By Daniel Henninger
Wall Street Journal
March 23, 2016
It is true that the Brussels bombings raise questions about
whether Donald Trump,
John Kasich, Ted
Cruz or yes, Hillary
Clinton, would best be able to lead the world against Islamic terror. But
the effect of the bombing on the presidential race has no meaning without first
addressing our man in Havana and America’s twice-elected president, Barack
Unless the campus left succeeds in its effort to tell its
professors what they are allowed to think, future historians will have to
account for the rise of Islamic State—in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Paris, Brussels,
San Bernardino and its future bomb sites—during the years Barack Obama held
office. Either there is some connection, or it has been mere coincidence.
The U.S. is in a tumultuous political moment, and it is
important to understand Mr. Obama’s role. The tendency in our
hyper-personalized politics is to attribute policy to the idiosyncrasies of one
person, in this case “Obama.”
Mr. Obama, for all his self-referencing, is an important
transitional figure in the Democratic Party. He represents an unmistakable
departure from the robust internationalism of FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and
Bill Clinton. Obama Democrats are the New Left progressives who challenged their
party’s establishment in the streets of Chicago in 1968, the most pivotal year
in the modern history of the Democratic Party.
Notice that Mr. Obama said in Cuba, “I have come to bury
the last remnant of the Cold War.” Across the 40 years of the Cold War, which
the American left dismissed as “wasteful military spending,” the holder of
the office Mr. Obama occupies now was called “the leader of the free world.”
As he departs office, President Obama is the leader of . . . what?
Whatever one’s view of the Cold War between the West and
Soviet Communism, the world was united then in containing and defeating an
ideology whose publicly stated goal was to displace the liberal values of the
That unity was a “remnant” worth preserving. Instead,
the world today is disunited in its opposition to the ideology of radicalized
In terms of finally understanding how the Obama presidency
gave up America’s traditional world role, what will sit in memory is the news
photograph of Mr. Obama attending a wreath-laying ceremony at the Jose Marti
monument in Revolution Square, with the iconic picture of Che Guevara looming on
a wall behind him.
It is not that Che Guevara was a stone killer, as Alvaro
Vargas Llosa was quoted
on these pages this week. It is the idea, kept afloat by the international
left for nearly 50 years after his death, that “Che” was a romantic
Mr. Obama is a product of the American left’s revisionist
interpretation of revolutionary movements as ultimately benign and rational. The
Obama foreign policy has been about reasoning with revolutions.
Operating out of the new Democratic Party’s anti-Cold-War
model, the Obama presidency has extended the hand of mutual understanding (a
doubter would call it accommodation) to a succession of revolutionary leaders:
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Russian President Vladimir
Putin, Syria’s Bashar Assad, and the Castros, who now seem to arrest and
beat up dissidents out of reflexive habit.
The now-manifest, deadly flaw in the progressive Obama
foreign policy is that uncontained revolutionary ideologies today are nearly
always centrifugal, overrunning national borders—Islamic State into Europe,
Iran across the whole of the Middle East, Putinized Russia into Ukraine and
Syria. China’s presumably civilized Communist revolution is spreading across
Hong Kong into the South China Sea.
The Brussels bombing surfaced two worldviews in its bloody
wake, Mr. Obama’s and that of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. Mr. Obama
said he never considered canceling his attendance at the baseball game in
Havana, because as the AP reported, it is Mr. Obama’s view that as long as
people refuse to disrupt their lives because of terrorism, “we’re going to
Describing the attacks in Brussels as “the most brutal
barbarity,” Mr. Michel said: “We are confronted with enemies who want to
fight against our freedoms. We have to act to protect our way of life.”
After Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels and the rest of
Islamic State’s daily slaughter routine, the moment has arrived to bring back
the Cold War. The alternative view held then by national leaders was that large
revolutionary movements can be inherently violent, implacable and unappeasable.
And that a civilized world order survives by containing or defeating them.
In the past, Europe argued it was exhausted by two world
wars and found solace in a welfare system that goes by this bitterly ironic
description: cradle to grave. Digging too many graves again, leaders in Europe
and elsewhere look willing to follow America’s lead. But will they?
Imagine Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich or Hillary
Clinton persuading these national leaders to follow the U.S.’s lead. Which one
of these four are they likely to believe and follow? This is one vote the U.S.
electorate had better get right.