As the winds of Islamism blow across North Africa yielding unsettling horror, the American version of Neville Chamberlain sits in the White House, incapable of real action, but immersed in rationalization. Yes, the president did repudiate State Department moral equivalence (i.e. "offensive" film equals justifiable homicide). But he is inert, a model of confusion.
For months, Americans were told that the Arab Spring would, in time, produce democratic sentiments. In fact, the Arab Spring has led to elections and those elections have led in turn to Islamization. Islamic democracy - which so many naïve journalists wish to embrace - is an oxymoron. Islam shapes every aspect of the Middle East and its essence is totalistic. The idea that every individual yearns for personal expression is a chimera borne out by terrorists who shun liberty.
Can there be any justifiable explanation for the wanton slaughter of our Libyan ambassador and his colleagues? When human rights are trumped by religious fanaticism, the bonds of civil order are in question. According to the Islamic laws of blasphemy, any criticism of Mohammed or even alleged criticism warrants a violent response. A toxic brew of violence, Western innocence and guilt and complicit state governments that avert their gaze to the murders has driven the Middle East to massive brutality.
Samuel Huntington wrote about the clash of civilizations because he realized Islam, as presently practiced, cannot be compatible with basic Western ideals. The problem is that the State Department and many well meaning, but misguided individuals don't believe it. Surely the attack on the U.S. Embassies in Egypt, Yemen, Libya should offer some concern that liberal assumptions are not compatible with Islam.
Despite a belief in ecumenism, the United States is learning a harsh lesson: the revolutions in the Middle East are not led by Washington and Adams seeking independence and individual rights. While scholars of Islam often contend the religion can change from within so that it is harmonized with Constitutional principles, there isn't the slightest fragment of evidence that this is actually the case.
Instead of trying to appease the marauders or arguing that there are appropriate reasons for murder and mayhem, leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere must draw a line in the sand suggesting that attitudes and practices that undermine our Constitution and way of life will not be tolerated. Whether that means separation, abandonment, saber rattling or the Sixth fleet, our diplomats must know they will be defended with all the muscle the government can muster.
It is time to take the kid gloves off. An America that is equivocal is an America at risk. Moreover, a weak America emboldens our enemies and discourages our allies. A stable world is predicated on a U.S. capable of defending its interests and beliefs. We believe it is inappropriate for any religion to mandate the subjugation of non-believers. We believe that free speech is guaranteed through the First Amendment even if words offend. And we believe, as well, that those offended must find reasonable and peaceful ways to express their displeasure.
At long last an ideological battle has been joined: all religions housed in this republic must integrate their doctrines into the principles of a legitimate republican state recognizing the validity of state-church separation. Those religions that will not or cannot do so, do not belong here. And violence, whatever the pretext, is not an appropriate form of expression. If we are to remember the valiant diplomatic efforts of Christopher Stevens, we should recall Jefferson's plaintive remark that"it is in the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor." If we wish to remain a republic in vigor we must challenge those who would undermine our spirit and barbarize our manners.
Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America).