The outrage over the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls by the Nigerian jihadist gang Boko Haram reeks of Western hypocrisy and moral idiocy. Boko Haram has for years been slaughtering Christians – up to 2500 this year alone – and burning churches in a classic Islamic jihad against infidels. These depredations apparently weren’t enough to get the group designated a terrorist organization by Hillary Clinton’s State Department. But this indifference to what under international law is a genocide has been indulged as well by our celebrities and the mainstream media, who rarely mention that the group is specifically targeting Christians, and before the girls were kidnapped displayed little interest in the suffering of those Christians. So why this sudden attention?
The recent burst of self-indulgent selfies tweeted by millions, including celebrities and the First Lady, and the sentimental news coverage all reflect the fashionable and selective obsessions of our political and cultural elite and those who ape their fashions. First there is the need to display what Alan Bloom called “conspicuous compassion” for distant misery and suffering. Especially fashionable are compassion and pity for people in the Third World, the display of what Pascal Bruckner called the “tears of the white man” shed for all those victims of Western crimes like colonialism, imperialism, and global capitalism. Like Veblen’s conspicuous consumption, photogenic public displays of compassion, “outrage,” and “concern” for global suffering function like a designer label, indicating one’s moral superiority and finely calibrated sensitivity to oppression and suffering. Of course, ignored in all this emotional bluster and self-indulgence is any understanding of why this atrocity is happening, or the motives and aims of the perpetrators, information that would be important if we were really serious about doing something about it other than morally preen for the cameras.
Next is the despicable selectivity about which victims deserve our outrage. Why haven’t the thousands of Nigerian Christians already slaughtered by Boko Haram been worthy of this same uproar as the kidnapped schoolgirls? Of course suffering children are always triggers of easy sentiment and emotion – “I want to reach out and save those kids,” Obama said at Steven Spielberg’s house, at the same time he pretty much implied he wasn’t about to actually do anything. But plenty of children have already been raped and killed by Boko Haram, and many more are dying in Syria, Sudan, Egypt, and numerous other venues. Maybe the fact that the Nigerian girls are destined to be slave-wives – as Robert Spencer points out, a practice legitimate under Islamic doctrine and law – fires up leftists, who are always ready to decry a “war on women” and privilege the travails of females over every other kind of oppression and suffering. People who think that a sorority girl who gets drunk at a party and has sex with an equally drunk fraternity brother has been the victim of “sexual assault” are not going to miss this opportunity to highlight the sexist “patriarchy” and the universal rottenness of men.
But notice that not a word will be said about the misogynistic Islamic doctrines that justify this atrocity, even though a video has been released that claims all the girls have converted to Islam, and shows them dressed in full shari’a regalia. Sentimental Third Worldism and its domestic offspring, multiculturalism, are hypersensitive to the feelings of any and every religious faith except Christianity, which has been tainted by alleged Western crimes and intolerance. That’s why the media and this administration have ignored the slow-motion genocide against Christians in the Middle East. People whose dudgeon reaches the stratosphere over some graffiti on a mosque or the word “crusade” have nothing to say, no outrage to publicize, no selfies to tweet, over the church-bombing, kidnapping and rape of girls and women, forced conversions, torture, and execution of Christians that have continually been taking place long before the Nigerian girls were kidnapped.
But that suffering doesn’t serve the left-wing multiculturalist narrative. After all, every orthodox multiculturalist knows that Christianity is the religion of Crusades and Inquisitions, violence and intolerance. It is Islam that is the religion of peace and ecumenical tolerance. Don’t think about the extensive documentation of theologized violence in Islamic doctrine and practice. Keep quiet about the genital mutilation, honor killings, sex segregation, and forced marriages inflicted on girls and women in Islamic countries. Don’t let an eloquent victim of such misogyny, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, be your commencement speaker, lest she speak truths hurtful to Muslims. Instead listen to the slick Muslim apologists and Western useful idiots who explain all that as the malign fantasies and slanderous distortions invented by “orientalist” shills for neo-colonial oppression and Zionist hegemony.
Most important, outrage is determined by the political needs of an administration whose foreign policy has been an unmitigated disaster. The sentimental orgy over the schoolgirls distracts us from the disorder and violence that Obama and his foreign policy team have left in the wake of their misguided, ignorant, and ideologically corrupted actions and policies abroad. From Ukraine to the South China Sea, Iran to Latin America, our enemies are invigorated, our rivals heartened, our allies dispirited, and our security and interests compromised.
All this failure is the consequence of Obama’s bad ideas about foreign policy: unilateral military action angers our allies and creates new enemies; diplomacy and apology will restore good will; negotiation with a committed enemy can make him change his mind and ignore his own interests; abstract idealism about democracy and human rights can substitute for grim calculations of zero-sum interests and tragic trade-offs; killing bin Laden and droning an endless parade of al Qaeda “number 2’s” will neutralize the organization; establishing a Palestinian nation will eliminate the Muslim grievance against the West that fuels jihadist terror. Worst of all, these debacles reflect the overweening narcissism of a foreign policy tyro ignorant of history and political philosophy, but supremely confident in the power of his personality and public relations, when in fact he has acted on the world stage like a pampered child in the company of hard men who despise him.
Finally, the spectacle of the kidnapped schoolgirls provides a convenient distraction from all those failures, especially one of the worst – the bungling and political opportunism that resulted in the murder of four Americans, including a diplomat, in Benghazi. This disaster began with Obama’s collusion in the removal of Libya’s Ghaddafi, who was behaving himself as far as our interests were concerned. Into the subsequent vacuum rushed any number of jihadist gangs, now armed with the weapons from Ghaddafi’s looted arsenals, and unrestrained by any government control. To hide this failure, our diplomatic mission was left short of military protection lest anyone wonder why this glorious triumph for human rights and democracy had left a failed state full of violent factions from whom our diplomats needed to be protected. And don’t forget the election-year narrative that al Qaeda was “on its heels” and “bin Laden is dead,” a fairy tale challenged by the well-coordinated, sophisticated military attack on September 11, 2012. Hence the spin about an obscure video, a despicable cover-up abetted by Hillary Clinton when she tried to sell it to the grieving parents standing next to their sons’ coffins.
No, better to put on an emotional show over the kidnapped school girls, a terrible event stripped of context and reduced to sentiment, a perfect occasion for displays of self-righteousness and sensitivity – especially when the House has inconveniently established a select committee to get to the truth about Benghazi and the administration’s cover-up. Just forget that none of the tweeting and “outrage” will do anything to get those girls back and punish the perpetrators. But they will distract us for a bit from one of the worst records of foreign policy failure in American history.
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