Progressivism: Easing the Way to Mass Murder
The progressive creed as it relates to foreign policy, and as represented most notably by our Progressive-in-Chief, President Obama, holds that the impact of United States behavior in the world has largely been negative. It casts American foreign policy as a variation on European colonialism: exploitative, indifferent to the peoples subjected to American attention and intervention, and inexorably engendering anti-American sentiment among those peoples.
The translation of this comprehension of the world into a progressivism-informed foreign policy has had the effect of making the world safer for mass murder.
President Obama has offered apologies for past American policy to Europeans, to Arabs and the Muslim world more broadly, to the peoples of Central and South America. Various media outlets have noted that, according to a 2011 Wikileaks publication, only a negative response by the Japanese government prevented Mr. Obama from going to Hiroshima in September, 2009, and offering apologies for America’s atomic bomb attack on the city.
But whatever the President’s erstwhile intentions vis-a-vis Hiroshima, the broader focus of his apologetics has been on those nations and peoples that are hostile to America. His key foreign policy syllogism, and that of America’s progressive camp, is that anti-American sentiment is essentially a product of American abuses and that American self-reform and accommodation, a kinder, gentler United States, will bring an end to current hostility and engender a new comity between this nation and its long-time victims.
Most of the world’s nations offer their citizens at best very limited rights. Some authoritarian regimes have close relations with the United States; others are hostile to the United States. One might think that progressives would object to despots of whatever sort and aspire to the liberation of populations from such governments.
But that is not the case. The progressivist pattern, rather, is to oppose despotic regimes with which this nation has had positive relations but to be sympathetic and accommodating towards those that have viewed us as the enemy -- that view being congruent with progressive orthodoxy.
Moreover, the advocates of genuine democratic reform in closed societies of either sort, pro- or anti-American, are essentially given short shrift. Such advocates typically look to the United States as a model for their aspirations, and that is sufficient to alienate, and preclude any hoped for support from, the progressive camp. Within pro-American authoritarian regimes, American progressives reserve their sympathy primarily for anti-regime forces that likewise look to America as the source of their respective nations’ ills and seek to replace those in power with a despotism of their own, a despotism with an anti-American stamp.
In Latin America, a number of democracies have in recent decades been subverted by left-wing populists who gained power at the ballot box and then proceeded to dismantle their nations’ democratic institutions with, for example, measures against competing parties, a free media and an independent judiciary. The pattern was established by Hugo Chavez, who became president of Venezuela in 1998, and was followed by, among others, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. The new despots commonly justified their anti-democratic measures as necessary to counter the supposed nefarious aims of parties domestic and foreign, among which the United States is commonly trotted out as key bogeyman.
Obama and his administration displayed a notable sympathy for Chavez and have likewise done so for his emulators. The victims -- among media figures or political opponents -- that suffered at the hands of the post-democratic strongmen have enjoyed no such sympathy. Amazingly, when President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras likewise sought to undo his nation’s democracy and consolidate his personal control of the country but had his subversion of Honduras’s constitution blocked by the nation’s parliament and courts, the Obama administration backed Zelaya, attacked the "coup" that pushed him from power, and sought his reinstatement.
All of these populist despots were supported, of course, by Castro’s Cuba, which remains the chief example of anti-democratic leftism in Latin America both in terms of its longevity and in terms of its record of thousands murdered and myriad more imprisoned among those who have dared to take issue with the island’s dictatorship. But here, too, the progressive camp, and the Obama administration, have chosen to look upon the regime’s anti-American cant sympathetically, to see the proper way forward as American reform and cultivation of the Castros, and to close their ears and eyes to the regime’s victims.
But this progressivist cultivating of despotic forces which have only their anti-Americanism to recommend them takes on an even more sinister hue -- indeed, much more sinister, in terms of the slaughters perpetrated by such forces and essentially ignored by American progressives -- in the arena of the Muslim Middle East.
Virtually from its inception, the Obama administration has demonstrated support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, founded in 1928 and closely linked to the Nazis during World War II, has consistently promoted an anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Semitic agenda. Its offshoot, Hamas, openly declares its dedication not only to the murder of all Israel’s Jews but of all Jews worldwide. Yet the Obama administration has appointed American Muslims associated with the Muslim Brotherhood to government posts and even as liaisons with federal law enforcement and security agencies and the military, and Brotherhood associates have been frequent guests at the White House.
Obama intervened to provide Brotherhood leaders prominent audience placement for his 2009 Cairo speech in which he apologized for America’s past role in the Middle East and sought more generally to propitiate the Arab and broader Muslim world. The President subsequently undercut pro-American Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak when the so-called "Arab spring" exploded in Egypt. He helped force Mubarak from office, and, as in Latin America, rather than support moderate, democratically oriented, groups in Egyptian society in the shaping of an alternative to Mubarak (including groups that consisted of Muslims and Coptic Christians working together for a democratic Egypt), threw his support behind the Brotherhood. One expression of this was the administration’s pushing for quick elections, which provided less time for challengers to the Brotherhood -- the best organized political group in Egypt -- to mount effective campaigns.
The election in June 2012, did bring the Brotherhood to power, with Mohamed Morsi as president and with the White House’s blessing. In the ensuing months, which saw increased murderous Brotherhood assaults on Egypt’s Coptic Christians -- more than ten percent of the population and the Middle East’s largest Christian community -- as well as Brotherhood cultivation of its Hamas protégés, the Obama administration continued to offer its support. (The only high profile criticism of Morsi came in the wake of the rarest of events, a New York Times front page, above-the-fold piece on Muslim anti-Semitism, in this instance a newly revealed Morsi anti-Semitic diatribe recorded some years earlier. On this occasion, the White House finally felt obliged to break from its typical indulgence of the Brotherhood and its leaders by releasing some comment condemning Morsi’s remarks.)
The Brotherhood ultimately lost popular favor, in large part because of its failure to address Egypt’s economic ills. But Egyptians were also put off by Morsi’s pursuit of the Brotherhood’s Islamist agenda. As, for example, The Economist noted
"... [I]n power the Brotherhood began to abandon its previous caution regarding its foes. Mr Morsi appeared to dismiss secular opponents and minorities as politically negligible. Instead of enacting the deeper reforms that had been a focus of popular revolutionary demands, such as choosing provincial governors by election rather than presidential appointment, or punishing corrupt Mubarak-era officials, the Brothers simply inserted themselves in key positions...
"When nearly all the non-Islamist members of a body charged with drafting a new constitution resigned in November 2012, the Brothers brushed the problem aside. Mr Morsi issued a snap decree rendering him and his constitution-writers immune from court oversight. This was when his popularity started to slide...
"The Brothers pushed through a hastily drafted constitution to a national referendum despite angry criticism from all other parties, and the referendum went Mr Morsi’s way. But his high-handedness lost him a crucial part of the electorate..."
But, again, none of this seemed to dampen Obama’s enthusiasm for Morsi and the Brotherhood, and when the Egyptian army under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed Morsi in July, 2013, with wide popular support, the White House condemned the coup and dismissed its popular backing and the transgressions of the Morsi regime that generated that support. For much of the subsequent two years, the administration has given the pro-American al-Sisi the cold shoulder. Its withholding of military grants and sales to Egypt -- only recently softened to some degree -- has pushed al-Sisi to renew Egypt’s long dormant military links with Russia.
Before its victory in Egypt, the country where the Muslim Brotherhood had been most successful in gaining power had been Sudan, where its members made up a large part of the government following the 1989 coup d'état by General Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Bashir, who still rules Sudan, led a genocidal campaign against the black and non-Muslim -- Christian and animist -- population of southern Sudan over many years, until that region successfully seceded and established its independence. He currently continues a campaign of mass murder and displacement of the Muslim -- but, again, black rather than Arab -- population of Darfur. Bashir is under indictment by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur.
President Obama, during his 2008 campaign as well as in earlier speeches, promised to act against the Darfur genocide. But he has done nothing, even as the slaughter, displacement and suffering continue. On the contrary, the Obama administration has reached out to Bashir. In addition, consistent with the Sudan government’s wishes and despite the horrible consequences for the people of Darfur, the administration appears to be supporting the downsizing of the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Once again, for President Obama, appeasing anti-American entities such as the Muslim Brotherhood, an appeasement consistent with progressive orthodoxy, trumps supporting the victims of those entities.
Obama’s favorite Middle East leader has long been, according to various sources, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is, of course, a NATO member and remains so even under Erdogan’s Islamist regime. It is not openly anti-American. But Erdogan has clearly turned away from the West, has developed close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and has sought to establish himself as the leading figure in a Middle East and broader Muslim world dominated by Islamist policies that emulate those of the Brotherhood.
Having notably described democracy as like a streetcar from which one exits upon reaching one’s destination, Erdogan has done much to undermine Turkish democracy. He has essentially dismantled the nation’s independent judiciary, closed down opposition media and arrested journalists -- with Turkey having more journalists incarcerated than either China or Iran -- and engineered his Islamist camp’s infiltrating and seizing control over other Turkish institutions, both public and private.
Erdogan was an enthusiastic supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt, is reported to have cried over the downfall of Morsi and the Brotherhood, and some months ago declared that he still regards Morsi rather than al-Sisi as Egypt’s president. He remained silent over and apparently indifferent to the Brotherhood’s slaughter of Egyptian Christians both before and during its period in power.
Erdogan likewise supports the Brotherhood offshoot Hamas in its genocidal war against Israel and has, through statements by him and leaders of his party and through his party-controlled media, whipped up domestic anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment. He has opened Turkey as a refuge for members of both Hamas and the Egyptian Brotherhood, and attacks on Israelis, such as the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers last year, have been orchestrated by senior Hamas agents in Turkey.
Yet none of this seems to have shaken President Obama’s enthusiasm for the Turkish leader. On the contrary, Erdogan’s turning from the West and embracing an agenda close to that of the Brotherhood has, once more consistent with the president’s progressive world view, rendered him worthy of the administration’s propitiation.
Obama’s reaching out to the Iranian mullahs virtually from the moment of his taking office in 2009 is likewise in line with his progressivist comprehension of foreign hostility to the United States as a response to past American transgressions. Following from this, his path to ending the hostility lay in breaking from that past, offering mea culpas for it, and cultivating new policies of understanding and comity.
More particularly, the CIA’s involvement in the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 (which in fact at the time had the support of Iran’s religious establishment) and America’s subsequent ongoing support for Shah Reza Pahlavi are construed as the source of Iranian enmity and the history for which the President seeks to apologize and atone.
The popular uprising that followed the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June, 2009, led to the regime’s killing of dozens of protesters and the arrest and reported torture and rape of thousands more. Protesters urged the outside world, particularly the United States and President Obama, to support them, but Obama refrained even from offering significant verbal support, apparently not wanting to do anything that might undermine his outreach to the mullahs.
In the ensuing years, torture, including rape, and murder of political prisoners, among them suspected student critics of the regime culled in raids on Iranian universities, have been an ongoing fact of life in Iran. So, too, have been the imprisonment and execution of homosexuals and individuals accused of religious crimes, and abuses targeting members of the embattled Baha’i community and elements of Iran’s ethnic minorities, who represent more than fifty percent of the nation’s population.
But on all of this the Obama administration has been essentially silent as it has pursued its policy of winning over the apocalyptic Iranian theocracy through accommodation and concessions. That policy culminated this summer in the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, which provides Iran with a path to nuclear weapons and even offers American aid to Iran in defending its nuclear program against sabotage and attack.
Nor has the administration let Iran’s role in killing Americans in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and Iran’s assertions of never compromising in its enmity towards America, interfere with Obama’s agenda of pursuing its progressivist fantasies of peace with Iran through accommodation. Nor has the mullahs’ genocidal anti-Semitism, including their openly and repeatedly declared determination to destroy Israel, or their arming and training of Hezb’allah and Hamas to pursue Israel’s annihilation, led to the administration’s wavering from its course. On the contrary, the nuclear agreement appears to offer Iran protection against any Israeli attempt to derail the Islamo-fascist theocracy’s development of nuclear weapons. It also promises to soon provide the regime with tens of billions of dollars in previously embargoed funds, which has already translated into Iran’s embarking on a massive acquisition of advanced warplanes and other major weapons systems from China and Russia and its promising enhanced military aid to Hezb’allah and its other terrorist allies for use in pursuit of Israel’s destruction.
But the off-handedness regarding existential threats to Israel, and regarding as well myriad instances of wholesale human rights abuses, including mass slaughter by those the Obama administration has sought to propitiate, is apparently due to such matters being regarded as of no great consequence when measured against the central international dynamic as construed by progressivism. Administration indifference to the fact of some of those hostile regimes and non-state entities -- the objects of American cultivation -- having dismantled working democracies or having strangled incipient democratic movements derives from the same worldview. All their various crimes are mere epiphenomena, at most secondary, and potentially an unwelcome distraction, when measured against what is comprehended as the essential world-shaping dynamic: hostility towards America whose roots lie in past American abuses, and an end to hostility and creation of a more peaceful world through American contrition and accommodation.
In this way, Obama’s, and the progressive camp’s, comprehension of reality and playing out of that delusional "reality" on the world stage inexorably makes the world safer for the crimes, including mass murder, of the anti-American forces that are the object of progressivist propitiation.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.