The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, September 05, 2015


In a beautifully written and fascinating article on the antiquities at the 2,000 year old city of Palmyra, Leon Wieseltier recounts the history of the place and the tragedy of it's recent purposeful destruction by ISIS. He recounts the all too familiar barbarity of the ISIS thugs who murder and pillage in the name of Islam, and laments the destruction of the past by present-day barbarians.

He concludes with the following comment:
But whose responsibility is it to protect this common heritage? Is it America’s? Not ours; no, sir. America is not the keeper of other people’s antiquities. America is not the keeper of other people’s liberties. America is not the keeper of other people’s rights. America is not the keeper of other people’s borders. Not after that last war; no, sir. We are the keepers only of ourselves, and of our president’s “legacy.” We practice a doctrine of strategic detachment and wrap ourselves in rectitude about it. To the persecuted of the world, to the dissidents, to the refugees, to the raped and the enslaved, to the victims of chemical weapons in a country where the United States was supposed to have confiscated all the chemical weapons, America says sauve qui peut. [every man for himself]

America is no longer moved by the moral imperative of support and rescue, even when, as in Syria, it is plainly in its strategic interest. (I know, we rescued the Yazidis.) The 71 immigrants who were found dead in a truck on a Hungarian road, the corpse of a little boy that washed up on a Turkish beach, the hundreds of thousands of desperate people (out of 4 million) now making their way to Europe—these friendless people were killed or exiled in part by the Western refusal to face the horrors of Syria four years ago. All this was predicted. What did we think would happen if we did nothing?

Hold on. Indignation is getting the better of me. America did do something. We trained 54 Syrian soldiers for the “New Syrian Force,” nearly half of whom were killed or captured as soon as they went to work. We are running more than 350 Twitter accounts at the Department of State, which, according to the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, are “aggregating, curating, and amplifying existing content.” We are flying drones to assassinate villains who are immediately replaced. In sum, it is springtime for ISIS. We present no serious obstacles and offer no significant impediments. We deplore and we respond trivially. We act, but not decisively. This is what the world looks like when the United States has abandoned its faith in its power and its duty to do good. For whom are we any longer a source of hope? The rubble of Palmyra is a melancholy emblem of the rubble of American foreign policy.
Leon Wieseltier's article appeared in The Atlantic, and I'm certain that these last few paragraphs caused some intellectual discomfort among its left-leaning readers. In a way, Palmyra is as much a part of Barack Obama's much vaunted "legacy" as any of his self-proclaimed foreign policy "achievements." There's only one difference—the wanton destruction of Palmyra is real, and this president's "achievements" are like the dust that now blows in the desert where Palmyra used to be.