At the heart of this value system is an assumption that some essential elements of human decency push our society inevitably toward the values he shares. This premise is at the root of his frequent invocation of “the wrong side of history,” as has been oft observed, best in a brilliant piece by Jonah Goldberg.
The problems of applying a social justice framework to international crisis are not unlike applying a cold war formulation to, say, welfare reform. It just doesn’t work. After the horror of James Foley’s murder, President Obama said of ISIS: “People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy.”
A nice turn of phrase, but is it remotely accurate? Don’t maniacal movements like ISIS end only when good people rise up with the willingness to die to stop them? The President frequently touts his international culture background as proof of his understanding of other cultures. “I say this as the son of a Kenyan whose grandfather was a cook for the British, and as a person who once lived in Indonesia as it emerged from colonialism,” he said in Brussels when addressing the Russia-Ukrainian crisis. But it seems incredibly naïve and American-centric not to grasp that the Islamic fanatics of ISIS are very much about building—building a new world in their vision.