Overcoming our inordinate fear of Islamism

In Year Six of the Age of Obama, we seem to be destined to reliving the Carter administration. I have tried to make the case that we are in the Killer Rabbit phase or unwinding of the Age of Obama, when our Dear Leader becomes an object of mockery. With more than two years to go, however, a lot of damage remains to be done.

In his commencement address at Notre Dame in May 1977, Jimmy Carter announced a shift in American foreign policy in the fourth month of his administration: “Being confident of our own future, we are now free of that inordinate fear of communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in that fear. I’m glad that that’s being changed.”

What was the ordinate or proportionate or rational fear of Communism? Apparently not much.

Carter explained: “For too many years, we’ve been willing to adopt the flawed and erroneous principles and tactics of our adversaries, sometimes abandoning our own values for theirs. We’ve fought fire with fire, never thinking that fire is better quenched with water.”

The Democrats had forced the abandonment of Vietnam and the loss of the war. Carter drew the lesson that the long-standing, bipartisan foreign policy of containment had become obsolete: “This approach failed, with Vietnam the best example of its intellectual and moral poverty. But through failure we have now found our way back to our own principles and values, and we have regained our lost confidence.”

Obama’s 2009 speech at Cairo University is the counterpart to Carter’s Notre Dame speech. Obama announced: “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

Obama all but declared that we had overcome our inordinate fear of Islamism. Obama had insisted, over the objection of Egypt’s President Mubarak, that leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood be invited to his speech. As it turns out, Obama had an important message for them.

Is there any Islamist group that Obama and his administration do not want to make a deal with? Yesterday, Iran and the mullahs. Today the Taliban. Tomorrow, Hamas.

And among world leaders Turkey’s Islamist President Erdogan holds a special place in Obama’s heart.

Obama’s Cairo speech is the Rosetta Stone of his foreign policy. The White House has posted transcripts of it in 15 languages and arrayed the translations in alphabetical order by language, from Arabic to Urdu.

Jimmy Carter woke up when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. By contrast, Obama is incapable of learning from events, at least insofar as the Islamist threat is concerned. Obama’s silent abandonment of the recently proclaimed “responsibility to protect” may belie my argument here, but the R2P was merely tactical. Overcoming our inordinate fear of Islamism is strategic.


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