Bruce Thornton: The Incredible Lightness of Being Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s address to the U.N. General Assembly was so insubstantial, so full of airy platitudes, and so adulterated with the gaseous clichés of bankrupt internationalism and progressive bromides that I thought at any minute he might just float away.

First was the obligatory call “to renew the purpose of the U.N.’s founding,” which apparently is “to observe and enforce international norms,” the most important being “to ensure that no nation can subjugate its neighbors and claim their territory” and to promote “the path of diplomacy and peace and the ideals this institution is designed to uphold.” Such phrases are so common and uncritically received that we forget “international norms” do not exist. Different peoples have different “norms” about, for example, the use of violence to achieve their aims. Nations will sign treaties that seemingly express our norms, but that doesn’t mean they believe in them. More often, such treaties are mere mechanisms for one nation to get what it wants from another. The sorry history of U.S. arms-control treaties with the Soviet Union and then Russia, treaties the Russians violated for decades to improve their nuclear arsenal at our expense, is just one example.

As for seizing territory by force, the U.N. did nothing to prevent Turkey from seizing northern Cyprus, or China from seizing Tibet, and more recently Russia from seizing Crimea. The Serbs’ attempts in the ’90s to “claim territory” were stopped not by the U.N., but by American bombs. So too was Saddam Hussein’s aggression against Kuwait. Nor should we be surprised at the serial failure of the U.N. to enforce its lofty founding principles. Nations belong to the U.N. because they think they can use it to advance their interests, not “to enforce international norms,” especially when their own “norms” see nothing wrong with using duplicity and force to achieve their aims. Indeed, the continuing violence justified by other “norms” since the U.N.’s founding has claimed some 41 million lives. The U.N. serves the conflicting, zero-sum interests of the member states, not the “path of diplomacy and peace.”

From that preposterous beginning, the speech went downhill. “Islam teaches peace,” the President intoned. No, Islam teaches submission. There is no peace for those who refuse to submit, even for Muslims considered heretics by other Muslims, but especially for “polytheists” or “infidels.” In their case, Islam teaches jihad against them if they refuse to accept the “call” to convert. Far from being extremists “who have perverted one of the world’s great religions,” as Obama scolded, the proliferating jihadist outfits that are kidnapping, torturing, raping, beheading, and enslaving people around the globe are acting on the doctrines and past practices of Islam’s founding fathers.

So Obama might think that their “nightmarish vision . . . would divide the world into adherents and infidels,” but it is traditional, orthodox Islam that divides the world into the dar al harb, the “house of war” against which the faithful must wage jihad, and the dar al islam, the “house of Islam,” the ummah of faithful Muslims. Obama may really believe that “No God condones such terror” like the beheadings perpetrated by Islamic State, but it is the Koran, the literal words of Allah, that says at 8.12: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”

Such “willful blindness,” as Andrew McCarthy has called it, to the traditional motivations of today’s jihadists depends on clichéd lies like those Obama trades in. Perhaps that blindness explains his astonishing praise in his U.N. speech for Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, whose group has endorsed Hamas, who supported a 2004 fatwa calling on the faithful to murder U.S. soldiers in Iraq and another forbidding any “normalization” of Israel, and was associated with an organization whose founder called for “the death of Jews and Americans.”

Then there is the last refuge of the morally addled, moral equivalency. In his remarks on the Arab war against Israel, Obama can’t resist this cowardly cop out. Speaking of the endless and fruitless “peace process,” Obama intones, “We cannot afford to turn away from this effort––not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza.” Of course, it is not Israelis “taking” these children, it is the Hamas jihadists who use them as human shields, sacrificing their own children in order to gin up international condemnations in order to isolate Israel. Worse yet, such a sentence completely ignores the most important dimension of this violence: the decades of wars and terrorist attacks instigated by Arabs whose doctrinal hatred of Jews has compelled them since 1947 — when they violated a U.N. resolution with impunity–– to serially refuse a state for the Palestinian Arabs or agree to “two states living side by side, in peace and security,” yet another stale cliché useful for pretending to say something when one has nothing important to say. In reality, the Palestinian Arabs have made it clear that what they want is to destroy Israel.

Yet nothing matches the surreal moral idiocy of Obama’s next indulgence of moral equivalency:

I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri––where a young man was killed, and a community was divided.

Here is one of the staple dogmas of the Progressive mind: the sins and crimes of America that require apologies and reparations, even as the millions of dead, tortured, and imprisoned in other nations are shrugged off. Obama began his presidency with the “apology tour” in which he donned the hair shirt of American guilt for its imperialist depredations, its racist sins, and its global exploitation of others. Then as now, Obama ignores important distinctions. To equate the atrocities of Islamic State or Hamas, or the shooting down of a passenger jet in Ukraine that cost nearly 300 lives, with what probably will turn out to be the justified shooting of a lawbreaker assaulting a police officer, bespeaks either delusion or the sophistic pandering to an audience comprising the representatives of nations most of which are some of the planet’s most brutal and murderous regimes.

This speech proves once again that Obama is not a serious man. His badly trained mind is a warehouse of the sort of leftist and progressive received wisdom and dull clichés that pollute our universities, media, and popular culture. He represents the moral idiocy and fashionable self-loathing that signals to our enemies and rivals that the United States can be had.