Under President Obama, the world is becoming unstuck. Iraq is being overrun by Islamist terrorists and the United States is now evacuating its Baghdad embassy. The Arab Spring has led to either civil war and mass slaughter, like Syria, or new Arab dictators, like Egypt. Libya is degenerating into a den of terrorists who have already murdered the American Ambassador. Putin is sending tanks into Ukraine and the thuggish Russian strongman bestrides the world like a colossus, unchecked by American will.
These facts are undeniable. The only question is whether President Obama is responsible.
Obama’s argument, as laid out in his 2014 West Point commencement, is that his first rule of foreign policy is “Don’t do anything stupid.” Military action should be reserved only for the most extreme circumstances. Americans are war-weary after Iraq and Afghanistan. Our President believes in a minimalist approach.
The shallowness of this argument, however, lies in this simple fact. Yes, Americans are weary of entering foreign conflicts. The President is correct that we don’t want our boys dying to fight on behalf of Iraqi cowards who shed their uniforms at the first sound of gunfire. But we are even more wary of another 9/11 attack. And by allowing Iraq and Syria to degenerate into Afghanistan, we are all but guaranteeing another hit on the United States. A lawless world cannot possibly keep America safe.
I have contempt for Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq. Increasingly autocratic, he is even more guilty of gross ingratitude. Rather than show America any kind of thanks for all that we sacrificed to give his nation their freedom, he treats America with disdain. Who wants to help a man who is becoming a despot, hates democratic Israel, and reaches out to America only when he fears being strung up by Jihadists?
But this isn’t about Maliki, but America. The chaos that comes to Iraq will directly impact the security of the United States. An evacuation of Baghdad would be much worse than the shame of Saigon because at least the North Vietnamese communists did not deploy a global army of terrorists who fly planes into buildings. Al Qaeda does.
I visited West Point last night with my family for their summer concert series. It was the 239th birthday of the Army, and the West Point Band put on a stirring and patriotic performance. President Obama had spoken at the cadets’ commencement just two weeks earlier. Ask yourself: how did these cadets feel when President Obama got up at their graduation and told them there is increasingly no substantive role for them to play in the world. Here were young warriors, trained to fight and protect the United States, being told that the use of force has little to no application. No wonder there was such tepid applause and a cold response. These bright young men and women must have been thinking why they didn’t instead just land jobs in the State Department.
No one wants to see American troops die in foreign wars. Of course our soldiers should never be sent needlessly into harm’s way. But the threat of American force must always be present, even if it’s not deployed. People must fear the United States. What President Obama is doing by not taking action and by giving so many unnecessary speeches defending his belief in doing nothing, is that he is removing the deterrent of a credible threat. The world believes that the United States under President Obama has no stomach for a fight. And we’re watching the effects all around us. The inmates are running the asylum.
The world is slowly becoming unglued. The Islamic world especially is in a deteriorating spiral that’s positively tragic to watch. Turkey, once a proud democracy, now boasts a Prime Minister whose own political aides violently attack peaceful protestors. My God, Erdogan doesn’t even shy from harassing and shoving CNN reporters while they are live on the air. He no longer even shows the pretense of freedom. When I was in Istanbul I was amazed to experience firsthand how YouTube is permanently blocked, and Twitter was restored just two days before I arrived. This Turks were once a free people. How are they allowing this?
Syria is a giant killing zone with President Obama’s red line against the use of chemical weapons being repeatedly violated without consequence. Iran sports the second most brutal and vile government on the earth, after North Korea, and thinks nothing of stoning women, hanging gays from cranes, and assassinating peaceful protestors in cold blood. Worse, they fund the bloodiest terrorists around the world. But that does not stop our President from negotiating with them and leaving them within a few months of nuclear weapons. Egypt is back to Presidents who win elections with 95% of the vote. Nigeria’s Boko Haram is the filthiest terror group in the entire world, murdering children in large number and bragging about selling young girls into sexual slavery.
And who most pays the biggest price for this lawlessness? Why Israel, of course, with three teenagers now kidnapped by what appears to be Hamas, an organization that the United States officially labels as terrorists but whose joint government with Mahmoud Abbas we now recognize.
Through all this, Barack Obama drifts along, meditating on his mantra of “let’s do nothing stupid.” But I have long believed that the true sins we are guilty of in life are not the sins of commission, the mistakes we make, but rather the sins of omission, the good things we fail to do.
Sometimes the dumbest thing is to fail to act because of the fear of doing dumb things.
Barack Obama is fiddling while the world is burning. Israel is already smoldering under its heat and it won’t be long before America too is cindered.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network, the foremost organization influencing politics, media, and the culture with Jewish values. He has just published Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.