9/12/14, "Of Politicians and Moral Courage," FrontPage, Caroline Glick, Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.
"Leaders are not elected. Politicians are elected. Their election in
turn provides politicians with the opportunity to become leaders.
don’t become a leader by telling people what they want to hear,
although doing so certainly helps to you get elected. A politician
becomes a leader by telling people what they don’t want to hear.
they are lucky, politicians will never have to become leaders.
will serve in times of peace and plenty, when it’s possible to pretend
away the hard facts of the human condition. And they can leave office
beloved for letting people believe that the world is the Elysian Fields.
Certainly this has been the case for many American politicians since the end of World War II.
is not the case today. In our times, evil rears its ugly head with
greater power and frequency than it has in at least a generation. As
Americans learned 13 years ago this week, evil ignored is evil
Yet fighting evil and protecting the good is not a simple matter. Evil has many handmaidens.
Those who hide it away enable it. Those who justify it enable it. Those who ignore it enable it.
fight evil effectively, a leader must possess the moral wisdom to
recognize that evil can only be rooted out when the environment that
cultivates it is discredited and so transformed. To discredit and
transform that environment, a leader must have the moral courage to
stand not only against evildoers, but against their far less
In other words, the foundations of true leadership are moral clarity and courage.
On Wednesday two American elected leaders gave speeches. In one, a leader emerged. In the other, a politician gave a speech.
The first speech was given by Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Wednesday evening, Cruz gave the keynote address at the inaugural
dinner of an organization that calls itself In Defense of Christians.
The purpose of the new organization is supposed to be advocacy on behalf of oppressed Christian communities in the Middle East.
of the dinner, The Washington Free Beacon website questioned Cruz’s
decision to address the group. Several Christian leaders from Lebanon
and Syria also scheduled to address the forum had records of public
support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and Hezbollah, and had made
egregiously anti-Semitic statements.
For instance, Church of
Antioch Patriarch Gregory III Laham blamed jihadist attacks on Iraqi
Christians on a “Zionist conspiracy against Islam” aimed at making
Muslims look bad.
Probably the organization’s leaders assumed that
Cruz would give their group bipartisan credibility and never considered
he might challenge their anti-Jewish prejudices. No American politician
in recent memory has made an issue of the rampant Jew-hatred among
Middle Eastern Christians.
Probably they figured that he’d make an
impassioned speech about the plight of Christians under the jackboot of
Islamic State, enjoy warm applause, leave the hall and clear the path
for other speakers to blame the Jews.
Cruz did not follow the script. Instead he used the opportunity to tell his audience hard truths.
In a statement released by his office, Cruz summarized the events of the evening.
“I told the attendees that those who hate Israel also hate
America… that those who hate Jews also hate Christians. And that anyone
who hates Israel and the Jewish people is not following the teachings of
“I went on to tell the crowd that Christians in the
Middle East have no better friend than Israel. That Christians can
practice their faith free of persecution in Israel. And that ISIS
[Islamic State], al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah, along with their state
sponsors in Syria and Iran, are all part of the same cancer, murdering
Christians and Jews alike. Hate is hate, and murder is murder.”
For his decision not to take the low road, Cruz was subjected to
angry boos and heckling from the audience, whose members angrily
rejected his remarks.
“After just a few minutes, I had no choice,”
Cruz said. “I told them that if you will not stand with Israel, if you
will not stand with the Jews, then I will not stand with you. And then I
walked off the stage.”
Cruz’s action was an act of moral leadership.
stood before his audience of fellow Christians and told his
co-religionists that their hatred of Jews and Israel is un-Christian. He
told them as well that their bigotry blinds them to their own plight
and makes them reject their greatest ally in securing their future in
the Middle East.
Cruz’s strategy for fighting Islamic oppression
of Christians involves uniting all those oppressed and attacked by
jihadists. In all honesty, it is the only policy that has a chance in
the long term of securing the future of the Christians of the Middle
For Cruz to reach this conclusion, he first had to possess
the moral clarity to recognize that Christian Jew-hatred is a major
obstacle to securing the future of the Middle East’s Christians.
In other words his strategic vision is anchored in moral courage.
same evening that Cruz was booed off the stage by an audience of
anti-Semitic Christians, US President Obama gave a speech to the general
audience where he set out his rationale for fighting Islamic State in
Iraq and Syria and his strategy for doing so.
In some ways, it is
unfair to compare Obama’s speech to Cruz’s. Cruz addressed a narrow
constituency and Obama gave his speech to all Americans, and indeed to
the entire world.
A more apt comparison would be between Cruz’s
speech to the pro-terror Christians and Obama’s speech to an audience
that included Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Cairo in 2009.
the chief reason that Cruz’s speech was an act of leadership, and
Obama’s was the address of a politician, is that Obama’s speech
reflected his remarks in Cairo and his subsequent speeches to Muslim
audiences and about Islam throughout the intervening years.
during his speech in Cairo nor in subsequent remarks has Obama ever
called out the world’s Muslims for their bigotry against Jews,
Christians and others. Neither during his speech in Cairo nor in
subsequent addresses has Obama spoken out against Islamic terrorism or
the jihadist world view that stands at the foundation of Islamic
Rather, throughout his presidency Obama has denied the
existence of the jihad, its ideology and the fact that it is a force
shaping events throughout the world.
Wednesday’s speech was no exception.
the outset of his remarks, Obama insisted that Islamic State, or (ISIL as he calls it), “is not ‘Islamic.’” Obama may be right, and he may be
That’s for Muslims to determine. But whatever the truth is
about Islam and jihad, the fact is that hundreds of millions of Muslims
believe that Islamic State and other jihadist groups and regimes, of
both the Shi’ite and Sunni variety, are accurate expressions of Islam.
This is why thousands of Muslims from Europe and the US are flocking to
Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State.
Obama’s policies for
contending with Islamic jihadists are a natural extension of his refusal
to speak hard truths to Muslims or speak truthfully about Islamic
terrorism and jihadism. His whitewashing of jihadist Islam on Wednesday
night similarly was reflected in the strategy he set out for fighting
As Fred and Kim Kagan noted in The Weekly Standard,
Obama’s decision to use counterterror strategies for fighting Islamic
State is a recipe for failure. What Obama referred to as “a terrorist
organization,” is actually an insurgency that fights battles against
standing armies and wins. Counterterror operations cannot work against such a force.
too, Obama’s asserted that his strategy for fighting Islamic State has
been tried and succeeded in Somalia and Yemen. Yet by all accounts,
jihadist forces in both countries are not only undefeated, they are
Obama’s strategy involves joining US air power
with anti-Islamic State forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Yet
aside from the Kurds, all the forces on the ground in both countries are
Just hours before Obama’s speech, the
leadership of Syria’s “moderate” rebel forces was decapitated in an
explosion. And for all their moderation, the leaders were part of an
anti-Assad coalition that included Islamic State.
Although he is
an Alawite, Bashar Assad and his forces are members of the Shi’ite
jihadist coalition led by Iran that includes Hezbollah.
forces are more dangerous than Islamic State. Yet US air strikes against
Islamic State will redound to their direct benefit.
refusal to acknowledge the existence of jihad – of both the Sunni and
Shi’ite variety – makes it impossible for him to devise a realistic
strategy for defeating jihadists. He rightly defines Islamic State as an
enemy of the US, but because he denies the existence of jihad, he is
incapable of putting Islamic State in its proper strategic context.
Among the many forces fighting on the ground in Iraq and Syria today,
you have two jihadist forces – one Shi’ite and one Sunni – that are
fighting each other. Both are enemies of America and its allies.
be sure, Islamic State must be confronted and defeated – just as Iran,
Hezbollah, al-Qaida, Hamas and Boko Haram need to be defeated.
Defeating only one group empowers others, and so you keep ending up where you started.
rather than understand that while jihadist forces may oppose one
another, the threat they pose to the free world is indivisible, as Obama
focuses on Islamic State, he is enabling Iran to expand its power in
Iraq and Syria, and to complete its nuclear weapons program.
week the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran continues
to hide key information about its nuclear program from the UN nuclear
watchdog, despite its agreement to provide the IAEA with full
transparency last November.
The Iranians continue to bar IAEA
inspectors from the suspected military nuclear installation at Parchin.
Negotiations on a nuclear accord between the US and its partners and
Iran are going nowhere. According to Western diplomatic sources, the
failure to reach an accord owes entirely to Iran’s refusal to compromise
on any substantive nuclear issues.
While Iran refuses to provide
transparency to the IAEA, its guiding strategy is clear to the naked
eye. It is prolonging negotiations to buy time to complete its nuclear
However, Obama, who insists that Islamic State “terrorists are unique in their brutality,” refuses to see the true picture.
truth revealed on Wednesday night is that Obama cannot lead a
successful war against the forces of Islamic jihad that threaten
humanity. He cannot do so because he rejects the moral clarity required
to confront the danger.
He cannot successfully lead the war because, as we saw once again on Wednesday night, he is not a leader. He is a politician."