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America should be the main character, shaping these history-changing events on the global stage, but instead it is watching the drama unfold from the audience.

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Idle U.S. Failing Test of its Mettle in Mideast

America should be the main character, shaping these history-changing events on the global stage, but instead it is watching the drama unfold from the audience.

Two Iranian warships traveled through the Suez Canal on their way to Syria with weapons material on board in defiance of American government restrictions, and there is barely a word of denunciation from our State Department.

Radical Yusuf al-Qaradawi spoke to a million Egyptians in Cairo’s Tahrir Square urging the new Egyptian government to open the Rafah border into Gaza so that “we can facilitate aid to our brethren” in an effort to defeat the “enemy” (Israel) and “capture Jerusalem.”  Qaradawi extolled the Muslim Brotherhood, calling for “freedom and democracy” as a vehicle for an “Islamic state based on sharia.”  Yet remarkably neither the State Department nor most intellectuals condemned Qaradawi’s speech.

In Libya, Muammar al-Gaddafi has used overwhelming force, including air bombings, to resist the national movement of rebellion.  Despite the use of military weapons to kill his own citizens, it took five days before the Obama administration responded to the bloodshed, and even then the response was divided, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the U.S. would consider a “no-fly zone over Libya ” and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arguing that that was not a policy option.

In his 1928 book La Trahison des Clercs (The Treason of the Intellectuals), Julien Benda explained how the abandonment of truth was abetting totalitarian ideologies in the 20th century.  He predicted with prophetic accuracy how a denial of reality led directly to World War II.  Clearly one can extrapolate from this analysis 93 years ago to the present, a present in which intellectuals and government leaders deny the reality of radical Islamism, including sharia, jihad, and infidel hatred.

With Arab governments roiled by rebellion, the question that emerges is whether this is the moment for the efflorescence of democratic sentiment or a slide back into a past in which violent theological states arose for the essential purpose of creating caliphates.  How conditions will unfold remains unclear, but on one matter there isn’t any confusion:  The United States has a stake in the outcome.

Yet to the regret of many, the U.S. has not asserted any leadership.  It is as if we are mere observers of a revolution that has the potential to alter international relations permanently.  The level of institutional blindness was evident when intelligence chief James Clapper argued that the Muslim Brotherhood is largely a secular organization.  I wonder whether Clapper asked why it is not named the Secular Brotherhood.

 

This response may not be treasonous, but it assuredly is inept.  The lack of coordination, the many voices claiming to speak for the administration, and the striking and conspicuous silence of the President have produced an air of uncertainty.

Most significantly, it has produced in the mindset of our enemies in Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, and even Turkey, a U.S. that is weak and ineffectual.  Its rhetoric is inconsistent with its action or lack thereof.

In the film A Knight’s Tale, an antagonist tells the hero, played by the late Heath Ledger, “You have been weighed and measured and found wanting.”  The hero’s courage and will are being tested.  It is not far-fetched to contend that our national will has been weighed and measured and it appears as if we have not met the challenges of our time.

Instead of playing the role of a key protagonist, we are mere spectators, confused by what we see on the global stage, and in a state of denial.  History is passing us by the way it did for a generation in the 1930s that had the opportunity to forestall war, but couldn’t marshal the will to do so.  This drama has not yet reached its final act, and it is certainly not too late for decisive action.  However, the curtain may close soon enough, revealing a world condition distinctly inhospitable to our interests.

Written By

Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute and author of the book Decline and Revival in Higher Education (Transaction Publishers).

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