Congratulations to Mitt Romney. In calling for “opposition groups” to be armed and trained for their ongoing jihad against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the GOP’s presidential contender has managed to align himself with al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri and Muslim Brotherhood icon Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Like the legacy media, the McCain wing of the Republican party, and the rest of Washington’s progressive, Islamophilic clerisy, Governor Romney is reacting to a regime-engineered massacre last week. Assad’s forces reportedly killed 108 Syrians in Houla, a rural enclave outside the “opposition” city of Homs. Victims included women and children shot at close range, in summary-execution style.
There is no gainsaying that Assad is despicable or that the Houla episode was barbaric. Neither can it be denied, however, that Romney and his advisers have had little to say about the similarly barbaric attacks carried out by the “opposition.” About two weeks before Houla, for example, a car bomb killed 55 people in Damascus — targeting a regime intelligence building, but detonated at rush hour, in the al-Qaeda fashion, for maximum civilian carnage. A few days later, nine more people were killed when a suicide bomber exploded his device in a parking lot near a military compound in Deir ez-Zor, a notorious jihadist hub from which thousands of terrorists crossed into Iraq to fight against Western forces.
Yes, Assad’s minority Alawite Muslim regime is a key ally of Iran’s revolutionary Shiite-supremacist government. That does not alter the stubborn fact that the anti-Assad “opposition groups” are dominated by Sunni supremacists. Stubborn facts cannot be evaded by clever labeling — “opposition groups” in Syria having become the euphemism du jour that “rebels” was in Libya, “peaceful protesters” in Egypt, “uprisings” in Tunisia, and so on. Nor can we confidently assert any longer that what is bad for Iran must be good for us. Threats are dynamic, and much has changed in the last decade. The Iranian regime is not the only virulently anti-American revolutionary movement realistically threatening to enslave the Middle East in its version of totalitarian sharia and implacable anti-Semitism.
The Muslim Brotherhood, leader of the Sunni supremacists, has a hammer-lock on the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group the Obama administration has been courting — with the McCain wing cheering from the sidelines. Meanwhile, as trumpeted on the Brotherhood’s website, Sheikh Qaradawi has been organizing Syria’s Islamist revolt for months, reprising the starring role he is playing in Egypt. Al-Qaeda — whose help the Brotherhood is happy to have when it is expedient, as it was in Libya — put its muscle into the Syrian revolt months ago. As the invaluable John Rosenthal reported here at NRO, Obama’s national intelligence director, James Clapper, has acknowledged al-Qaeda’s infiltration of the Syrian opposition. The terror network’s hand in the recent string of bombings is obvious, even to the Associated Press. Its presence and influence at opposition rallies are also patent.
Washington can idealize the Syrian “opposition” into liberty-loving freedom-fighters; to Syrian Christians, they are the jihad. With churches being torched, families being terrorized by kidnappings and murders, and thousands of believers being put to flight, Christian are now suffering the same fate “Islamic democracy” held for the Christians of Egypt and Iraq. (Jews face no such problem; after decades of humiliating dhimmitude, they have long since been driven out of Syria.)
Yet, here comes Romney, jumping with both feet into the Islamist camp. This week, he slammed President Obama for purportedly failing to work with our two fabulous “allies,” the Brotherhood-tied Islamist regime in Turkey and the jihad-propagating Wahabist regime in Saudi Arabia, in order to oust Assad. Obama’s temporizing, according to Romney, had “merely granted the Assad regime more time to execute its military onslaught.”
This is a specious critique. Put aside that Romney is wrong — the administration should stay on the sidelines. The reality is that Obama has been working behind the scenes with the Saudis and the Turks. The administration is supporting the Brotherhood-controlled SNC — just as it threw its weight behind Islamists in Egypt and Libya. What Obama has been smart enough to do, at least to this point, is refrain from direct military aid, undoubtedly realizing that he would be blamed when, inevitably, it became clear that American arms went to America’s enemies. But McCain and the Brotherhood goaded the president into using force in Libya — where the victorious “rebels” quickly installed sharia law and parceled out Qaddafi’s arsenal to Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda. Another misadventure in Syria, it seems, is only a matter of time.
In their anxiety over our nation’s future, conservatives see the upcoming November election as a make-or-break crossroads. Thus, the Right’s indifference to Mitt Romney, the only alternative to Obama’s reelection, is striking. But it is not bewildering, and stories like Syria’s go a long way toward explaining it. Desperation to avoid the third Carter term does not translate into enthusiasm over the specter of the third Bush administration.
It was during George W. Bush’s second term that the original Bush doctrine of eradicating terror networks and their supporting regimes was fully superseded by the revised Bush doctrine of “Muslim outreach” and Islamist empowerment — gussied up as “democracy promotion.” It was during the second Bush term that the coherent, completed anti-terrorist mission of dislodging Saddam Hussein gave way to the incoherence of the “freedom agenda.” That was policy made of the pretense that Islamic hearts and minds could be won over by a kinder, gentler style of war-fighting, one that elevated the safety of hostile Muslim populations over the security of our troops and the vanquishing of our enemies. It was under Bush, not Obama, that the executive branch began indulging Islamist demands that the government purge references to Islamic doctrine in discussions of jihadist terror. It was Bush’s State Department, not Obama’s, that first sustained the Clintonian approach of appeasing Iran: a blind eye to the mullahs’ facilitation of terror against our troops and a blind faith in the capacity of sanctions to bring them to heel.
These policies were not merely unwise; they were immensely unpopular. Americans strongly favored military action against jihadists and their enablers. They never supported nation-building schemes and never agreed with the ruling class that propping up sharia states disguised as democracies was an appropriate use of our armed forces. And while official Washington lauds leaders of Islamist organizations as “moderates” who are willing to seek “change” through the political process rather than violence, Americans see them as extremists trying to sow sharia principles into our law and institutions. Thus, despite an unrelenting smear campaign by which Islamists — abetted by leftists — seek to silence their critics with accusations of bigotry and “Islamophobia,” Americans continue to support state initiatives to bar courts from relying on sharia law, to oppose provocations such as the Ground Zero mosque, and to applaud initiatives such as Senator Rand Paul’s worthy proposal to cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan because of its enforcement of such sharia strictures as the death penalty in blasphemy cases.
So unpopular was the second Bush term that it gave us, first, the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006, and then, in 2008, the Obama administration. The Republican establishment sloughed these electoral thumpings off to the country’s being “war weary.” But the country has never been war weary — when we are threatened, we want the threats dealt with decisively. What we are is Islam weary.
Americans are not predisposed against Muslims — in sharp contrast to mainstream Islam’s animus toward the West. We welcome with open arms anyone, of any creed, who is willing to assimilate to our culture of liberty — to the outrage of Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards asking Muslims in the West to assimilate as a “crime against humanity.”
We are exhausted, though, from defending ourselves against Muslim mass-murderers while walking on eggshells for fear of offending tender Muslim sensibilities. We are tapped out, emotionally and financially, from making enormous sacrifices on behalf of ingrate Muslim peoples, who gravitate to our enemies even as we labor to improve their lot. And we are sick to death of the suggestion that we need to apologize for our country when most of the violence that currently besets the world — a great deal of which is Muslim-on-Muslim savagery — is directly traceable to Islamic culture. We have never been at war with Islam, and we have no desire to conquer or occupy Muslim territory; but neither do we want any more entanglement with Islamic countries than is absolutely necessary. We hope Islam reforms, we hope Muslims stop killing each other. But we’re tired of that being our problem — especially since it’s a problem we can’t fix.
By refraining from American involvement in Syria — or, at least, overt American involvement — we have deprived the competing factions of the opportunity to unify around the superpower they love to hate. As a result, they are fighting among themselves. Hamas has pulled up stakes from Syria, its longstanding partnership with the Assad regime and Iran in tatters because of its support for the Syrian “opposition” (i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian branch). Relations between Hamas and Hezbollah, a key Assad ally, have frayed. Assad is increasingly crippled, which deeply wounds Iran. Erdogan’s honeymoon with Assad is over, and Turkey must tend to the strains in its formerly cozy relations with Iran and Iraq (while quietly replacing Iran as Hamas’s sugar daddy — proving, yet again, it is no ally of ours). The Saudis, who have bankrolled the Muslim Brotherhood’s global promotion of Islamic supremacist ideology, are panicked by the Brotherhood’s ascendancy, frosting their relations with Egypt and complicating their efforts to aid Syrian Islamists.
If we had tried to come up with a plan for simultaneously weakening all the anti-American, anti-Western players in the region, we’d never have been able to come up with something this effective. And it needn’t cost us a single American life or a single American dollar. All we need to do is stay out of it.
In Egypt, just across the sea from Syria, after the first “democratic” election yielded overwhelming Islamist control of the legislature, the next “democratic” election has produced a standoff between the Muslim Brotherhood candidate and the Mubarak regime candidate (to be decided in a runoff election later this month). That didn’t happen because of the United States. It happened because, in the Middle East, there is no freedom culture: The authentic democrats are vastly outnumbered by the Islamic supremacists. The only thing that prevents the tyranny of the Islamists is the tyranny of the strongmen — which is why 23 percent of Egyptians, deathly afraid of the former, voted for the latter.
As in Egypt, there is no good outcome for us in Syria. There is the atrocious dictator or the atrocious Islamists. There is no “better” side for Romney to choose. By throwing in his lot with the Islamists, he signals that he has failed to learn the hard lessons of the last decade. Americans do not want four more years of an administration that looks at enemies and sees friends. We don’t want “outreach”; we want out.
Romney’s support for the Syrian “opposition” will undoubtedly play well inside the Beltway. But the groan you hear is from the rest of the country, where elections are won and lost.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.