Defining Down Tyranny

By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 @ 4:03AM

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Adopting the dubious theory that compromise on the part of the stronger power and appeasement can change the behavior of tyrants, can make them behave more like us, has been at the core of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Obama declared his intentions in his first inaugural address suggesting negotiations with adversaries through  “mutual interests” that would lead to “mutual respect.”

The Obama administration’s internationalist ideology has in fact succeeded in what late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called, in 1993, “Defining Deviancy Down” in the international arena.

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer expanded Moynihan’s point by proposing that not only were we “normalizing what was once considered deviant,” but we were also “finding deviant what was once considered normal.”

Effectively, there seems to be no tyrant who is “as bad as all that,” who doesn’t deserve gestures of kindness, and a bonus now and then.  On May 6, at the Pentagon, the president reinforced everything he has said in the past about America’s avowed adversaries.

The course of the present administration shows that reality has not dissuaded it from offering deals to tyrannical regimes.  For example, we have reached the point where many abroad, and especially the Iranians, now make fun of our inclination to appease and to negotiate from weakness.  Consider Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifą’s July 3rd YouTube video message in English, in which he says with a straight face, ”Our common threat today is the growing menace of violent extremism and outright barbarism.”

Three days later, on a rare visit to the Pentagon, Obama declared the fight against “violent extremism” was not simply a military effort: “Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas, a more attractive and more compelling vision. Our efforts to counter violent extremism must not target any one community because of their faith or background ­ including patriotic Muslim Americans who are keeping our country safe.”

The logic of these statements speaks clearly: A mistaken ideology that has produced a tyranny is more important than the totalitarian political regimes that have adopted it. The fact that an ideology may have caused violent extremism and a tyranny into the bargain is apparently not a possibility. It’s fine to look to changing ideology as a remedy, but for Obama et al. the offending ideology is not to be named, not allowed to be associated with “one faith or background.” That the regimes that have adopted the ideology commit war and underwrite terrorism is not what we have to worry about.

Instead, Obama argues, what we have to worry about is ourselves, our thinking. We need to provide a counter-ideology.  Thus, in the case of Iran, ISIS, al Qaeda and their ilk, we should not directly challenge Islamism but, rather, offer Muslims an alternative ideology. The president would like us to believe, despite centuries of evidence to the contrary, that Muslims can and will eventually adopt his ideology of 21st century internationalism, which has nothing whatsoever in common with Islam or the historical experience of Muslims.  To date, this ideology has not swayed a single Islamist from jihad.

At the Pentagon on July 6, Obama also said, regarding the military struggle against ISIS, “In Syria, the only way that the civil war will end and in a way so that the Syrian people can unite against ISIL is an inclusive political transition to a new government without Bashar al-Assad, a government that serves all Syrians. … [A] glimmer of good news is, I think, an increasing recognition on the part of all the players in the region that, given the extraordinary threat that ISIL poses, it is important for us to work together as opposed to at cross-purposes to make sure that an inclusive Syrian government exists.”

He also said that “When we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can be pushed back.”˛ Thus far the Iranian trained, armed and led Shiite militias in Iraq and Iranian sponsored Hizbollah have been the most effective partners.

Once again, Obama’s ideology rears its ugly head.  Somehow, the Syrians, pro- and anti-Assad, will see the light, reject retrograde ideologies and tyrants and band together under some sort of Obamist 21st century set of ideas.  Note that there’s not a word here about what such outside meddlers as Iran and Russia would have to say about this formula.  Along with de-ideologized Syrians, Obama clearly hopes for more “effective partners on the ground.”  Following this line of thinking, once the deal legitimizing Iran’s nuclear weapons agenda is signed, Iran, too, will eventually have to succumb to his view of the world and forsake its unfortunate inclinations and aspirations to eliminate Israel and take over the Middle East.

Obama seems to have no concern about the continued existence of Iranian or ISIS tyranny as long as “violent extremism” is banished. His belief that our current enemies can be persuaded through offering them “better ideas,” negotiation to relationships of “mutual interests” and “mutual respect” comes very close to a view that what is commonly understood as tyranny, is now normal.

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