April 5, 2011
Obama, The God That FailedBy Paul Kengor
As someone who has studied, taught, and written about the Middle East for years, I'm the first to concede that President Obama has a tough task. What would I do about Libya if I were president? How about Egypt?
I'm not exactly sure. The situations are complex, with too many daunting unknowns. Chief among them, who, or what, precisely, is behind the opposition? Would a Gaddafi or Mubarak be replaced by Muslim democrats or theocrats, by an Ayatollah, by a Hamas, by a Hamid Karzai, by a Saddam or Sadat, or perhaps by the first Thomas Jefferson in the Arab world?
Of course, my personal struggle with the complexities doesn't matter much. I'm not president. Obama is. And alas, it's here, with Barack Obama as commander-in-chief, that the left once again has failed itself and America in the process.
The left pinned its hopes and dreams on Barack Obama. He wasn't merely another politician, he was post-modern, post-racial, post-cultural, post-political. We were told Obama didn't need political experience. His international upbringing, his multi-national background, his inherent diversity and multiculturalism, his youthful hopping and groping from country to country, culture to culture, faith to faith, through Islam, Buddhism, asceticism, Christianity, Augustine, Aquinas, Graham Greene, Nietzsche, Rev. Wright, and whatever else -- heaped atop his overflowing innate brilliance -- would beget a new breed of political man, a supreme decision-maker worthy of the most vexing challenges. He was no George W. Bush; he was the anti-Bush.
All of this, of course, was twaddle, but it's sadly in keeping with the perverse political-spiritual sentimentality that plagues the left. Liberals have a bizarre tendency to revere their political leaders as geniuses. They did so even with the Clintons and Al Gore. In handy contrast, they reflexively caricature their opponents, irrespective of stature or fact, as stupid. It's a very shallow thing to do, a triumph of emotion over logic; still, they do it incessantly.
Worsening the situation is the hard secularism of today's left. Progressives are more agnostic and atheistic than ever. They tend to search for salvation in politics, which is a god that will always fail. In Obama, many of them hoped for some sort of political messiah, approaching levels of earthly omnipotence not possible by previous presidents.
This brings me back to the Middle East. Now, with great historic moments -- and perhaps opportunities -- afloat in Libya and Egypt, on the heels of Iran in June 2009, watching Obama unable to arrive at a clear sense of understanding, let alone direction or purpose, has liberals flummoxed. They wander in the desert without their Moses, who, in a much anticipated speech on Libya last week, at best muttered something about a humanitarian crisis; how utterly unsatisfying.
Remember, too, it was the Middle East that was supposed to be Obama's strength. He would be better than Bush, and precisely at the right place and time. Far from Barack Hussein Obama's middle name being a liability, liberals assured us it was his saving grace. Their faithful leader would know what to do, in a way that "Bush," Texas rube, was fully incapable.
Instead, Obama appears clueless on the small picture let alone big picture, as do the wise men and women he has surrounded himself with. Neither teacher nor disciples have answers.
Of course, those of us not suffering on the left recognized liberals' grandiose blather about Obama as pure codswallop from the outset. Sadly, however, and not surprisingly, liberals duped enough moderates and independents to elect Obama president. And now America suffers en masse, as does, potentially, the worldwide "March of Freedom" that both Bush and Ronald Reagan trumpeted and pushed.
To be fair to Obama, he never billed himself as messiah; his acolytes did. He was the light that had been hidden under bushel. He needed to be chosen by the people so his light could shine before men. American wasn't the beacon, the Shining City -- Barack Obama was.
That brings me, in closing, to a Reagan analogy that provides a measure of just how tragically out of place Obama is at this historical juncture: When the Solidarity movement rose up in Poland in opposition to Soviet communism, Ronald Reagan knew exactly what to do. He was born for that moment; his entire life experience, from the First Christian Church in Dixon, Illinois to Hollywood to the White House, had prepared him. His international contacts (unlike Obama's) were soul-mates and the real deal, profound figures like Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher, who in the fullness of time had the proper understanding of nature, man, Providence. They possessed a shared comprehension of the big picture. The same was true for movements like Lech Walesa's Solidarity and Vaclav Havel's Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. Reagan knew what stood behind them and what opposed them. He got free elections within a decade, and the liars and thieves were tossed to the ash-heap of history.
And all along, liberals, naturally, called Reagan a moron.
There's a distinct intellectual vacuity among the American left. I'm reminded of a Reagan quote regarding the distant-left cousins of liberals: "Marxist-Leninist thought," Reagan informed, "is an empty cupboard."
So it is. And right now, we're seeing the left empty. After burning down the house of Bush -- torching a good man with every weapon in the smoldering arsenal -- and assuring a Promised Land under Barack Obama, the left appears naked, with no answers anywhere in the cupboard. No water-turned-into-wine, no manna from heaven, no Holy Grail. All that remains are false promises from a false messiah made in the Left's own image. From Iran to Egypt to Libya, there are no solutions. This wasn't supposed to be.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.