Roger Kimball’s new book of essays, The Fortunes of Permanence, is excellent. I have slowly been making my way through these superb essays: Kimball (the publisher of Encounter books and editor of New Criterion) is one of our most articulate conservative intellectuals.
I’ve been reading Kimball’s essay on James Burnham, a former Trotskyite who became one of the great anti-Communists. Burnham wrote for National Review for many years. If anyone questions his bona fides, William F. Buckley said that Burnham was the “number one intellectual influence on National Review since the day of its founding.”
High praise indeed.
The events of the past few days in the Middle East, and the wimpy response of the Obama administration, has troubled me as it has many of you.
A short paragraph in the essay encapsulates the fundamental problem with the self-conscious American policy of weakness and appeasement. While these are Kimball’s words, he was articulating the underlying beliefs of Burnham about the battle a few decades ago between freedom and Communism:
“In terms of foreign policy, the fight against Communism required neither appeasement — appeasement was merely a prelude to capitulation — nor containment — containment was merely appeasement on the installment plan. What was required was a concerted campaign to undermine, to roll back, the Communist juggernaut.”
The idea that ultimately, we had to defeat Communism was exactly right. It is based on the principle that evil must, in the end, be defeated, and anything less will result in our own defeat or force the battle to a later date when we are much weaker.
I suggest that if you substitute the word “Islamism” and “Islamist” for “Communism” and “Communist” in the quotation above, we have a perfect crystallization of the issues in the Middle East.
We’ve seen what appeasement in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia has wrought: Americans murdered, flags burned, embassies and consulates attacked, and the al Qaeda flag flying over the American embassy in Tunisia.
While Obama talks tough on Iran, the fact is that he has no plan whatsoever to deny nuclear weapons to Iran. As Charles Krauthammer said to in NRO:
“The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran’s nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.
Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait. As the administration likes to put it, ‘for Iran to live up to its international obligations.’
This is beyond feckless. The Obama policy is a double game: a rhetorical commitment to stopping Iran, yet real-life actions that everyone understands will allow Iran to go nuclear.”
Unless action is taken quickly, we will be in the midst of a dangerous, and ultimately disastrous, containment policy. The danger to Israel is existential. The danger to America, in the long-term, is existential as well.
I can only hope that the American voter will see that the Obama foreign policy will lead to disaster and that he’ll be sent packing soon: I see know reason to believe that a man who lacks the time to meet with Israel’s Prime Minister to discuss a region in flames will do anything but continue to appease and, when he’s really tough, fecklessly try to contain the uncontainable.
Obama just can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that the Islamists don’t just want to win — they wish to destroy. The American people must come to terms with the notion that we must defeat Islamism. We can’t do it by sitting on our hands.