Toward a Restoration of Gravitas in the Middle East

Observe, first of all, that President Donald Trump took the battle to the enemy. By contrast, and in order to not let bygones be bygones, President Barack Obama let the enemy define the battle.

The 44th president, a Democrat, took the terror out of Islam; for this, he won a Nobel Peace Prize, as the world stayed at war and came closer, during his watch, to the all-out war of civilizations that Samuel Huntington so profoundly explained would take place absent the combination of resolve and prudence that, throughout his career, he counseled.

The 45th president, an Independent Republican, defined the enemy accurately and received no credit, only more hate mail from America’s self-described news organizations.

Donald Trump’s first international junket as president ought to be a time for sober reporting on the state of American foreign policy, the dangers we face, the bad and less-bad responses available to us. Consumed by its hatred for the man who beat their favorite candidates, the press resorts to moronic commentary on Mrs. Trump’s wardrobe. It has nothing to say on substance because this would require asking: How can America remain great and free?

It prefers to subvert our constitutional and democratic order by playing the roles of court-jester, megaphone, and lap-dog of politicians and civil servants (aka bureaucrats or deep-statists) who put their own obsessions and interests ahead of all other obligations, assuming they even know there are any.

Donald Trump was elected president last year in large part, because all the alternatives, in both major parties, were less successful than he was at convincing the voters that he cared for them, he cared for their country, and he meant to confront the threats to the union, at home and abroad.

For say what you will about his manners and theirs, he left little doubt as to where his priorities lay in the elementary matter of the American national interest. The same could not be said for his enemies and detractors.

Regarding the Middle East, it was always a mistake to think we could find loyal allies in this region outside its only democracy, Israel. The only rational approach was to make alliances of convenience. These, no doubt, had to be cold and cynical, but they would have had the advantage of deceiving no one, least of all ourselves. The enemy of my worse enemy is temporarily my lesser enemy, sometimes even my lukewarm friend — that is the guiding axiom for our policy makers, or it should be.

The Bush 43 administration actually formulated this early on, when it announced that in the war on terror, you were either with us or you were against us. But the Bushites lost sight of their own insight and replaced it with what is called Wilsonian liberal interventionism: the idea that America’s vocation was to be democracy’s missionary everywhere and forever.

Donald Trump would like to shatter that delusion. That does not mean he wants the republic to shrink from its role in preserving some kind of order in a beastly, awful, evil world. Without American power judiciously applied to curb the ambitions of tyrants, our own prosperity and freedoms are endangered.

We wish the president well as he continues a tour which began on a note of truth telling in a place where past administrations, Democratic and Republican, were all too prone to silly and embarrassing and untrue pillow talk. This week, he moves to the only success story, as society and polity, in the Middle East, and we expect the president will sound no ambiguous notes but will send a clear message that if the countries in this neighborhood are not with our two nations (nodding from the podium to his hosts), we are against you and you will know it.

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