tensions” between the US and Muslims around the world. Instead, the delusional character of the speech hinted at what would follow: a foreign policy in deep denial about the greatest challenges to international peace and security.
Obama pledged to fight violent extremism “in all its forms”, for example, and then proceeded to relieve Islam of any responsibility for the culture of rage that darkens more than a few Muslim-majority nations. His administration has consistently projected this psychological mood of unreality. The massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, the Christmas Day airline bomber, the failed bomb plot in Times Square-each was reflexively treated by team Obama as an “isolated” or “one-off” anomaly with no connection to a network of radical Islamic jihadists. In each case the White House spoke with self-assured ignorance about the nature of the attack, and then backpedalled within 24 hours.
Nevertheless, none of these “wake-up calls” have disturbed the mendacious mannequins at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House is reportedly drafting a new National Security Strategy that removes any suggestion of a link between Islam and terrorist violence. Religious references such as “Islamic extremism” to describe the ideology of al-Qaeda or other terrorist networks are to be purged. Memos from the State Department and Homeland Security reveal a similar sanitising lurch toward political correctness. In painful-to-watch testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder obdurately refused to admit a connection between radical Islam and recent terrorists plots in the United States. “There are a variety of reasons why people do these things,” he said. “Some of them are potentially religious.”
Potentially religious? Even militant atheists like Christopher Hitchens might fall into that category.
The Obama administration is so obsessed with repudiating the Bush administration — which correctly described a US-led war against “militant Islamic radicalism” — that it has abandoned common sense. Indeed, the authors of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission Report explicitly rejected generic references to a “war on terrorism” in national security documents. “This vagueness blurs the strategy,” they wrote. “The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism — especially the al-Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology.” A recent report by civilian analysts at US Central Command agreed: “We must look at the theological motivations for violence in the same way we view its sociological and economical aspects.”
When President Bush warned that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of religious extremists, he was accused by liberals such as Zbigniew Brzezinski — the national security adviser in the feckless Carter administration — of promoting a “paranoiac view of the world.” Obama gives lip service to the same threat, not to retool America’s strategy to defeat the radicals, but to advance his vision of a nuclear-free planet. The president sincerely, fantastically believes that America’s example of arms reduction and “transparency” — he revealed for the first time the exact number of US nuclear warheads — will inspire pacific behaviour among its enemies. Yet even his own Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, admitted in a leaked memo that the administration “does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability.”
In his Cairo speech, Obama assured his global audience that they could remake the world, “if we have the courage to make a new beginning”. What he offers, however, is well-worn territory: the dissolute daydream of the utopian. It is a vision of a world that does not require moral courage. It represents, rather, a moral evasion that refuses to face the world as we find it. “For it is one thing to see the Land of Peace from a wooded ridge,” wrote St Augustine, “and another to tread the road that leads to it.”
Joseph Loconte is a lecturer in politics at The King’s College in New York City and a contributing edtior to The American.