America’s foreign policy is, and has been driven by fatally flawed, intellectually dishonest premises and principles for more than a decade.
As a result, since Sept. 11, 2001, our goals, tactics and strategies have ranged from wrong-headed though well intentioned, to wrong-headed and ill intentioned. If America continues to fundamentally misunderstand its enemies, let alone honestly define who they are, it risks losing its position as the world’s preeminent superpower, a calamity the likes of which may spell the end of Western civilization as we know it.
President George W. Bush’s crucial first mistake in this author’s view was declaring a “War On Terror.” In announcing that America was at war with a tactic — either due to a genuine inability to identify the enemy or out of political correctness so as to avoid having to identify a foe primarily animated by religion — President Bush’s rhetoric was incoherent at best and obfuscatory at worst.
While designating members of the so-called “Axis-of-Evil” as our chief adversaries was closer to the mark, President Bush nonetheless failed to recognize or refused to acknowledge a central truth we continue to ignore: That we are the enemy of a transnational theopolitical Islamic supremacist ideology that knows no borders whose adherents serve as an ally of, and proxy for international powers with anti-Western designs.
In fact, President Bush explicitly disavowed the notion that there was a link between Islamic supremacism and the jihadist acts that it compels, arguing in the days following September 11 that Islam was a “religion of peace.”
We can debate the merits of this assertion by looking to the Koran and the hadith as well as the theological interpretations of these works by leading Islamic scholars, but this is merely an academic exercise. Whether or not we call Islam a religion of peace, more important is that while there may be millions of peaceful Muslims, there are also millions of believers who are either violent Islamic supremacists or their aiders, abettors and enablers.
The latter group seeks to unite the world under a caliphate governed by Shariah law. Corroborative data on Islamic views not only in the Middle East but in Europe and the United States is readily available for all those who wish to see it.
Bush and those who shaped his foreign policy believed that America could forcibly transform Islamic nations into peaceful liberal bastions, pushing Afghanistan and Iraq forward by hundreds of years in a decade.
The de-Ba’athification of Iraq was done without recognition of the theopolitical Islamic supremacist ideology that reigns supreme in much of the Middle East in general, and in Iraq in particular. It further undercut America’s strategic interest in having Iraq continue to serve as a strong counterweight to Iran, based on the Sunni/Shiite divide between the two nations.
Many of our efforts under former presidential envoy to Iraq Paul Bremer seem to have been undertaken without clear goals, realistic objectives or even sound tactics. Much of the activity on the ground appears to have been chiefly informed by political correctness. Militarily, our troops report being hamstrung by suicidal rules of engagement that gave the benefit of the doubt, and thus the upper hand to enemy combatants. Finally, and most fundamentally, this mission was undertaken without a clear exit strategy.
However noble the aims of those who supported such a policy, and however much blame President Barack Obama deserves for not consummating a status of forces agreement with Iraq upon our departure, nearly $2 trillion — and more importantly the lives of thousands — have been spent “winning” wars and losing the peace, establishing Shariah-compliant constitutional “democracies” in Afghanistan and Iraq, and little else.
Freeing majority Islamic nations from secular authoritarians in order to re-make them as liberal Western democracies, and thus “win the hearts and minds” of those with views anathema to ours sounds great in theory. Yet practice has proven less hospitable.
Under President Obama, America’s war has morphed, with national security leaders – including our commander in chief – intentionally downplaying the size and scope of the threats we face, and denying the true nature of those who pose them, with deadly consequences.
The Obama administration has re-cast war as “kinetic military action.” It has re-classified terrorist attacks as “workplace violence” or “man-caused disasters,” actions to be treated as mere matters of criminal justice.
Our enemy has transformed from “terrorists” to “extremists,” in an attempt to shift American’s focus to the left’s true bogeyman: Radical right-wing Americans – primarily those “bitter clingers” in fly-over country, not the jihadists who seek to destroy us.
The Obama administration’s rebranding efforts indicate that we are more concerned with politically correct phrasing – so as not to offend our enemies’ sensibilities, and consistent with our warped view of a world as we wish it were, rather than how it is – than in telling the unvarnished truth.
Euphemistic words have consequences, as do euphemistic actions.
Soon Al Qaeda “shrunk” to core Al Qaeda. After supposedly sending core Al Qaeda “on the run,” the Obama administration set its sights on taking down the secular authoritarians who suppressed latent Islamic supremacist forces that threatened to set the Middle East ablaze. Now our greatest foe is Islamic State. Who knows what it will be tomorrow?
Throwing all caution to the wind, our president enabled America’s worst enemies, in some cases actively aiding and abetting them. The Obama administration backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, “rebels” in Libya, allegedly executed a gunrunning operation to arm so-called “moderate” forces in Syria — who we knew included jihadists — and in effect aided Iran on its path to nuclear weaponry.
In Egypt, the president’s wishes were thwarted. The Muslim Brotherhood that Obama invited to the White House was crushed and outlawed (in Egypt, not in America). Egypt, not America, proved itself to be perhaps Israel’s most staunch supporter during operation Protective Edge.
President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared Libya, where we helped depose a dictator who we had already disarmed, a great success, only for this supposed victory to literally go up in flames, with our ambassador and three other patriots killed, and our Embassy in Tripoli becoming a resort for jihadists.
Syria is in chaos in part due to the vacuum that President Obama helped create, first by declaring a “Red Line” that he was not serious about enforcing against a tyrant who did not pose a clear and present danger to American interests, and then in allowing Iraq to fall into chaos by not consummating a status of forces agreement.
Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad’s weapons, contrary to the Obama administration narrative, by United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power’s own admission have likely not all been destroyed. In fact, Power expressed concern that such weapons could fall into the hands of jihadists. Perhaps even worse, from a broader strategic perspective, Russia upstaged the U.S. in brokering the faux weapons destruction agreement, supplanting America as the strong force in the Middle East.
In Iran, again in spite of Obama administration claims, eased sanctions have led to nothing but a richer Iran, growing ever closer to becoming a nuclear power. A nuclear Iran will likely set off a whole host of related events throughout Arabia, potentially including widespread nuclear proliferation. Will this prove beneficial for the U.S. and its interests?
Beyond these matters, we are told that the Obama administration reflects superiority in terrorist hunting.
Yet as Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard recently reported, the notion that Al Qaeda was “on the run” leading up to the 2012 election directly contradicted the massive volume of intelligence collected in the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. The administration knew of such data and apparently suppressed it, cherry-picking intelligence indicating the U.S. had significantly damaged Al Qaeda, while suppressing the overwhelming evidence to the contrary in order to deceive the public for political gain.
Most immediately, the cauldron of jihadism that the Obama administration helped stir, bubbled over in the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff at the hands of an ascendant Islamic State.
Given that this force self-identifies as “Islamic,” one would think that President Obama would have described them as such in his short address in the wake of the beheading of Mr. Foley. But alas, the words “jihad,” and “Islam” were conspicuously absent from the president’s remarks.
As an aside, he chalked up his apparent coldness in playing golf minutes after the speech to poor “optics.” In other words the president feels his failure was not his apparent lack of empathy for a slain American, but the public perception that it would be in poor taste to play golf at such a time. Contrast this episode with the president’s tender and emotional embrace of military deserter Bowe Bergdahl’s parents after he traded five jihadists for the U.S. army sergeant.
In any event, President Obama not only severed any link between the beheadings and Islam, he instead argued precisely the opposite, describing these evil savages as espousing a “nihilistic,” ideology, and speaking “for no religion.”
In his most recent address to the nation on action to be taken against Islamic State, he doubled down on prior arguments, stating point-blank that “ISIS is not Islamic.” Incidentally, this is precisely the kind of statement that chief jihadist apologist and unindicted co-conspirator in a terror-funding case, Council on American-Islamic Relations, asked for.
To those who argue that Obama’s foreign policy has been lazy or incoherent — or that the man is simply naïve and in over his head — consider his guiding ideology and the actions that should naturally flow from it. If you believe that the West has largely been a force for evil in the world, and that Islamic hatred is due to our “unjust,” “genocidal,” “colonial” interventions therein, how best to serve justice and ensure fairness than to support the radical overthrow of the existing order, so that the inhabitants of Arabia can finally achieve “self-determination.”
To those who argue that President Obama is a noninterventionist, consider that his administration chose to support the removal of the pillars of Middle Eastern stability — relatively secular authoritarian dictators – enabling Islamic supremacists, while spitting in the faces of America’s traditional allies (who “enrage” the president).
The Obama doctrine in sum consists of redistribution of wealth at home and redistribution of American power to the enemies of Western civilization abroad. Call it international social justice.
For while George W. Bush sought to bring true freedom to the Middle East under the misguided notion that liberty would trump Shariah – something only possible if the Muslims of the Middle East were driven by the same hopes, desires and ambitions as Westerners — Barack Obama sought to liberate the oppressed Muslims, believing that Shariah would trump secular dictatorships, and that such a triumph was “just.”
In light of the premises from which Bush’s and Obama’s policies flowed, is it any wonder that their actions have helped create a world on fire today? Is it any wonder that the Middle East has splintered into a raging sectarian civil war, with a festering cesspool of jihadists rising in all directions, while a revanchist Russia and heretofore patient China begin their own marches unopposed?
Today there is a foreign policy battle raging between Republican interventionists like Sen. John McCain and leftist and libertarian isolationists like former Reps. Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul.
Individuals like McCain believe in liberating the peoples of the Muslim world, toppling secular authoritarian dictators and allowing the people to choose their own path – again assuming that this will lead to liberal Western democracies, or at least something superior to the prevailing order.
Leftist isolationists as well as some (but not all) libertarians like Paul argue that America has reaped what it has sown by intervening in the Muslim world, either by perpetuating injustice in the case of the leftists, or in effect violating non-aggression principles in the case of the libertarians. Leftists take the view that America is the root of injustice in the world, and that if we simply leave people alone, our enemies will not follow us home. Libertarians like Paul believe that through free trade we can achieve peace.
Both groups seem to view all peoples as being fundamentally the same.
Both of these worldviews in this author’s opinion are wrong, evincing either ignorance, intellectual dishonesty in the face of uncomfortable implications, or a complete and utter lack of moral clarity.
The corrective for these views is truth. Developing a sound and comprehensive foreign policy requires starting with a fact-based, political correctness-free, sober assessment of our enemies, as well as ourselves. This realist reflection has yet to be conducted in the 13 years since Sept. 11, 2001.
In order to develop a comprehensive foreign policy strategy, there are several questions that Americans need to ask of those who are, or seek to be commander in chief, as well as Congress and all other elements of our national security apparatus:
- Who is at war with us?
- What is their underlying ideology?
- What are their goals, tactics and strategies?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
If we fail to honestly define our enemy, what drives them, how they seek to defeat us and where they are vulnerable, we surely cannot defeat them.
Were we to play this exercise out, one might argue that perhaps our chief enemy consists of Islamic supremacists. They are driven by an inherently expansionistic theopolitical ideology that seeks to create a worldwide caliph that governs according to Shariah law. They seek to exploit Western strengths such as freedom of religion, speech and pluralism, subverting our fundamental institutions through peaceful subterfuge under religious doctrines of taqiyya and dawa, as well as violent jihadist terror. The guiding documents that animate their actions include the Koran and hadith. Their strengths are dogmatism and oil. Their weaknesses are dogmatism, corruption, moral bankruptcy, and, in this writer’s view, ultimately their hubris.
One might argue that whether we are talking about Islamic State, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Jahat Al-Nusra, or any of the other dozens of formal and informal jihadist groups, their only fundamental differences exist over tactics and strategies. Their goals are the same. These goals incidentally again are shared broadly in much of the Islamic world, and even in large numbers in the West.
Islamic supremacists also directly or indirectly serve others who seek power and the fundamental transformation of the West, including the Russians, the Chinese and their fellow traveler proxies in Latin America.
If what I describe means that there are millions of individuals, some peaceful and some violent, who seek to spread Islam the world over — and if their ideology is one incompatible with the Judeo-Christian principles of Western civilization — then we need to acknowledge this, internalize this, and plan accordingly.
A coherent strategy for defeating them might take the form of something like a modern-day NSC-68.
Irrespective of the threats facing America, a return to first principles, among them recognizing and speaking the truth is in order.
Among these truths are that different people are motivated by different things, and that all beliefs are not equal. We must see peoples as they are and not as we want them to be, and we must judge ideas free of moral relativism. We must acknowledge that there is evil in the world, which throughout history has only responded to one language: overwhelming and unrelenting force. For whitewashing or ignoring evil does not extinguish it.
We must recognize that sound foreign policy begins with assessing what is in America’s best interest, evaluating each threat individually, and applying to it the most effective possible tactics and strategy, based on a clear understanding of our enemy.
We must recognize that when we enter into war, we do so to win.
Flawed foreign policy outcomes stem from flawed premises and principles, and to date we have yet to get our premises or principles right.
The results of the politically correct and fundamentally flawed policies enumerated by Bush and Obama have been disastrous.
Political correctness has raped from Rotherham, England to Nigeria.
Political correctness has killed from Fort Hood, Texas to Benghazi, Libya.
The Arab Spring has thrown the Middle East into utter chaos, to the great detriment of America and its allies.
Russia and China see our weakness and are seizing upon it.
America’s strategic position will only worsen if we continue to act fearfully, defensively, and perhaps worst of all, cowardly in the face of truth.
For it is truth that not only sets us free, but keeps us free.
Self-deception is the path to suicide.
The sooner we can embrace the truth, the sooner we will return to the path of peace and prosperity.
The fate of Western civilization depends upon it.
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