- - Thursday, September 11, 2014

President Obama’s address Wednesday night betrayed new levels of pioneering moral obtuseness to justify a limitless, unconstitutional war against the Islamic State. The moral obtuseness confirms the wisdom of William F. Buckley’s quip, “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

First, Mr. Obama declared war on the Islamic State despite his own Department of Homeland Security’s confirmation that the organization poses no credible threat to the United States. The president thus sent an obtuse message to all nations and non-state actors alike: If you refrain from threatening the United States, we may degrade and destroy you. Think of the incentive Mr. Obama created for developing weapons and making plans to attack the United States — turning the biblical injunction about turning swords into plowshares on its head, and manufacturing attacks and dangers that would not otherwise eventuate to justify perpetual global war.

Second, the president held up United States’ hapless interventions in Somalia and Yemen as models to be followed in Iraq and Syria. He elaborated: “This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us while supporting partners on the front lines is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” Both nations are failed states. Terrorism flourishes in both nations. Their peoples live in a constant state of fear and wretchedness. Does Mr. Obama really believe he can awaken majority Iraqi and Syrian support for protracted U.S. military intervention by promising them the living hell of Yemen and Somalia?

Third, Mr. Obama decreed that the United States has through self-coronation become leader of the planet, saddled with a moral imperative to bring freedom, justice and dignity to every corner of the globe. In discharging that professed moral duty, the president voiced eagerness to dispatch American troops abroad to risk that last full measure of devotion to rescue foreigners in danger or distress.

The words sound gallant, noble and chivalrous. On further reflection, though, they are frightening and immoral.

If the United States can unilaterally anoint itself leader of the world with a right of global intervention to diminish self-identified misery, then so can any other nation. Adolf Hitler invaded the Sudetenland on the pretense of ameliorating the persecution of German peoples. Ditto for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and annexation of Crimea on behalf of Russian ethnics. Mr. Obama’s theory of world leadership is nothing more than “might makes right” with lipstick. It promises permanent international conflict.

Moreover, Mr. Obama was elected president of the United States. He was not elected president of the world. His sole and unflagging duty is to advance the best interests of U.S. citizens. They should never be subservient to the best interests of foreigners who have no allegiance to the United States, pay no taxes to us, are subject to none of our laws, and are characteristically opposed or resistant to the philosophy of individual liberty enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Contrary to Mr. Obama, the United States has no moral obligation by military force to relieve the plight of even one foreigner abroad — whether in China, Russia, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan or otherwise. If that were not the case, the president could initiate war at will — the same power as the British monarch who provoked the American Revolution. Indeed, the president’s moral and constitutional duty is to desist from risking the life of even one American for someone else’s freedom (unless we are responsible for their persecution). The Constitution entrusts the U.S. government with responsibility for the “common defense” of the American people, not the population of the world.

Mr. Obama’s messianic foreign policy betters the instruction of the utopian war philosophies of Presidents Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush. Wilson justified World War I as necessary to make the world “safe for democracy,” and “the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments.” The grim result was Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Hirohito and World War II. Mr. Bush declared that national security demanded the elimination of “tyranny in our world.” That delusion culminated in squandering $4 trillion to $6 trillion in Afghanistan and Iraq and thousands of American lives to create failed tyrannical states that are a breeding ground for jihadists.

Mr. Obama must be repudiated to save the United States from self-ruination. Kentucky Sen. Henry Clay explained it best in 1849: “Far better for ourselves and for the cause of liberty; that adhering to our wise, pacific system, and avoiding distant wars we should keep our lamp burning brightly on this western shore as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of fallen or falling republics .”

Bruce Fein is a former associate deputy attorney general and general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan. He is author of “American Empire Before the Fall and Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

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