Having thrown down the gauntlet to Mark Steyn, it is only fair that I offer my own course of action.
Before beginning, it is important that we are realistic in our appraisal of the situation. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, we go to war with the society we have. Thus, notions about creating a Colonial Office or hoping to rebuild the civilizational confidence that existed prior to 1913 art not viable options. The president is after all only one man and can only do so much. One of the strangest delusions of the left in modern times is their treatment of the presidency as a quasi-religious office – essentially an elected Dalai Lama who can magically change reality with a speech or proclamation (and if that president is Barak Obama, watch for oceans to part on command).
That was partly why I hammered Mark in the first place. We need to be realistic. A president has lots of things to keep himself busy. There are budgets, elections, appointments and so on. All of this requires a give and take that even the greatest leaders found grueling.
That being said, there are things the president could do to reinforce the West’s self-confidence and improve our struggle against radical Islam.
A good starting place is to reenergize the US war effort, to better explain what has happened and why. This would require an energetic media campaign which would require more than just photo ops and set-piece speeches. Those have their place, but I am also talking about formal ceremonies to honor returning units – ceremonies with the president in attendance – not exactly victory parades, but something much like them.
In addition, I would urge the enlargement of the US military and – this is important – make a major speech urging America’s youth to join. McCain is superbly placed to do this given his biography. Something along these lines:
“Years from now, when the war is won – what will you have done? Vietnam was a tragedy- not the least because we abandoned our allies - yet I have never been ashamed to have worn my country’s uniform in wartime. Today, we have the best-trained, best-equipped and most-effective military in our nation’s history. Now is the time to step up and show what you are made of.”
I’ve said before that failure to make a speech like this was a huge blunder for Bush. Instead he told people it was patriotic to shop. Pathetic.
Okay, so having done that, what else can be done?
On the foreign policy front, I would demand religious freedom around the globe, to the point of sanctions (diplomatic at first) for those regimes that refuse. Saudi Arabia would be target number one in this, and it would be a very easy case to make – and hard for liberals to object. Americans love moral causes and what cause is more moral that demanding the freedom – for Americans no less – to worship abroad.
Finally, the president could talk about the importance of free speech at home and how our values are worth defending. Call this a “slam Hollywood” strategy, but with a twist. Instead of taking on Hollywood for peddling smut or being unpatriotic, the president would talk about their silence in the face of oppression – whether women in this country forced to live under sharia or threats to free speech.
Part of this strategy might be to call on the Justice Department to investigate “honor killings,” maybe even establishing a task force to determine how often they happen in the US. This would really put the feminists in a bind, because on the one hand, it plays right into their “silent rape epidemic” spiel, but on the other it forces them to actually abandon their multicultural bromides. Congressional hearings could host a variety of women’s advocates like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and talk about female genital mutilation.
It’s not a huge list and wouldn’t result in victory in four years or less, but it would help. And I understand that part of the give and take of politics would require holding actions or retreats on other legislation. The point is that I think the costs of these initiatives would be fairly low vs the return.
A more belligerent stance like the one I think Mark favors simply wouldn’t be possible. It may down the road (particularly if this ground work is laid) but not right now.