The Incredible Shrinking President

By Bruce Thornton

FrontPage Magazine

November 20, 2015


The bodies of slaughtered Parisians were still unburied when our president, the leader of the most powerful country in history, beclowned himself on the world stage. In Turkey Obama gave a speech that surpassed even his long record of narcissistic petulance and juvenile snark. What we are witnessing is a willful destruction of America’s prestige and authority unprecedented in our history. It’s a sad day when the President of the United States makes a milquetoast French socialist like François Hollande sound like George S. Patton.

A jihadist organization, the most prominent of a metastasizing global movement, had just murdered 129 Europeans in the worst attack since the Madrid train-bombings of 2004. But for Obama, this was a “setback.” This tin-eared word choice came from an alleged silver-tongued orator. But lack of oratorical skill is not the cause of his gaffe, but rather Obama’s need to maintain the narrative of success he had peddled for months. Rather than acknowledge the wages of his disastrous foreign policy of appeasement and retreat, he had tried to dismiss ISIS as a “jayvee” team that had been “contained.” Of course, ISIS was spawned by his precipitate withdrawal from Iraq, reliance on “redline” bluster in Syria, and groveling concessions to Iran. 

So Barack was understandably testy when the media roused themselves from their lapdog slumbers and did their job by asking whether his policy is now untenable. “So, this is another variation on the same question,” snapped Mr. Obama at one point. “And I guess—let me try it one last time.” As for a more muscular response suggested by critics, some members of his administration, Obama waved this away as mere “pop[ping] off” on the part of simpletons who don’t understand that “a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria.” Meanwhile, free of our missish rules of engagement that force many of our sorties to return with their bombs, Russian jets have flown five times more sorties a day than the U.S., and destroyed twice as many ISIS oil trucks than destroyed by the U.S. And Russia bombed the enemies of their client Bashar al Assad, among whom are fighters we support, and the Iranians have put the “boots on the ground” that Obama claims cannot solve the problem. 

Like the Oakland Raiders’ Al Davis, the Russians and Iranians fight by the code of “just win, baby,” while our president dismisses as rhetoric any talk of “American leadership or America winning,” and sniffed that his critics “think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference” and that we need to “make America look tough or make me look tough.” Imagine Churchill taking that tact during the Battle of Britain. Churchill, of course, understood the age-old wisdom that, as Vergil put it, “They have power because they seem to have power,” that in a conflict prestige and morale are more important than material.  The French get it–– French jets are blasting ISIS in vengeance, and Hollande swears to fight ISIS “without a respite, without a truce . . . It is not a question of containing but of destroying this organization.”

Obama did rouse himself into a passion during his speech when he went after those who might question the wisdom of allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both,” Obama declaimed in Emma Lazarus tones. A few days later, in the face of criticism that it might not be a good idea to let poorly vetted Syrians into our country, Obama called such good sense “offensive and hysterical,” and sneered that his critics were “scared of widows and orphans.” Obama’s taunts were quickly discredited when a few days later the French killed Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the Paris murders and a refugee from Syria, in a firefight in which 5,000 rounds were fired. In the same action a woman blew herself to pieces, a reminder to Obama that women and children operate suicide vests as well. Given that there are ongoing terror investigations in all 50 states, ISIS has threatened to make New York and D.C. its next targets, and five Syrian refugees have been apprehended in Honduras making their way to the U.S., Obama’s insouciance reflects either stupidity or political calculation.

Walter Russell Mead opts for the latter and sums up Obama’s attempts to misdirect the American people from his incompetent foreign policy:

Obama’s own policy decisions—allowing Assad to convert peaceful demonstrations into an increasingly ugly civil war, refusing to declare safe havens and no fly zones—were instrumental in creating the Syrian refugee crisis. This crisis is in large part the direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to stand aside and watch Syria burn. For him to try and use a derisory and symbolic program to allow 10,000 refugees into the United States in order to posture as more caring than those evil Jacksonian rednecks out in the benighted sticks is one of the most cynical, cold-blooded, and nastily divisive moves an American President has made in a long time.

Finally, Obama trotted out the tired  “nothing to do with Islam” trope. “And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam,” he scolded, “those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.” 

This is the stale apologist argument that ignores 14 centuries of Islamic doctrine, scripture, and practice. It reminds me of Joseph de Maistre’s riposte to Rousseau’s “Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains”: “Sheep are born carnivores but everywhere eat grass.” Muslims are born peace-loving and tolerant, and everywhere invade, enslave, and slaughter. Until we face, and force Muslims to reform, the theologized violence, intolerance, and supremacy inherent in Islam, we will never be able to destroy jihadism. 

And please, let’s drop the notion that the jihadists kill us because of our bad behavior, that anything we do in self-defense of our lives and principles and beliefs is a “recruitment tool” for jihadism. The jihadists have agency and act on beliefs sanctified by 14 centuries of religious precept and example, particularly that of Mohammed himself, who said very clearly, “I was ordered to fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah,” a command repeated by Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and the Fort Hood killer Nidal Malik Hassan.

Obama’s speech in Paris has diminished his stature nearly to the point of invisibility. His arrogance, ignorance, and toxic self-regard have compromised the security of our country and seriously damaged our global prestige. It’s going to be a long 14 months before we can get the chance to change course .