President Obama thinks he has found the secret weapon for defeating ISIS: “better ideas.”
In the president’s Monday speech at the Pentagon, the president claimed that these superior ideas are more important in winning the fight against the Islamic State than weapons.
Obama promised that “a more attractive and more compelling vision” would topple the aspiring caliphate’s “twisted thinking” and bring peace to the region.
This statement was naturally greeted with mockery from the right. The obvious argument against the president’s line of reasoning is how the Allies vanquished the Axis in World War II — with bombs and guns, not well-meaning platitudes. (RELATED: Obama: ISIS Won’t Be ‘Defeated With Guns’ But ‘By Better Ideas’)
But while it is pretty incredulous to think “better ideas” are the most important ingredient in defeating Islamic extremists…excuse me, “un-Islamic” extremists, this idealism is par the course for recent American foreign policy thinking.
Americans — especially those lucky few who craft our foreign policy decisions — like to think everyone in the world wants our form of government and our way of life. We justified invading Iraq with the idea that the Iraqi people desperately craved democracy and wanted to be just like Americans. We even dubbed our attack “Opeation Iraqi Freedom.”
The violently partitioned Iraq of 2015 is the best evidence for why this notion was dead wrong.
Instead of democracy, much of Iraq has adhered to ethnic and religious loyalties and rejected the idea of a united democracy. It could even be argued that Iraq is worse today than when it was under the rule of Saddam Hussein as evidenced by the nation’s enveloping civil war.
It’s clear our “better ideas” didn’t win over the Iraqis.
ISIS, the primary perpetrator of Iraq’s civil strife, is further proof that many parts of the world are rejecting the “compelling vision” put forth by Obama and other Western leaders. Thousands of ISIS’s followers come from the West and have had extensive contact with the merits of liberal democracy. However, instead of embracing Western ideology, these militants have wholeheartedly abandoned it in favor of a theocracy that promises to bring back the Middle Ages.
How could all these great ideas be rejected if they are so wonderful, noble and true? How could so many men and women be born into our progressive bloc and want nothing to do with our way of life?
Obviously, not everyone on this planet thinks our ideas are great. One man’s great idea can be another man’s insanity. When taken to the world stage, this chasm of difference only becomes more apparent.
Yet, our foreign policy makers seem unaware this chasm even exists. That’s why we have recently seen so many failures on the part of the U.S. when it comes to global affairs. The Arab Spring was going to bring democracy to the part of the world. Instead, it brought the Muslim Brotherhood into power in Egypt and turned Libya into the Somalia of the Mediterranean. (RELATED: Remembering Libya: Hillary’s Iraq)
In Syria, all the democracy-loving rebels warring against the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad quickly dissipated and magically morphed into hardened Islamic radicals. However, this hardening hasn’t deterred the Obama administration from continuing to look for anti-ISIS, anti-Assad Syrians — which apparently amounts to only 60 individuals, judging by the number willing to sign up for a U.S.-backed anti-ISIS force.
That force was supposed to have recruited thousands.
And it’s not just the Middle East that’s unimpressed with progress. Russia is increasingly distancing itself from the West and feeling nostalgic for the days of the USSR. China and several other East Asian nations have embraced Western economics but refused western political thought and human rights.
According to The Economist, global democracy has seen numerous setbacks since 2000. There has been a continuous drop in the number of democratic regimes in the world since 2005.
The hope that our way of life is what everyone wants is not realistic. And that’s the real problem with Obama’s line of thinking.
We are not going to defeat ISIS with our better ideas. Heavy weaponry and serious opposition forces on the ground will accomplish the feat. But, as a matter of fact, thinking that our ideas are superior to any others is what allowed the Islamic State to form in the first place.
We toppled Saddam and left behind a weak, nominally democratic government to rule a divided Mesopotamia. We armed and trained anti-Assad rebels in the hopes that they would create a system more in line with our own. Instead, many of them brought their advanced weaponry and training to ISIS and other Islamic extremists.
America’s foreign policy created a gap, and it’s not shocking a murderous terror organization has moved in to fill it.
Iraq is a textbook example of why our foreign policy should not be concerned with exporting democracy to the rest of the world. The installation of democracies often conflicts with what our sole foreign policy objective should be: protecting the interests of America and its allies.
If we can restore that attractive and compelling foreign policy vision, we can hope for a better world and a safer United States.