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RE: Santorum: Obama Doesn’t Believe in Evil

Alana Goodman, citing Rick Santorum’s CPAC speech, gets at one of the chief things missing from Obama’s lukewarm, hedged, yet curiously urgent semi-endorsement of whatever it is he has endorsed in Egypt. What’s missing is an acknowledgment of which forces are inimical to freedom and liberal reform because their motives are evil.

Eschewing the “E” word was a default practice of the Cold War; John alludes to it in calling out James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, on his inane babble about the Muslim Brotherhood during a congressional hearing this week. But in this regard, a passing point of Alana’s is crucial. Santorum didn’t specify which evil or evils he thinks Obama can identify better — and he wasn’t merely being coy, I think. He was declining to open a Pandora’s Box of intellectual discord. Despite the objective evils of radical Islamism, America and the West are less unified today on what it means to identify it and organize against it than Western peoples were in the face of predatory Marxism.

Radical Islamism isn’t monolithic, nor is it inherently oriented toward the seizure of central-government power, as Marxism is. Identifying evil in the goals and methods of the Muslim Brotherhood is, in practical terms, a proposition different from identifying the evils of Marxism or Communist movements. The latter once seemed sneaky and hard to organize against, but in comparison with the NGO-like social approach of the Muslim Brotherhood — often virtually indistinguishable from ordinary Muslim life and discourse — the Marxist profile looks as primitive and obvious now as infantry battle in the 18th century.

The moral urgency Reagan expressed in his “Evil Empire” speech was vital to achieving a transformative outcome. I imagine Rick Santorum has that in mind when he criticizes Obama’s inability to match it. But while I agree that we need such clarity from our president, I don’t yet see societal momentum for a unifying, galvanizing definition of the “evil” represented by radical Islamism — or of what it should mean for our policies.

Apart from outliers like Glenn Beck, whose problematic characteristics Peter Wehner has laid out, most Westerners have formed no actionable concept of radical Islamism as an evil that we have to actually overcome — as something we can’t coexist with, something that requires defeating. Defending ourselves against terrorism isn’t proposing to defeat Islamism. We can agree to defend ourselves without agreeing that Islamism is a predatory evil requiring defeat; in fact, that’s what we’ve done. We have postponed a debate on the nature of the “evil” to a later date. Perhaps doing that and electing Obama arose from the same impulse. However that may be, if Obama doesn’t believe in evil — evil as it mattered in the free world vs. Communism model — he is a natural fit for a people that isn’t perceiving such evil.



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