If any public intellectual immediately after September 11, 2001 had the ear of former Vice President Richard Cheney it was Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, Dr. Bernard Lewis, Dr. Richard Perle, Dr. Eliot Cohen, and a host of other Arabists. But none possessed the piercing acumen of Dr. Fouad Ajami. He still commands formidable insight into an intractable region that has mastered many westerners beginning with Lawrence of Arabia and Sir. John Philby. Dr. Ajami’s books are coveted encounters for American enemies and policy wonks the world over. His latest is titled ‘The Foreigner’s Gift’ and holds the readers attention with lyrical overtones unbecoming most foreign policy intellectuals.
His latest article summons a brave glance at President Obama’s lost opportunity with Iran culminating with fraudulent elections last June revealing an entrenched militant theocracy with murderous domestic paramilitaries manning a political order ‘bereft of mercy or restraint.’ The west continues its naivete in regarding Facebook, Twitter or any ‘cyber optimism’ as the equivalent of a distinct foreign policy. How could we ever be so innocent so as to credit social media with the job requirements of an executive? Do we actually believe we can achieve regime change on the cheap? Nevertheless, Teheran’s realism blunted Washington’s idealism in that the instruments of repression slaughtered those on the ground. Ajami give fortuitous acclaim in grounding our desire for regime change. A near nuclear militant theocracy is not Communist despotism. The former understood the brute empty cynicism that was the promise of Marx and Lenin, the logic grounding the murderous idealism of Persian theocracy is beyond the claims of reason.
Ajami claims that “the first Islamic Republic (1979-2009) has fallen and that a second, “more cruel and unapologetic regime” rapes its citizenry in broad daylight. The first Islamic Republic had ‘pretensions of pluralism’ that gained acceptance in western policy centers effecting a wish to future accommodation with the international order of states. But June revealed an Iran that has entered into an apocalyptic phase, a darker night of totalitarian repression.
Where was American leadership throughout this turn of events? Where was the high moral voice that gives legitimacy to legions in the human rights regime?
Freedom House recently exclaimed that in today’s order of nations their is a ‘freedom recession’. This is both unnerving and unbecoming of our status as a Superpower. We learned throughout the years of Reagan that democratic struggles never occur in isolation. We were reminded by Sharansky and a host of others within the circle of Helsinki that the ‘indispensable nation’ had a role to play in drawing down satanic powers that vehemently denied liberty.
How did we arrive here?
Dr. Ajami believes that the economic crisis has been a boon to authoritarian regimes, ‘for pessimism and economic anxiety are the autocrates’ allies.’ He reveals that both China and Russia are ‘openly contemptuous of democratic norms’, both revel openly in a sardonic display that market based reforms have supplied their violent grasp of both nuclear ambitions and opponents. Both nations ruthlessly pursue their ambitions informed primarily from the principal of unfettered national sovereignty. And most importantly, our President is not born of American exceptionalism, saddling liberty to distant lands in pursuit of freedom. For Obama, such colonial thinking is not a legitimate American interest. ‘Obama signaled his resignation toward the despotisms of the Near East, he would take them as they come.’ Is such resigned engagement proper for an American executive? More harshly, is it acceptable for one whose primary political instincts are libertarian?
For Ajami and a host of other Arabists this administrations foreign posture is a moment of ‘supreme embarrassment’, whose consequences are still incubating. We have relinquished our moral and strategic heritage in favor of international populism. Obama’s inability to commit American reserve when Persia rose has not gone unnoticed in Qom, Caracas or Beijing.
The steward of liberty is paralyzed.