Roger’s Rules

The Emperor Seth and Kinetic Islam

“Kinetic Islam”: that’s Andy McCarthy’s brilliant coinage. Between us, it means “jihad,” as in what excitable Muslims do after yelling “Allahu Akbar.” You know: Muslim major screamed “Allahu Akbar” before slaughtering 13 at Ft. Hood. Air Force shooter shouted “Allahu Akbar” before killing two US airmen in Frankfurt.  Just another bomb-plotting jihadist yelling “Allahu Akbar!” in Portland, Oregon, at Christmas time last year. Ditto Sweden: “Jihad In Sweden: Homicide Bomber, Screaming Allahu Akbar, Targets Christmas Shoppers.” So many “isolated extremists,” so little time!

Future historians, looking back on this era, will marvel at its capacity for linguistic evasion: never speak about a “global war on terror” when you can talk instead about “overseas contingency operations.” Don’t mention “Islamic terrorism” when “anti-Islamic activity” sounds so much nicer. And just the other day, struggling to find the right, i.e., the politically acceptable, i.e., the patently mendacious, words to describe the President’s Excellent Adventure in Libya, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes proffered this gem: “I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone. Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end.” Orwell, or at least the guardians of Newspeak about whom Orwell wrote, would have been proud.

Many people have, and have rightly, made fun of “kinetic military action” — it’s what rubes like you, me, and General Patton would call “war”—but in a way the more disturbing thing about Ben Rhodes’s smarmy little evasion is the phrase “enforcing a resolution.”  Just whose resolution are we talking about here? We know what he meant by “enforce”: he meant bombing various targets in Libya.  But the question remains: whose resolution, whose will was being enforced?

Was it the will of the American people, expressed through its duly elected representatives, the folks in whom the authority to declare war actually rests?  No. Was it the resolution of the UN Security Council,  which (with the abstention of Russia, China, and Germany) had voted to authorize the use of military force against Libya? Possibly, but what is the connection between a UN resolution and the use of the American military?  Or maybe it was the Arab League, who liked the idea of establishing a  “no-fly” zone in Libya but, to judge by their sudden about-face when the bombs actually started dropping, had not yet taken on board the Marxist precept that he who wills a certain end also wills the means to that end.

The embarrassing thing is that it is pretty unclear exactly whose resolution was being enforced when the planes took to the skies over Tripoli. The president seems to think that it was some species of voluntary social work instigated by the General Will of the “international community.” (Who?) Relaxing recently in El Salvador after the rigors of his swing through Rio De Janeiro and other hardship spots in South and Central America, President Holiday answered — or at least responded to —  questions about what was unfolding in Libya. Ed Driscoll quotes this amazing statement:

And that’s why building this international coalition has been so important because it means that the United States is not bearing all the cost.  It means that we have confidence that we are not going in alone, and it is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions that are important not only to us, but are important internationally.

“. . . it is our military that is being volunteered by others . . .” What others? The others whose resolution we are enforcing. Who are they? The international community, e.g., the United Nations, the Arab League? Are they in command of the United States military?

More and more, Barack Obama reminds me of Emperor Seth, the gormless naïf Evelyn Waugh memorialized in his novel Black Mischief. Like Seth, Obama chafes at criticism. He just cannot understand why people — even many who helped get him elected — are recoiling from his profligate progressivism at home and his paralytic cluelessness abroad. “Fools,” exclaimed Seth early on in Waugh’s satire,

what do they know? What can they understand? I am Seth, grandson of Amurath. Defeat is impossible. I have been to Europe. I know. We have the Tank. This is not a war of Seth against Seyid but of Progress against Barbarism. And Progress must prevail. I have seen the great tattoo of Aldershot, the Paris Exhibition, the Oxford Union. I have read modern books—Shaw, Arlen, Priestley.  What do the gossips in the bazaars know of  all this? The whole might of Evolution rides behind him; at my stirrups run women’s suffrage, vaccination, and vivisection. I am the New Age. I am the Future.

“We,” that is to say, “are the ones we have been waiting for.”

Meanwhile, the Middle East is in a state of combustion. What did you expect? The Second Coming of Jeffersonian democracy,  the reincarnation of James Madison and other apostles of limited government? Andy McCarthy in his NRO column today lays out with all possible clarity the motley composition of those “rebels” who seek to replace the tyranny of Colonel Q. with their own Islamic brand of tyranny. (Headline from today’s Telegraph: “Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links.” Oh, now you tell us!) As Andy notes, one of the rebel commanders is Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, an al-Qaeda-connected jihadist who fought against the U.S. in Afghanistan, was incarcerated for years before being released to Libya. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasadi criticizes the 9/11 attacks, not — hearken well, James Clapper — because it is “largely secular” but for strategic reasons. 9/11 provoked a ferocious attack against Muslims. It was counterproductive to the ultimate goal: the spread of Islam and the institution of Sharia. If you’re in any doubt about what that looks like, ponder what’s happening in Egypt now that the “freedom fighters” have prevailed over Hosni Mubarak. “Egyptian Women Protestors,” Amnesty International reports, “Forced to Take ‘Virginity Tests.’” (Hat-tip to  Instapundit, which has exactly the right tagline: “Barbarians.”)

Reading about the preening Seth and his misadventures in the pages of a satirical is almost painfully funny. A lot of bad things happen. But they seem merely ridiculous because, you know, they didn’t really happen. It was just a story. Just fiction.  But now we have our own President Seth. He’s been to Europe, He has the Tank. And, God help us, he really does believe that he embodies progress, the New Age, the Future. How much ruin will he be allowed to accomplish?

(More from Roger Kimball: Calling things by their right names: a lesson from Confucius.”)