“Whatever these murderers think they will achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed,” President Obama said in his remarks on the beheading of Steven Sotloff, the second American to be butchered by ISIS in the space of a few weeks.
Already failed? ISIS will fail only when somebody stronger makes them fail. Meant to be stirring or resolute, the president’s words sound flat, feckless, and hollow. It was jarring that the president several times referred to Steven Sotloff, whom he never met, as “Steve.”
Maybe the president should look at the front page of the New York Daily News, which shows Mr. Sotloff and his masked executioner, with the headline, “Do you have a strategy now, Mr. President?”
ISIS is in the ascendant right now, as are other jihadis. In Libya, once claimed by President Obama as a foreign policy triumph (that was before the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack that killed four Americans showed otherwise), terrorists have reportedly commandeered nearly a dozen commercial airliners. Does President Obama think they have already failed, too?
Bill Gertz reports that Egypt is preparing to intervene in Libya to prevent this no man’s land from becoming a state controlled by terrorists. Let us hope that Egypt can help these evil men to fail.
I can’t help thinking that President Obama didn’t sign up for this. He signed up for something completely different. He liked the adoring crowds, the Greek columns, and Air Force One (which he once referred to as his "my ride”). Mr. Obama came to the presidency through a cult of personality, and that cult had no more fervent believer than Mr. Obama himself:
The day I’m inaugurated, not only the country looks at itself differently, but the world looks at America differently … If I’m reaching out to the Muslim world they understand that I’ve lived in a Muslim country and I may be a Christian, but I also understand their point of view … My sister is half-Indonesian. I traveled there all the way through my college years. And so I’m intimately concerned with what happens in these countries and the cultures and perspective these folks have. And those are powerful tools for us to be able to reach out to the world … then I think the world will have confidence that I am listening to them and that our future and our security is tied up with our ability to work with other countries in the world that will ultimately makes us safer.
Why did this not sound delusional to more voters at the time? Replacing the old world order with the new Obama cult hasn’t worked out very well, has it?
But the cult figure is president of the United States and that means he has authority to conduct foreign policy by his lights.
Victor Davis Hanson points out in a must-read piece on “The New World Disorder” that the much diminished capacity of the United States to deal with crises under President Obama is a transformation sought by the president.
It is a grim piece on the destruction of the order that has prevailed since the end of World War II. VDH writes:
Barack Obama apparently believes that such a retrenchment was both inevitable and to be welcomed. He thought that most U.S. interventions abroad had been either wrong or futile or both; he questioned the world’s status quo and certainly felt, for example, that the widespread persecution of Christians in the Middle East was not nearly as much of a problem as Islamophobia in the West. He came into office believing that Iran, Hamas, and Russia had all been unduly demonized, especially by George W. Bush, and could be reached out to by a sensitive president whose heritage and attitudes might not appear so polarizing.
To Obama, old allies like Britain and Israel either did not need unflinching U.S. support or did not necessarily warrant it. The postwar world that the U.S. had once ensured was no fairer a place than is America at home, and certainly did not justify the vast investment of American time and money — resources that could be far better be spent at home addressing inequality and unfairness. A program of higher taxes, huge budget deficits, and enormous increases in entitlement spending did not have budgetary space for the sort of defense required to keep things calm abroad.
Can the United States and the world be put back together? Hanson writes:
Can the old, pre-Obama postwar order be rebuilt? Of course, but it will require budgetary discipline, a visionary president, experienced national-security advisers, skillful diplomats, and a public that is informed and cares. In other words — not for another two years and five months.
Let us hope Hanson is right. Let us hope this excursion into a personality cult has left the electorate sadder but wiser. Let's hope, but I am not so sure.
Meanwhile, somebody has got to tell State Department spox Jen Psaki to wipe the grin off her face. It is a faint grin and it is likely the result of her being over her head. But it conveys the same kind of unseriousness we see when the president proclaims that ascendant ISIS already is defeated. It has the lack of dignity associated with calling a man you've never met who has just been beheaded "Steve."
Close your eyes and ISIS will go away.
Mr. President, that’s not how it works in a world that doesn’t care about your solipsistic approach to it.