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Evolution of the Obama Doctrine

The “Obama Doctrine”: what do you suppose that might be? The goal of fundamentally transforming the United States of  America stands in the background, you can be sure of that. But  now, six years into the program, we can see an arc of development, an evolution (or devolution). There are many metrics that can be employed to describe what Obama has done to this country.  One might focus on the economy, on employment, on race relations, on the fate of individual liberty, on more nebulous matters like national mood, international prestige, and that potent if difficult-to-measure armory described in the phrase “soft power.” “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Ronald Reagan famously asked in 1980.  Let’s generalize the question for the last six years: are we as a country better off than we were when Obama took office?

Let’s leave domestic matters — the controversies over Obamacare, the still-unfolding IRS scandals, illegal immigration, energy policy, and the like — to one side.  Let’s  focus instead on national security and the place of the United States on the world stage. How are we doing?

Over at Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds reproduced a mournful litany sent to him by a friend. Cast your mind back a single year, he suggested, all the way back to Labor Day weekend 2013. Then think about all that had not happened:

The Chinese ADIZ [that is, China’s unilateral extension of it defense perimeter in the South China Sea], the Russian annexation of Crimea, the rise of ISIS, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fall of Mosul, the end of Hungarian liberal democracy, the Central American refugee crisis, the Egyptian-UAE attacks on Libya, the extermination of Iraqi Christians, the Yazidi genocide, the scramble to revise NATO’s eastern-frontier defenses, the Kristallnacht-style pogroms in European cities, the reemergence of mainstream anti-Semitism, the third (or fourth, perhaps) American war in Iraq, . . .

Et very much cetera. And all that, Reynolds' anonymous correspondent observes, “was in the future just one year ago.”

“Nature,” Galileo observed four hundred years ago, “abhors a vacuum”  That sucking sound you hear when reading the alarming list of what Secretary of State John Kerry might have dismissed as “19th-century” behavior, unbecoming of a modern, blow-dried state, that rushing wind is the sound of a profound leadership deficit. It’s what happens when a great power abdicates, when it stops acting like an adult and gives free rein to its inner community organizer, its inner selfie. It’s Lord of the Flies writ large.

Let’s step back and focus on just one element of this mosaic, the element conjured up by “the rise of ISIS, the fall of Mosul, the extermination of Iraqi Christians, and the Yazidi genocide.” How did all that happen?

First, a few signposts. In 2009, shortly after taking office, Obama went to Cairo to deliver his now (in)famous speech about America’s relations with Islam. “I have come here,” he said,

to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I’ve italicized a few words and phrases that bear thinking about. Consider: “mutual interest” and “mutual respect.” The mutuality would seem to imply a certain reciprocity, don’t you think? But ask yourself this: how many Christian churches or Jewish synagogues are there in, say, Mecca or Riyadh or Medina? How many mosques are there in, say, New York, London, or Paris?  Take your time.

While you are doing the math, ponder the words “justice,” “progress,” “tolerance,” and the idea of “the dignity of all human beings.”  Is it true that Islam and the West (or, to use an antique formulation, Islam and Christendom)  have anything like a shared understanding of the ideas these terms name? How much tolerance for religious diversity, for example, is there in any Muslim country, let alone in the territories controlled by the Islamic State (formerly ISIS)?  What  sort of dignity is accorded to Jews, Christians, women, homosexuals?

Are the answers to any of those questions encouraging?