U.S. President Joe Biden is about to travel to the Middle East in an attempt to alleviate the mess created by his own ineptitude.
He is due to go cap in hand to Saudi Arabia to beg the leader of a state he has publicly reviled as a human rights “pariah,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, to bring oil prices down in order to alleviate the fuel shortage caused by the war in Ukraine.
And the reason for that war is the catastrophic signal Biden himself sent out when America scuttled so ignominiously from Afghanistan.
This told Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, that an America that had so badly lost all sense of itself as a defender of freedom wouldn’t lift a finger against Russian aggression. Thus emboldened, Putin launched his onslaught against Ukraine. Drawing the same conclusion from the rout of America, China has been rubbing its hands over Taiwan, which is now at far greater risk of a Chinese attack.
And Iran has felt emboldened to thumb its nose at America by ramping up its aggression in the region and brazenly advertising its imminent breakout of nuclear weapons capacity.
In other words, the Biden administration has made the world an infinitely more dangerous place.
So a speech by Nikki Haley in London this week seemed to offer a lifeline.
Haley, who is spoken of as a possible vice-presidential candidate in 2024, was appointed by former President Donald Trump as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, where she did an outstanding job in robustly standing up for Israel and the West against their many enemies.
While she has not declared herself to be running for high office, her delivery of the Colin Cramphorn Memorial Lecture at the Policy Exchange think-tank sounded like a leadership campaign speech. And with her fellow Republicans seemingly unable to produce a coherent vision for America to counter the disaster of the Biden administration, it was pitch-perfect and received by her conservative London audience like rain in a desert.
It was the speech of a leader rousing not just her party and her nation but also Western civilization itself to battle for survival. The West, she said, was in danger as a result of its own myopic and craven behavior.
While Putin’s aggression, she said, was precipitated by the rout of America in Afghanistan, this followed in turn decades of a total failure of deterrence by the West.
Faced with Russia’s aggression in the Crimea and Syria, as well as its use of chemical weapons to target dissidents on the streets of Britain, the West had done almost nothing to hold Putin to account for these crimes.
The West, she warned, was now at an inflection point with its back against the wall. Russia and China had formed an alliance to bring down the West that was closer than the alliance between Mao and Stalin. The third party in this troika of evil was Iran, which was intent on regional domination and whose own belligerence promoted Russian ambitions.
The West’s lethal mistake, she said, had been to assume that economic interdependence with such regimes would promote peace and avoid conflict. The opposite was the case. Now the West needed to make a fundamental shift by detaching from its enemies and relying instead on its friends.
This, of course, is particularly true in the Middle East. Ever since the fanatical Iranian revolutionary regime came to power in 1979, the west has astoundingly ignored the war that Iran has waged against it through terrorism and the killing of Western soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And the West has also incentivized endless violence in the Middle East through its insistence on rewarding Palestinian rejectionism and anti-Jewish bigotry by punishing Israel and undermining its security purely for resisting such attempts to destroy it.
What was so refreshing was the clarity of Haley’s message and her refusal to soft-soap brutal realities. If the West is to defend itself, she warned, it has to be prepared to take the pain and sacrifice involved in decoupling from China and Russia. It needs to show strength and the intention to win.
And to do all that, it needs above all to believe that it is actually worth defending. “Only countries proud of their inheritance can defeat their enemies,” she said. “Our self-loathing has to stop.”
This indeed is key. Unless the west believes in the principles for which it stands, it cannot survive. America itself is a moral project or it is nothing.
But at the moment, it seems determined to make that second option come true. For it is dangerously riven by the most profound social, cultural and political divisions.
It is divided between intellectual elites and the rest; between black and white; between gender ideologues and those who believe there are men and there are women; between Democrats and Republicans; between pro-Trump Republicans and Never-Trump Republicans.
The divisions are bitter, violent and viciously polarized. Civilized engagement between opposing views seems to have become all but impossible. Opinions diverging from politically approved positions are being suppressed through character assassination and professional and social intimidation.
The building blocks of society have been grievously undermined. Traditional family life has been eroded. Education has ceased transmitting Western culture to the next generation and instead is teaching the young to hate their society.
And as the West has turned on itself, so inevitably it has turned on the Jews through both domestic anti-Semitism and the demonization and delegitimization of Israel aimed at bringing about its destruction.
The onslaught being mounted in the Western world against the Jewish people will not end unless and until the West ends its own onslaught against itself.
The challenge facing Western leaders therefore could not be more momentous. But could any leader meet it? Is it actually possible to stop America’s slide into cultural fragmentation and global impotence?
When asked this question in London, Haley said America simply couldn’t afford to fail. And her own approach showed how, if this desperate task has any chance of succeeding, the West can stop itself from plunging off the edge of the cultural cliff.
The only way is through leadership that exhibits the kind of moral clarity she was expressing. For the reason that evil currently has the upper hand in the world is the absence of leaders prepared to make it clear that they simply won’t stand for attacks on their society at home or on the free world abroad.
What is so astounding isn’t just the appeasement of the West’s enemies abroad. It is also that that, at home, the lunacies of critical race theory and intersectionality have gained such traction in the universities, schools, companies and even the armed forces. It’s all part of the same dismal story—a wholesale absence of Western spine.
What makes the timidity of Western politicians all the more frustrating is the demonstrable public hunger for such leadership and the rewards that it brings.
In America, this was demonstrated by last year’s stunning election victory in Virginia of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who gained office in a hitherto solidly Democratic state by emphasizing parental rights to make decisions about their children’s education with the slogan, “parents matter.”
And in Israel, the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem not only did not produce the eruption of violence so adamantly predicted by the U.S. State department and hosts of other faint hearts, but ushered in the revolutionary Abraham Accords between Israel and the Gulf states.
One thing above all is required at present from the leaders of the West. It’s moral courage. Whoever displays that deserves to win the highest office. It is essential that whoever fails to display it does not.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, “The Legacy.” Go to melaniephillips.substack.com to access her work.
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