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No Sword, No Justice

Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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On Tuesday, President Obama visited the Dutch embassy in Washington to pay his respects to the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, shot down over Ukraine by forces armed and backed by Vladimir Putin. Obama wrote in the embassy’s condolence book, “We will not rest until we are certain that justice is done.”

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Then he rested.

Actually, that’s not fair. Obama didn’t rest. He flew off to the West Coast on a busy fundraising trip.

The sad fact is that justice will not be done with respect to Putin or his executioners. Justice won’t be done in part because President Obama won’t lift a finger to do it. Indeed, a couple of days after the president’s edifying if passive formulation in the condolence book, Obama administration officials weren’t even pretending they had much intention of doing anything significant. Perhaps that’s what Obama meant when he promised Putin he’d have more “flexibility” after his reelection. Flexibility turns out to mean saying you won’t rest until justice is done​—​and then doing nothing. It means presenting to the world what Leo Strauss wrote of Weimar Germany, “the sorry spectacle of justice without a sword or of justice unable to use the sword.” Under the Obama administration, we are becoming Weimar America.

There is, on the other hand, one nation that is presenting to the world the bracing spectacle of justice able and willing to
use the sword: Israel. Israel is fighting a war against Islamic terror. Naturally the administration isn’t happy about this. As Obama explained to donors at a Democratic fundraiser in Seattle several hours after visiting the Dutch embassy, “Part of people’s concern is just the sense that around the world, the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity.”

Based presumably on that sense of “common humanity,” Secretary of State John Kerry was, as Obama spoke, flying around the Middle East trying to “mediate” between Hamas and Israel. It’s great to be on the side of “common humanity.” It protects you from the charge that in practice you often seem to be on the side of the terrorists. Such a charge would be unfair. The Obama administration isn’t on the side of the terrorists. It’s just not on the side of those fighting against terror. It’s in the middle, mediating between the forces of terror and the forces of civilization.

It’s unfortunate that America is saddled with a Weimar-type administration. We’ve done it to ourselves. But surely we are not really a Weimar-type country. It’s up to the Republican party to make this clear and save us from such a fate.

This is above all the task of the next Republican president. But it’s also the task of Republicans in Congress​—​especially if the GOP wins control of the Senate this fall. A Republican Congress can stop the free fall in defense spending and military capability. A Republican Congress can make it clear that Congress does not accept an executive-branch-only agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that allows that terror-sponsoring regime to retain nuclear weapons capabilities, and that a Republican president in 2017 would not be bound by such an agreement. A Republican Congress can stand with Israel in ways that range from defunding terror-friendly elements of the United Nations to countering pressure on Israel to take damaging steps for the sake of a nonexistent (for now) two-state “solution.”

Above all, Republicans​—​even before November​—​can show they understand the world we live in. The Conservative governments of Stephen Harper in Canada and Tony Abbott in Australia seem to understand. Benjamin Netanyahu understands. What they understand was put well by Douglas Murray, writing in the London Spectator. Murray points out that Israel is

a nation which currently has to do what people in countries like this one .  .  . used to have to do but seem to have forgotten about: it has to fight for its survival. Israel is surrounded by enemies, as we have been for much of our history. But today we like to think that enemies are a thing of the past. There are no enemies, just phobias we haven’t been cured of yet.

A gap may well be emerging. But not because Israel has drifted away from the West. Rather because today in much of the West, as we bask in the afterglow of our achievements​—​eager to enjoy our rights, but unwilling to defend them​—​it is the West that is, slowly but surely, drifting away from itself.

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