On Sunday, President Barack Obama explained his stance on radical Islam to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria–and in the process, showed exactly why it is that the U.S. is losing to Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Iran. Obama believes, against all available evidence, that only a small minority of Muslims share the political beliefs of Islamist terror groups. And he is wedded to a particular tactic–the so-called “surgical” strike–that precludes any commitment of troops, giving the enemy wide freedom of action.
The President refuses to call terrorism by its name, or to acknowledge the Islamic roots of most terrorist attacks, because he believes that “99.9% of Muslims…are looking for the same thing we’re looking for–order, peace, prosperity.” He also believes that “surgical” strikes on terrorists will work, rather than a broader military or ideological battle, because, he says, “ultimately these terrorist organizations will be defeated because they don’t have a vision that appeals to ordinary people.”
Once again, it appears that Obama and his advisers lack any significant appreciation of history. That is evident enough in their domestic policies, which repeat the same mistakes of statist economic planning that previous generations struggled through once before. It is also apparent in their understanding of foreign policy, and their utter unwillingness to believe that whole masses of people could embrace a self-destructive ideology of struggle, rejecting their own material well-being.
In 1940, George Orwell sought to understand why Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini had such powerful appeal. In a review of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he observed that the dictator had understood “the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life”:
All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people, “I offer you a good time,” Hilter has said to them “I offer you struggle, danger and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation “Greatest happiness of the greatest number” is a good slogan, but at this moment “Better an end with horror than a horror without end” is a winner. How that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.
Radical Islam is very much the same. It offers people–often comfortable, educated people–a sense of meaning otherwise lacking in their lives, an escape from the disappointments and indignities of a jarring encounter with modernity. Obama knows ordinary life is insufficient, for some: that is why he became a community organizer. Yet he refuses to acknowledge the same motive force among our enemies, chiefly because he is unwilling to go to war against them. And they know it.Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak