Obama brings his brand of “identity politics” to the Middle East

After months of ignoring the rise of ISIS in Iraq, and years of ignoring it in Syria, President Obama was finally moved to take limited action against the Islamist barbarians when they trapped the Yazidis on a mountain in Northern Iraq. I applaud the decision and feel pride in America for having saved (it appears) many members of this sect.

But what was magic about the Yazidis? As Seth Mandel points out, via the Washington Post’s reporting, “most analysts agree there’s not a religious or ethnic minority in northern Iraq — Shabaks, Turkmens, Yazidis, Christians — that isn’t in danger.” Indeed, says the Post, after the establishment of a self-styled ISIS caliphate, “one day in mid-July, Christian homes were marked.” And while the Christians were being erased, “militants were hunting Shiite Turkmens, who speak a language that derives from Turkish and, according to Islamic State dogma, are apostates.”

Nor is ISIS persecution limited to religious minorities. The Shiites make up the majority in Iraq. They too have been butchered for their religious beliefs. Why does Obama act to protect only the Yazidis from this fate?

Sadly, there is plenty of liberal precedent for treating identical acts of murder differently based on identity. That’s what the concept of the “hate crime” is all about. If I kill you because I hate you, that’s a crime. If I kill you because I hate due to your race or sexual orientation, that’s a hate crime and can be treated differently.

But the “hate crime” concept doesn’t explain Obama’s rank-ordering of offenses in the Middle East. Killing a Yazidi as an apostate is no more a hate crime than killing a Christian or a Shiite on the same basis.

To resolve this analytical difficulty, we must rely another gem of modern liberalism, the rank-ordering of people based on their identity. We see this all around us — in university admissions policy, in what often is taught at universities (“check your privilege” and all that), in the awarding of government contracts, and so forth.

This rank-ordering applies even to people of the same racial identity. Hence the distinction between “authentic” and “inauthentic” blacks.

Now, Obama has transported this noxious form of discrimination to the Middle East for the purpose of determining, in effect, who shall live and who shall die. Apparently, the Yazidis rate protection because they are the most “insular” minority to be found.

“Insularity” is a concept that a Supreme Court justice invoked in a famous footnote many decades ago to explain why laws harming certain relatively powerless groups should be looked at more closely than other laws. But when ISIS has defeated the army protecting you and is bearing down on your town, unless you’re a Sunni, you are totally powerless.

Obama probably singled out the Yazidis for protection not because they are “insular” but because they enable him to assure the left that his military objectives are extremely limited. But having invoked a moral rationale, Obama should be held accountable for the moral absurdity of his position.


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