The Emperor Seth and Kinetic Islam

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.")