Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The Incredible Lightness of Being Barack Obama

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine

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.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

18 Thoughts on “The Incredible Lightness of Being Barack Obama

  1. Proudly Unaffiliated on September 26, 2014 at 7:46 am said:

    He has so puffed himself with hot air that we could call him the puffster.

  2. I can totally agree with you in critiquing Obama’s rosy take on the teachings of the Koran!
    But can you not see how the world might deserve and appreciate a tad bit more humility on the part of America? While Obama’s apology tour” has been vilified by right wing Americans, living overseas myself for the past 38 years and seeing America’s actions from an outsider’s perspective, I feel it some admission of mistakes, pigheadedness, flip-flopping administrations and their policies, ongoing racism, and general human failure is past-due. Are we Americans not also sinners at heart? Or are we above all other nations in our lack of concern for seeking what will benefit us and lead to self-preservation? No, we are human too!
    By definition, we have sins of our own to acknowledge.
    We can still strive to be impartial and fair as the single greatest, most wealthy nation in the world at this time. Part of wisdom is being able to see the conflict from the other parties’ point of view.

    • Theseus9 on September 26, 2014 at 1:55 pm said:

      A tad bit more humility on the part of America?! Are you joking lady? Probably why alot of foreigners think Americans are pigheaded is because they only have met liberals like yourself who have stained America’s image. Grow up lady, it’s a harsh world, always has been, and always will be. America has been the execption. You don’t agree, then move, we will get along just fine without your type.

    • You are right Sue.

      I think we should be more humble and not get involved in other country’s problems.

      What do the people where you are think about us staying home and minding our own business?

    • Gwhizkids on September 26, 2014 at 8:04 pm said:

      Sue: just stay where you are. You are not wanted here. America is the greatest force for good the world has ever seen. It is the most generous with its time, treasure and talent, but most of all with the millions who have served in our military liberating countries halfway around the planet from the grip of tyranny. That likely includes whatever little patch of the Earth you now call home. Man is by nature sinful, but if you can’t recognize the difference between tyrants and Americans you are as dense as a rock.

    • I don’t hear ISIS or Hamas or Russia or China expressing their contrition to the USA. You are stupid and a danger to your country and it’s people.

    • I don’t know what country you were living in for the past 38 years but I cannot fathom how you would have missed the constant, obligatory soliloquys to how peaceful Islam is going all the way back to Bush.

      The repeated (and exaggerated) self referencing to our roles in everything bad that ever happened, from AIDS to Zimbabwe.

      If there is some country that does more navel gazing and sensationalized, drama filled agonizing over racial issues, I would like to know what country that is. With the possible exception of South Africa, I have never heard of a country that spends more time, resources and money (oh God the money that is spent) trying to get people to get along and stop calling each other names.

      Admission of flip-flopping Administrations? Well Madame, about every four years we have this 24/7/365 extravaganza where billions of dollars are spent to try to ACCENTUATE the difference between administrations where people fall all over themselves trying to convince everyone that they will be different from the other one or even different than they were the last four years. So I suppose we could apologize or admit that, but it seems kind of meaningless since it is an intentional effort. Often, one should hasten to note, at the behest of our foreign friends and frenemies.

      Admission of general human failure? I don’t know what you mean here because you could mean that Americans are generally failures at being human, or that humans fail at times and therefore Americans fail at times. If you mean that America does not even acknowledge its human limitations I can’t imagine that you have ever picked up a history book in this country. I am 47 years old and from about 6th grade through graduate school I would consider my education to have been one long sackcloth and ashes examination of every blunder, perceived or real, that America has made from the time the first Pilgrim coughed on a Native American to the racist police framing OJ Simpson when they knew good and well somebody else killed that white girl and Whatsisface

      There is nothing wrong with considering things from anothers perspective. At the same time, you should remember that there is no virtue in being unfair to your own country just because you have a passport and have been around the world. We have never proclaimed ourselves to be the greatest nation in the world in any sense other than I would proclaim my wife the greatest wife, my daughter the greatest daughter, and my dog the greatest dog in the world.

      While you are opining on the wisdom of considering the others point of view, consider whether your countrymen and women who are “right wingers” have the same standing in your architecture of wisdom as shopkeepers in Istanbul or wherever it is you are. Just pretend they aren’t white and that they wear colorful clothes or something and maybe try to see if they have real grievances that you won’t dismiss because you are so flipping full of wisdom.

  3. Obama is a man possessed. Possessed by the Liberal Meme.You can tell how deeply it affects his thinking by speeches such as thing.

  4. Good article. One point: what territory were the Serbs attempting to claim in the ’90s?

  5. Theseus9 on September 26, 2014 at 1:50 pm said:

    You hit the nail on the head Mr. Hanson. It angers me so much this this Saudi agent posing as the President had the gall to include the situation in Ferguson, MO with the barbaric beheadings and attacks by ISIS. He’s really all about dividing this country up. Now I also hear he’s letting illegal immigrants into our military, while at the same time firing thousands of those currently serving. This reminds me of the late Roman Empire’s military, and we all know how that turned out.

  6. Doctor Falco on September 26, 2014 at 3:31 pm said:

    Please, please, just impeache him…

    Just do it…

    He really deserve it

  7. Christopher Brosnahan on September 26, 2014 at 7:24 pm said:

    Is this not the reason God gave mankind the twin gifts of tall trees and short ropes???

  8. Barry’s comfortable reality ignores two things. Nation-states act in their own self-interest, and always will, as Dr. Hanson points out, and if there were such a thing as a “United” Nations that could enforce universal norms (as if that could be somehow sussed out over a weekend, hundreds of nations, languages, cultures, religions, histories, etc., could be put into a spreadsheet and an average norm established for everyone), that the result of such norming would result in a world police state, a UN-enforced normalcy established as a blanket to wrap the world in.

    Big Boy Pants Barry is arguing for a different kind of caliphate, it’s one that’s administered by breathless lawyers speaking to large organizations that he would give both the military and financial power backing so these norms could be enforced. There is no enforcement without the point of a gun. And good luck establishing norms in cultures whose ideas of normalcy involve routine beheadings and genital mutilations.

    Leonardo DiCaprio. Yasser Arafat. Barry Soetero. All proud, delusioned idiots speaking at a dais in front of some of the world’s worst regimes, appealing to their higher human character. Well, good luck with that. If history is any indicator – and it usually is – these fools get shoved roughly aside by events that overtake them, and by the people who are willing to do the actual work of establishing something approaching human freedom the world over.

    There’s more than one reason why Barry sent Churchill’s bust back to England. It’s because he both has nothing in common with that man, and because he’s afraid of what he represents – courage, and backbone. Barry couldn’t find either of those two things with one hand on a flashlight and one hand on his latte’.

  9. Nothing new. It is not like he is going to “evolve” anytime soon. It is what it is. Why are we keep on playing “psychiatrist” on this dogmatic,ideologue, illiberal, narcissistic and craven of a man? We keep “asking” ourselves why the man continues to “exhibiting” such bleary behaviors that do not reflect our values and principles and why such an “American'” president is so focused w/ his onslaught on this once great country. Apparently, he does not like this country. Two more years of this and possibly another 4 afterward w/ another unproven and unworthy, first of everything, president. We like to make history but I wonder if we will have any history left to remember.

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