The world was so much simpler just five years ago. Back in that heady era of hope and change all the smart people assured us that any unpleasantness anywhere in the world — but especially with those nice folks in the Islamic world — was surely the fault of George W. Bush and the mean old western civilization that he had somehow come to lead, and all could be put right simply by smarter and more soft-spoken and culturally sensitive diplomacy. The mere presence in the White House of Barack Hussein Obama, by virtue of his dark hue, exotic nomenclature, Islamic education, and soaring oratory, was all that was needed to usher in a new age of global cooperation.
Things are now more complicated, judging by a cursory glance at the latest headlines. In the very same Cairo where President Obama gave a much-ballyhooed speech that was supposed to solve everything there is a sort of civil war underway, with forces of the military regime killing hundreds of backers of the recently deposed democratically-elected government that took power after Obama helped bring down a longtime dictator. It all sounds very much like a simple case of authoritarian forces crushing the legitimate aspirations of the freedom-yearning people, just the sort of clear-cut good-versus-evil scenario that Obama was elected to rectify, but the democratically-elected government was run by a fanatical Islamist group with no intention of allowing anything like a real democracy to exist and even while out of power is on a murderous rampage against the country’s Christian minority and anyone else that opposes its unrestrained power. The American response has been similarly muddled, with Obama condemning only the Egyptian government’s actions but refusing to call it a military coup and continuing to offer it substantial aid, and the result has been that both sides now regard America as the bad guy.
Further complicating the situation is the continued deterioration of the entire region. An all-out civil war continues to rage in Syria despite the American president’s insistence that country’s odious dictator must step down and despite American aid to the equally odious Islamist nutcases who are fighting him. A slightly different variety of Islamist nutcases in Iran continue their steady progress toward acquiring a nuclear weapon they have vowed to use against Israel, which is shrewdly bolstering its missile defenses even as it releases terrorists to play along with the latest American goose chase after an elusive peace accord with the Palestinians, who have no unified government to negotiate with and are quite uninterested in peace in any case. Yet another collection of Islamist nutcases are biding their time until a promised American withdrawal from Afghanistan to re-assume power in that troublesome country, while still more Islamist nutcases are causing so much mischief in Iraq that its government is asking America to reconsider its arbitrary withdrawal of troops from that nation. Emboldened by the various American retreats and strangely resistant to American efforts to “reset” relations, Russia has further roiled the region with its meddling on behalf of Syria and Iran and its newfound friendship with a meddlesome Saudi Arabia. Oh, and we’re pulling people out of embassies across the region for fear of terrorism, too.
We offer no easy solutions to this mess, nor do we ascribe the greatest measure of blame to any party except for the Islamist nutcases who are intent on imposing a totalitarian theocracy on the region and eventually the world, but that is our point. The naïve idealism of five years has been exposed as a dangerous lie, and the administration’s unwillingness to repudiate it is making a sensible response impossible. At this point only bad guys and bad options are available, and the least worst of these should be chosen without regard to any five-year-old fantasies about soft power and America’s supposed sins. Letting the Egyptian military rout the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood while maintaining peace with Israel and protecting the country’s Christians might well prove in America’s interests, no matter how brutal the methods, and the administration’s absurd fiction that those Islamist nutcases represent democracy should not trump such considerations. There is an understandable temptation to simply stand back on the let the entire Islamic world descend into the murderous madness that it seems to relish, with the secular west satisfied to let the region’s dwindling numbers of Christians and Jews suffer whatever fate that entails, but even if America’s conscience were to be untroubled by the slaughter the economic consequences would be harder to ignore. America could mitigate the economic calamity of the Middle East’s oil production shutting down by more fully exploiting its own energy resources, but the administration’s naïve idealism about carbon footprints and big oil wouldn’t allow that.
Still, we are assured that peace is at hand because “that’s what our democracy demands,” so all that unseemly and provocative defense spending can thus be used to fund Obamacare and other programs that will transform American into utopia. The same western left that condemns its own civilization for its racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious intolerance hails as democracy the rise of an Islamist movement that condones slavery, subjects its women to genital mutilation, and executes homosexuals by the most brutal methods, and openly declares its murderous intent against infidels. Let the Islamists have the Middle East and they will leave us alone, we are told, just as the British and French were told that the Nazis would be satisfied with the Sudetanland. In a simpler world, it would all be true.
— Bud Norman