“What did you think of the President’s speech” I have been asked more than once only to reply,
“Not much, in fact, nothing at all.”
“But, surely you’re interested in the details of his plan to stop ISL in its tracks!” The short answer is, “No,” and, though the reasons for my lack of interest should be obvious to all, perhaps I should spell out one or two of them.
First of all, the President of the United States is a politician, and as a politician he is a liar. Like all of his predecessors in my lifetime, the President stands up in front of the cameras and reads a prepared statement designed to elicit a positive response from the media and the general public. It is PR, pure and simple, and PR mostly consists of lies. This President in particular, while he is terribly ineffective in making a case, is even less predisposed to grapple with reality than his three immediate predecessors.
This leads to the second reason: Even if Mr. Obama wanted to tell the truth about some important piece of public policy, his ignorance and limited powers of reasoning would render his effort futile. He knows nothing about military operations or even the most elementary principles of strategy; he has no knowledge of the Middle East and its history, culture, religion and no knowledge of European an American history that might provide a basis for comparison. He is as dumb as the people who voted for him, and that is saying quite a lot.
Which brings me to the third point: Polling now indicates that a majority of the American people now favor air strikes, at least, against the “Islamic State.” According to media pundits, this call to action is the result of the shocking images they have seen in the media. In other words, a nation of sports fans, tweeters, and rap-listeners has once again been manipulated by virtual reality and now wants the President to order the bombs to fall on the unjust and the just alike. Even if an attack on ISIL is desirable or even necessary, public opinion as created by the media should have no say in the decision.
The strongest support for the President’s decision to drive ISI into the sea—or to the Gates of Hell, to use the Vice President’s platitudinous lie—comes from the very Tea-Party Republicans who, a year ago, had mostly opposed Obama’s plan to bomb the Assad regime and give more active support to the “moderate rebels.” Assad, so the argument—if you can call it that—goes, was not really a threat to the United States, and, a year ago, the President’s supporters are saying, ISIL was only a tiny blip on the radar screen. No one could possibly have known that Islamic extremists would be carving out a large swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq.
This leads to point 4. If nobody could have known, then why did Vladimir Putin—and everyone who writes for Chronicles—know? The fact that Muslim terrorists are now operating under a new banner does not change the reality that these are the same Muslim terrorists who were working to overthrow the Assad regime. A year ago they were our guys or at least the allies of our guys. Naturally, we always claimed to be backing the “moderates,” but how is it that the money and weapons we supply to “moderates”—whether Syrian rebels or the government of Iraq—always end up in the ends of “extremists”?
It is this simple. A year ago, in a fit—even by Obama’s standards—of suicidal stupidity, this administration wanted to bomb a stable dictatorship which, while protecting Christians and the middle class, used ruthless methods to stay in power. A year later, the same administration wants us to make war on the rebels we used to support. At the same time, they refuse to admit their initial error and continue to denounce Assad, while—and this is the truly amazing part—calling on Congress to send half a billion dollars of aid to “the moderates.” How dumb—and dishonest—can they get?
If I were a patriotic Republican in Congress, my message to the President would be quite simple. You lied to us a a year ago, and you are lying to us today. Until you can stand up and pretend to be a man and admit your mistake in backing terrorists, no one can possibly trust you not to repeat the mistake. Better to let the ISI terrorists rampage their way through the Middle East, than to continue to support covertly the very Muslim terrorists we claim to be opposing. If we had a king, he would have dismissed Obama long ago and formed a new government around one or two competent technocrats. Since we do not have a king or even a real head of state—only a demagogically elected politician—it is up to—Lord help us—Republicans in Congress to stand up both to the President and to the dumb-as-a-pile-of-rocks Tea-Partiers who have sold their souls (as I always said they would) to anti-Christian neoconservatives.
Since the Republicans are not going to stand up to the necons and their army of the living dead, it is a waste of time to worry too much about anything this President says about anything. The big bad Muslims are not going to steal your big-screen TV, and, if they do, it will be because neither party will protect our borders or admit even for a moment that the problem is not Islamicist extremism. The problem is Islam itself.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.