From ISIS at Ramadi to riots at home, nothing is going right.

By Victor Davis Hanson, National Review

From ISIS at Ramadi to riots at home, nothing is going right. “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”   – W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

(Getty Images)

Things are starting to collapse, abroad and at home. We all sense it, even as we bicker over who caused it and why.

ISIS took Ramadi last week. That city once was a Bastogne to the brave Americans who surged to save it in 2007 and 2008. ISIS, once known at the White House as the “Jayvees,” were certainly “on the run” — right into the middle of that strategically important city.

On a smaller scale, ISIS is doing to the surge cities of Iraq what Hitler did to his neighbors between 1939 and 1941, and what Putin is perhaps doing now on the periphery of Russia. In Ramadi, ISIS will soon do its accustomed thing of beheading and burning alive its captives, seeking some new macabre twist to sustain its Internet video audience. We in the West trample the First Amendment and jail a video maker for posting a supposedly insensitive film about Islam; in contrast, jihadists post snuff movies of burnings and beheadings to global audiences. We argue not about doing anything or saving anybody, but about whether it is inappropriate to call the macabre killers “jihadists.”

When these seventh-century psychopaths tire of warring on people, they turn to attacking stones, seeking to ensure that there is not a vestige left of the Middle East’s once-glorious antiquities. I assume the ancient Sassanid and Roman imperial site at Palmyra will soon be looted and smashed. (Getty Images)

What is unique about American foreign policy today is not just that it is rudderless, but how quickly and completely the 70-year postwar order seems to have disintegrated — and how little interest the American people take in the collapse, thanks to the administration’s apparent redeeming message, which translates, “It’s their misfortune and none of our own.”

As long as we are not involved at the center of foreign affairs and there is no perceptible short-term danger to our security, few seem to care much that western North Africa is a no-man’s-land. Hillary Clinton’s “lead from behind” created a replay of Somalia in Libya. The problem with Turkey’s Recep Erdogan is not that he is no longer Obama’s “special friend,” but that he was ever considered a friend at all, as he pressed forward with his plan to destroy Turkish democracy in the long march to theocracy.

There was never much American good will for the often duplicitous Gulf monarchies, so the general public does not seem to be worried that they are now spurned allies. That estrangement became possible because of growing U.S. self-sufficiency in oil and gas (thanks to fracking, which Obama largely opposed). Still, let us hope the Gulf States remain neutral rather than becoming enemies — given their financial clout and the availability of Pakistani bombs for Sunni petrodollars. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has it in for Israel. Why, no one quite knows, given that the Jewish state is the only democratic and liberal society in the Middle East. Perhaps it resembles the United States too closely, and thus earns the reflected hypercriticism that so many leftists cultivate for their own civilization.

Theocratic Iran has won more sympathy from the Obama administration. No neutral observer believes that the current policy of lifting sanctions and conducting negotiations will not lead to an Iranian bomb; it is hoped only that this will be unveiled on the watch of another president, who will be castigated as a warmonger if he is forced to preempt its rollout. The current American foreign policy toward Iran is baffling. Does Obama see the theocracy as a valuable counterweight to the Sunni monarchies? Is it more authentic in the revolutionary sense than the geriatric hereditary kingdoms in the Gulf? Or is the inexplicable policy simply a matter of John Kerry’s gambit for a Nobel Peace Prize or some sort of Obama legacy in the eleventh hour, a retake of pulling all U.S. peacekeepers home from a once-quiet Iraq so that Obama could claim he had “ended the war in Iraq”?

Hillary Clinton has been talking up her successful tenure as secretary of state. But mysteriously she has never specified exactly where, when, or how her talents shone. What is she proud of?

Reset with Russia? The Asian pivot to discourage Chinese bellicosity? The critical preliminary preparations for talks with Iran? The Libyan misadventure? Or perhaps we missed a new initiative to discourage North Korean aggression? Some new underappreciated affinity with Israel and the Gulf monarchies? The routing of ISIS, thanks to Hillary’s plans? Shoring up free-market democracies in Latin America? Proving a model of transparency as secretary? Creating a brilliant new private–public synergy by combining the work of the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, and Bill’s lecturing –as evidenced by the Haitian renaissance and nation-building in Kazakhstan?

Meanwhile, no one seems to much care that between 2009 and 2017, we will have borrowed 8 trillion more dollars. Yet for all that stimulus, the U.S. economy still has staggering labor non-participation rates, flat GDP growth, and stagnant household income. As long as zero interest rates continue, the rich make lots of money in the stock market, and the debt can grow by $500 billion a year and still be serviced. Financial sobriety is now defined as higher taxes bringing in record revenues to service half-trillion-dollar annual additions to an $18 trillion debt.

The liberal approach to the underclass continues as it has been for the last 50 years: The elites support huge, unquestioned redistributionist entitlements for the inner city as penance for avoiding it. Minorities are left to run their own political affairs without much worry that their supposed benefactors live apartheid lives, protected by the proof of their caring.

The public is left with the lie “Hands up, don’t shoot” as a construct that we will call true, because the made-up last-seconds gasps of Michael Brown perhaps should have happened that way. As an elite bookend, we have a Columbia coed toting around a mattress as proof of society’s insensitivity to sexual violence, which in her case both her university and the New York City police agree never occurred.

In theory, perhaps it could have and thus all but did. The elites support huge, unquestioned redistributionist entitlements for the inner city as penance for avoiding it. As far as scandals go, no one much cares any more about the implosion of the Veterans Administration. In the public’s defense, though, how does one keep straight the multitudinous scandals — Lois Lerner and the rogue IRS, the spying on and tapping of Associated Press journalists, the National Security Agency disclosures, Fast and Furious, the serial lying about needless deaths in Benghazi, the shenanigans at the General Services Administration, the collapse of sobriety at the Secret Service, the rebooting of air-traffic controllers’ eligibility to be adjudicated along racial and ethnic lines, and the deletions from Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server, which doubled as her government server

Always there is the administration’s populist anthem of “You didn’t build that”; instead, you must have won the lottery from President Obama. If his economic programs are not working, there is always the finger pointing at those who are too well off.

Michelle Obama lectured a couple of weeks ago on museum elitism and prior neglect of the inner city, in between recounting some slights and micro-aggressions that she has endured, presumably on jumbo-jet jaunts to Costa del Sol and Aspen. I think her point is that it is still worse to be rich, powerful, and black than, say, poor, ignored, and non-black. (Scott Olson/Getty)

Then there is the strange populism of Hillary Clinton. It is hard to know why she rails about growing inequality and the lack of fairness in American life. After all, Barack Obama has been president for over six years, an administration in which she served for four. Did she ever visit the Oval Office to decry her own administration’s failure to use its House and Senate majorities in 2009–2011 to help the poor?

Is she now running against Obama’s economic policies, which she never publicly objected to before? And how can an unjust country be so fair to Bill and Hillary, who just made $30 million in the last 16 months, or about, on average, $62,500 per day — their speaking fees predicated on the likelihood that she would soon be a candidate for president and, as secretary of state emerita, had already enhanced the pay-to-play modus operandi of the Clinton Foundation? The Foundation currently pays young Chelsea — who bragged in bohemian fashion that money had no hold over her inner self (but only after achieving a net worth of a reported $15 million from various hedge-fund sweetheart billets) — $600,000 a year and provides her with a staff of five.

At some point, to paraphrase Barack Obama, might the Clintons have confessed that making, say, $15 million was enough? Or might Chelsea now agree to work for her parents for the discount rate of $499,999 per annum to free up more money for the Haitians? Or might Hillary have talked to her son-in-law about paying a little more in taxes on his hedge-fund profits?

Perhaps populist Clinton donor George Stephanopoulos can interview his former employer on transparency, as he recently did the author of Clinton Cash, Peter Schweizer. Stephanopoulos last year signed a seven-year, $105 million contract with ABC; that equals about $41,000 a day for the next 2,555 days for his disinterested journalism. I wonder how those wages factor into the Clintons’ populism. Is it better or worse than the $26,724 per televised minute that ace reporter Chelsea Clinton received not long ago from NBC?

The center of this culture is not holding. Even a few Democrats are worried that Hillary Clinton’s mendacities are unsustainable. More Americans privately confess that American foreign policy is dangerously adrift. They would agree that the U.S. no longer has a southern border, and will have to spend decades and billions of dollars coping with millions of new illegal aliens.

Some Americans are starting to fear that the reckless borrowing under Obama will wreck the country if not stopped. Racial tensions, all concede, are reaching dangerous levels, and Americans do not know what is scarier: inner-city relations between blacks and the police, the increasing anger of the black underclass at establishment America — or the even greater backlash at out-of-control violent black crime and the constant scapegoating and dog whistles of racism.

Whatever liberalism is, it is not working. Our country’s policies overseas are falling apart, while at home our society stagnates and turns tribal — with a growing and embittered underclass, a shrinking and angry middle class, and a plutocratic and apartheid elite who, as absolution for their privilege, are desperate to praise in the abstract what they so studiously avoid in the concrete.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

May 30, 2015 | 13 Comments »

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13 Comments / 13 Comments

  1. Things going awry? Au contraire, mon frere. Things are proceeding exactly as Jeremiah Wright taught his parishioner they should proceed. The barbaric Judeo-Christian imperialists are in retreat. The persecuted indigenous Islamic peoples are rising to throw off their shackles. Sure, Christians are being annihilated and their children sold into slavery, but hey – if you want to make an omelet you must break a few eggs…especially if the ultimate objective is to serve a delicious entrée of Hebrew Flambé.

  2. I know that some commenters state that IL should stop relying on USA for support and with good reason. I think IL should plan for this eventuality due to USA policy or impotence.

  3. @ bernard ross:

    I haven’t obviously been following threads on Israpundit for some time, so you will excuse me that I might post some ref that might be redundant. Thanks for letting me know but I first heard this the other night by ME expert on Israel channel 2 news then saw the op ed I posed so my ref to Syria in any case will still effect the realignment of forces and adversaries in the ME. The problem for Israel as I see it is that even if Hezbollah has been reduced and weakened as a field fighting force they still have 60=70,000 rockets and missiles aimed at us and if they have enough trained manpower to fire them off no matter how weakened Hezbollah is they are as much a threat to us than before they entered Syria to help Assad.Add as many or more rockets from Syria aimed at us by anti Assad forces, no matter who comes out on top we have a big problem. Assad was a threat but a rational threat these other groups ??????

  4. @ yamit82:
    It makes sense. However, will ISRAEL have the will to act? How can ISRAEL evolve into such a nation which is prepared and primed for such an eventuality? How and when will The UN crash and burn?

  5. Blockade? Qatar Says it Sends Building Materials to Gaza Freely….
    “Israel has authorized all the projects funded by Qatar in the Gaza Strip,” revealed al-Amadi. “The process of rebuilding Gaza is advancing very well, at a time when construction materials are being transferred to Gaza every day without hitting blockages.”

    Again, I have been saying for years… qatar leashed hamas for the GCC who is working with Israel since POD when qatar “brokered” the truce. There never was a split between qatar and the GCC, its a story for the arab street to give Qatar “resistance credentials”. qatar has always sought and got israeli approval directly from israel for any of its investments in gaza. Gaza has applied to Israel for the right to redevelop gaza before the last war. qatar and Israel used to have consular and trade relations. So much BS floating around.

  6. @ yamit82:

    I view the turmoil in the Middle East as a blessing in disguise. Apart from Egypt, the entire eastern Arab front has disappeared; the Saudis and their Arab allies are more worried about Yemen than about Israel. Iran has had to put off fighting Israel as it looks on in alarm at reverses in Syria and Iraq and the whole Middle East is a balagan. For Israel, all of this is very good news – and it should enjoy it while it lasts.

  7. Thoughts for the Season

    “Men must endure / Their going hence, even as their coming hither;
    Ripeness is all. Come on.” [King Lear 5.2.9-11]

    “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

    The ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best

    Lack all conviction while the worst

    Are full of passionate intensity.” [Yeats, “The Second Coming”]

    The Bible promises the nation of Israel a huge country from the Nile to the Euphrates. Such a country was unsustainable and utterly unnecessary for Jews in antiquity. “From the Nile” includes Sinai, but even Egypt didn’t govern the Sinai in times of old except for a narrow strip. The Promised Land was a technical impossibility and a burden to maintain. The land wasn’t prized, but consisted of deserts and steppes. If you were bent on seducing Hebrews with a promise, a takeover of Egypt would be much more attractive.

    Only in the late twentieth century did we understand the rationale behind the Promised Land. Israel critically needs the Sinai for depth of defense against Islamist Egypt. If not for Sinai and the Negev, the initial thrust of the Yom Kippur war would have drowned the Jews in the sea. Now that Egypt has acquired missiles and cutting-edge aircraft, the depth of defense the Sinai affords to the Jewish state becomes all the more important.

    The Promised Land includes the Frankenstein state of Lebanon. Jews so far have failed to realize the commandment and conquer that land, driving the ever-fighting Lebanese tribes away to Syria—and the Lebanese tribes have proved to be a perpetual source of trouble for Jewish Galilee.

    Likewise with the Euphrates. The Jordanian monarchy won’t last long. The Palestinian majority will take over that desert state, and unable to create a viable economy there, they will turn to nationalism and militancy. Jordan will become a huge Gaza, rife with terrorist training camps. Jordanians will extend their influence to those Arabs whom Israel failed to expel in violation of the commandment, and they will become “a trap for you,” “a sore in your eye,” and “masters over you.” In order to establish security, Israel would have no choice but to extend toward the Euphrates, relocating the hostile Arabs to Iraq. As if prompting Israel to fulfill the commandment, the strong and militant state of Iraq was invaded for no reason and destroyed; now the way for relocating Palestinians and Jordanians is cleared.

  8. “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” – W. B. Yeats, ……..

    ISIS took Ramadi last week.

    i do not see everything “going wrong”, I see lies being corrected in the manner the “universe” usually makes corrections:
    It was known at the outset that Iraq would fall apart and was likely the planned outcome under Bush.
    The fragmentation and chaos in the ME has neutered some of Israels major enemies and put others in cooperation (ghadaffi, assad, morsi, mubarak, saddam, etc old enemies and their nations dismembered)
    Egypt and the sunni gulf is presently cooperation, Syrias military and golan claims weakened, hezbullah spread thin and weakened, Iraq weakend and dismembered, Irans overextending its reach and under attack,etc…
    the BDS churches who stalk the Jews and hired the arabs to kill the Jews are instead seeing their christian brothers heads chopped, christian churches destroyed i the ME, their hold on christian europe being weakened by the honor killer termites, their energy and land threatened by Vlad, their wives and daughters subject to muslim grooming gangs which they intended to foist on the Jews, etc etc etc…..
    Orgs like FIFA begin to stalk the Jews and their officers are arrested and jailed….
    Il Papa embraces the evil pals and christian pageants in Italian villages are stoned by muslims…….

    I see the liars, blood libelers, swindlers, defamers, delegitimizers and enemies in deserved chaos and suffering……

    I see the glass half full…..
    I see justice descending on the evil ones, step by step, lie by lie, as an intended message……
    with the right glasses and perspective: “la vie en rose”
    The question is: Who is taking the Jewish people in HIS arms: