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As refugees from the Middle East continue to pour into Europe, it’s worth taking a moment to remember that this is all a predictable consequence of President Obama’s foreign policy (or lack thereof). As I note in my new column for Defining Ideas:
Though few predicted the rapidity with which the situation would degenerate, it was easy to see that some disaster would soon strike. Why? Because the President does not believe in Pax Americana, the foreign policy approach that states that world peace can only be obtained if the United States is prepared to use force to crush—not just degrade—those that pose a threat to the lives of millions of people across the globe. Make the United States a bystander, and evil nations will wreak havoc on the international scene.
It does not really matter how or why the President came to think that he could secure world peace on the cheap. But the key point is that whenever he is faced with major foreign policy problems, his first move is to take a pot shot at the United States in particular and Western civilization in general. It was not just a verbal slip, but a planned speech, when the President at the National Prayer Meeting breakfast in February 2015 uttered this flip but fatal remark: “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
Let us give the President the benefit of the doubt and assume that everything he said about the Crusades and Inquisition were spot on. He still forgot that there is a time and a place for presidential candor, and that was not it. The one-sentence mention of the Crusades was especially galling because it conveys the message that the Islamic State is on par with Western civilization. His short statement signaled to oppressed people everywhere that the United States will not get off its high horse to help them where they need it most: in their homes, schools, and markets. How could that disinterested attitude not embolden our enemies and demoralize our friends?
Moral relativism is a poor substitute for presidential leadership. The entire matter would have taken on a very different tone if the President had used his platform to deliver a decidedly different message about the Crusades and the Inquisition: One of the great capacities in Western civilization is to learn from its mistakes so that the errors, and there were many, are corrected. But there is no such impulse among the terrorists of ISIS, whose fierce fundamentalism snuff out the civil society, so prized in the West, that makes moral self-correction possible. Against people like this, persuasion is of no value, so force must be used. Obama’s ill-chosen words contained no ringing endorsement of the moral chasm that separates us from our opponents.