The psychology of Barack Obama’s dogged insistence on allowing nothing to halt his vacation – not war, or riots in an American city, or even the brutal murder of an American citizen by ISIS – will be analyzed for years to come. Rush Limbaugh’s theory is that it’s elaborate camouflage for Obama’s domestic agenda – he’s lying low, pretending he doesn’t care about his job, making himself scarce while various domestic policy warheads (such as a massive amnesty for illegal aliens) tick down to detonation. Others wonder if Obama really is just tired of the Presidency, to the point where he can’t be bothered to pretend any more. It could be that Obama believes himself completely beyond all consideration of “optics,” so convinced that his words are charged with divine power that he doesn’t understand how his deeds can undermine them.
For whatever reason, Wednesday lured the President briefly away from his vacation (to, bizarrely enough, an elementary school) to deliver a statement on the vicious murder of American journalist James Foley by the savages of ISIS. Less than 20 minutes later, Barack Obama was back on the golf course. There must be jaws dropping around both the civilized and uncivilized worlds. (I’m not sure which world of dropped jaws is worse. Is it more harmful for ISIS to be laughing at threats from this carefree President, or for America’s allies to get the message that he doesn’t give a damn?)
I’d love to have been a fly on the wall in British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office when he learns Obama returned to his leisure in a matter of minutes after making a few bloodless, perfunctory remarks… even as Cameron calls off his own vacation, expresses an appropriate level of fury, and begins making plans to deal with the situation.
Not only does returning to the golf course minutes after delivering these marks dilute their impact, but there wasn’t much impact to begin with. The good parts of this little speech concerned Obama’s words of praise for Foley and expression of concern for his family, although even that part seemed a bit… off.
Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group ISIL. Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother and a friend. He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away.
He was taken hostage nearly two years ago in Syria, and he was courageously reporting at the time on the conflict there. Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world. He was 40 years old, one of five siblings, the son of a mom and dad who worked tirelessly for his release. Earlier today, I spoke to the Foleys and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.
“Appalled?” That seems to be the official term chosen by White House wordsmiths, because a spokeswoman used it earlier today. It’s a passive word, the reaction of people standing mute and motionless after they witness something moderately unpleasant. Is this the language you would use if James Foley was your friend, brother, husband, or son? “I’m appalled that my best friend was murdered, I’m just heartbroken by his loss, and I’d like to honor his work.”
What follows next can best be described as Obama trying to shame ISIS into feeling bad about their antics. Crucially, he never gets around to describing what actually happened to Foley, an unspeakable act of savagery that included forcing the doomed man to read a statement and delivering blood-curdling threats against more Americans unless their demands are met. I guess Obama felt that dwelling on precisely what happened would raise expectations for him to do something about it. It would also have made the optics of his afternoon tee time even worse. And it might have lead to awkward follow-up questions about exactly when the Obama White House was informed about the threat to Foley’s life, and why the President didn’t interrupt his leisure activities until now.
Now, Jim Foley???s life stands in stark contrast to his killers. Let???s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shi???a, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.
They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.
“Their ideology is bankrupt?” On the contrary, Mr. Obama, they’ve seized millions of dollars in cash and equipment from conquered territories. They’re the richest, most powerful terror state in history.
They “speak for no religion?” Thousands of eager Muslim recruits from around the world strongly disagree. The likelihood of Foley’s murder being a British citizen has increased. There are currently twice as many British Muslims fighting for ISIS as there are for the United Kingdom. The head-choppers will be happy to show you exactly which passages in the Koran say that a “just God” does indeed endorse what they are doing, and a very large number of people would agree with them. I also recommend against waiting around for a “just God” to stop them with supernatural forces.
Yes, many of ISIS’ victims are the “wrong kind of Muslim.” We may all fervently hope the moderate Muslims of the world finally rise up and join in smashing these monsters. But to say that they “speak for no religion” is deliberate, politically calculated, bone-headed blindness.
People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him. The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what???s necessary to see that justice is done and we act against ISIL, standing alongside others. The people of Iraq, who with our support are taking the fight to ISIL must continue coming together to expel these terrorists from their community. The people of Syria, whose story Jim Foley told, do not deserve to live under the shadow of a tyrant or terrorists. They have our support in their pursuit of a future rooted in dignity.
No, Mr. Obama, people like the Islamic State don’t “ultimately fail.” They are defeated. They’re doing quite well for themselves, in the absence of military opposition. There is no sign of the Islamic State rotting away and collapsing from within any time soon. They’re expanding. For that matter, the comparable totalitarian horrors of the Twentieth Century didn’t “ultimately fail,” either. Not one of them has failed. Some of them are still around (and I have a feeling we’ll be hearing from them shortly, since they hate seeing other monsters hog the global spotlight.) Most of the others were destroyed at enormous human cost. That includes the Soviet Union, although of course it’s an article of faith in Obama’s leftist ideology that they just faded away over time, because they don’t want to give credit to the great leaders who defeated them.
The people of Syria might not “deserve to live under the shadow of a tyrant or terrorists,” but those are the only choices at the moment, and it doesn’t look like the tyrant is going anywhere. American influence is gone, squandered by Obama’s reckless policies and the buffoonery of his Secretary of State, John Kerry. Likewise in Iraq, where Obama’s hideous error of withdrawing American forces completely is paying hellish dividends, and leaves us with few good cards to play.
So even as video of an American being brutally slaughtered flies around the world, accompanied by bloody threats of horrors to come, Barack Obama is reduced to passively wishing that somebody else get rid of the Islamic State for him, assuming it doesn’t evaporate on its own first. There have been some encouraging battlefield developments with American air support, but no one is anywhere near “expelling” ISIS from either Iraq or Syria.
From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of this kind of nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century. Friends and allies around the world, we share a common security and a common set of values that are rooted in the opposite of what we saw yesterday. And we will continue to confront this hateful terrorism and replace it with a sense of hope and civility.
And that???s what Jim Foley stood for, a man who lived his word, who courageously told the stories of his fellow human beings, who was liked and loved by friends and family. Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim. All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us morn his loss. We keep in our prayers those other Americans who are separated from their families. And we will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. May God bless and keep Jim???s memory. And may God bless the United States of America.
“Nihilistic ideologies?” No, Mr. Obama, ISIS isn’t nihilistic. They have a positive agenda. They’re looking to build something enduring. It’s horrible, sure, but it’s far from nihilistic – an accusation of random bloody-mindedness so incredibly off-base that it qualifies as a straw-man argument from Obama, the grand master of straw men. ISIS is not a tiny band of doomsday cultists like the Hale-Bopp Comet crowd. Describing them as such makes them sound like a problem that will resolve itself.
These remarks sound more like Obama trying to put down talking-point markers to defend his foreign policy on the Sunday shows than responding to a terrible change in the situation. It’s a Mad Lib of all his usual rhetorical flourishes, including the “wrong side of history” canard he uses when he’s crossing his fingers and hoping the bad guys get lost. “One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century?” As it happens, “we” don’t all seem to agree on that, but even if everyone on Earth who was not a member of the Islamic State agreed that it has no place in the 21st century, it wouldn’t evaporate under the weight of their stern disapproval.
There’s an awful lot going on that makes me worry these groups will define the 21st century, in various horrifying ways. Obama’s presidency has been all about lowering a weakened, chastened America into her hospice bed; it’s an explicit part of his philosophy that we are no longer the people who defeated the Axis, and it’s cruel to expect such achievements of us. It’s also an explicit part of his philosophy that America has no historical, moral right to give anyone else lectures about who belongs in what century. He keeps falling back on that rhetoric even though he’s the same guy who said American exceptionalism is a mirage, and spent much of his first time apologizing to the world for everything America did before he came along. He’s the man who laughed at the notion the Islamic State could ever exist, who mocked the better men who tried to warn him about the dangers of leaving Iraq exposed. He’s lecturing an enemy nation he was absolutely positive could never take the ground they currently occupy. Perhaps they can still be ejected from the 21st century, but Obama’s decisions have already made it much harder and bloodier than it needed to be. And unlike his pleasant days on the golf course, there are no mulligans.
Update: Looks like “nihilistic” has definitely achieved the status of Official Obama Administration Talking Point…
There is evil in this world. ISIL = ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic, valueless evil.
??? John Kerry (@JohnKerry) August 20, 2014