This litany of failure culminated at the end of 2011 with the report that the Obama administration has been reaching out to Muslim Brother jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi to help broker a deal with the Taliban. Qaradawi is a virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic fanatic who has called for the murder of American troops and Israeli citizens, and who champions jihad as a means for expanding Islamic shari’a law and recreating the caliphate. Worse yet, Obama is offering in return to release Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo, remove sanctions against the Taliban, and recognize those fanatical murderers of Americans as a legitimate political faction in Afghanistan. Like the administration’s delusional fantasy that the Muslim Brothers are “moderate Islamists,” this misbegotten “outreach” reflects massive ignorance and ideological myopia that the greatest power in the world simply cannot afford to indulge.
So much for the crisis, one brought to a head by these failures. But we are not doomed to sit passively by and suffer the consequences. Leave such determinism to the progressives and their materialist superstitions. We have it in our power to choose a different fate and to make our own history. The obvious opportunity we have this year is to vote Obama out of office, along with as many as his fellow-traveling congressmen as possible. This means we should end as quickly as we can the internecine primary squabbling and inquisitions into ideological purity, and choose as candidate the one who has the best chance of winning.
That much is obvious. But we also have to acknowledge that our problems reflect not just a bad president, but our own failures and betrayal of our defining political principles. I cannot do a better job of explaining these than political philosopher Paul Rahe does in his magisterial book Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, based on the remarkable prescience of Alexis de Tocqueville: “In consequence of our abandonment of our religious and moral heritage, of our rejection of the spirit of individual responsibility and the principles of limited government, over our own people today . . . there ‘is elevated an immense, tutelary power,’ whose aim is to take ‘sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate.’ In America . . . this power is ‘absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle.’ It works willingly for our ‘happiness,’ but it exacts a price, for ‘it wishes to be the only agent and the sole arbiter of that happiness.’ It provides for our security, it foresees and supplies our needs, it guides us in our principal affairs, it directs our industry, it regulates our testaments, it divides our inheritances, and it covers the ‘surface’ of our society ‘with a network of petty regulations––complicated, minute, and uniform.’. . . Only on the rarest of occasions ‘does it force one to act, but constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies.’ And step by step, relentlessly, with every passing day, as we gradually succumb to the spirit of irresponsibility and self-indulgence, this power grows in influence and scope, making us more and more like ‘a herd of timid and industrial animals, of which the government is the shepherd.’” Obama’s America is evident in every detail of this description.
The central challenge this coming year, then, is not just to win the election, but to effect a sea change in our own thinking and expectations. This year the opportunity we must grasp is to shake off these bad habits of passive dependency accumulated under Republicans and Democrats alike, and return to the vision of the Founders: a republic of free and autonomous citizens who take responsibility for their own fates and managing their lives, and reject the “soft despotism” of the federal leviathan. Getting rid of Obama is just the first step.
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