May 22, 2017
The best part of President Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia may have been what was missing: an apology. After eight years of Obama-sponsored groveling, Americans probably forgot what leading from a position of strength looks like. And while a 34-minute speech can't undo almost a decade of servility, it was a good start to reasserting our place as the unapologetic leader of the free world.
Unlike President Obama, who offered reparations for every American act since the Revolutionary War, Donald Trump made it clear that the only thing he's sorry about is that the legacy of political correctness has gotten in the way of true problem-solving. Taking a firmer tact than President George W. Bush, who went to great pains to paint Islam as a "religion of peace," this White House didn't leave the enemy to anyone's imagination. "There is still much work to do," he told the more than 55 Muslim heads of state gathered in Riyadh. "That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians... There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it."
After two terms of embarrassing passivity, Americans cheered the idea that it was time to combat the extremism responsible for the deaths of so many innocent people. Daniel Pipes at NRO beat back the notion that Trump's tone was too mild. Like most of us, he understands that the president was tailoring his remarks to his audience. "...[I]t was a good speech that signaled a major shift in the right direction from the Obama years -- particularly with regard to Iran and Islam. Most important was Trump's willingness to point to the ideology of Islamism as the enemy. This matters exceedingly for, just as a physician must first identify a problem before treating it, so a strategist must identify the enemy before defeating it. To talk about 'evildoers,' 'terrorists,' and 'violent extremists' is to miss the enemy's Islamic core."
One thing's for sure: This isn't Barack Obama's foreign policy. Trump, who showed a side of true statesmanship, reestablished America as a no-nonsense partner in the war against radical Islam. Of course, the same media who's attacked him for taking a hard line on the Middle East is now accusing Trump of being "too moderate." But they'll have a tough time persuading people after lines like this one: "If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned."
Then, putting the bulk of the responsibility on the Muslim nations to intervene, Trump went on to say, "Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory -- piety to evil will bring you no dignity... It is a choice between two futures -- and it is a choice America cannot make for you." But, he warned, doing nothing will bring "suffering, death, despair." Hardly the stuff of easy-going diplomacy.
And, as FRC's Lt. General Jerry Boykin (U.S. Army-Ret.) pointed out, this was a far cry from his predecessor, who wanted us to believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was going to cooperate with U.S. "He came down hard on Iran," General Boykin said, a nod at Trump's declaration that it's a country that "speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room." He also praised the White House's admonition that America isn't the solution to the evils of terrorism. Each of these leaders will have to act to, as the president said, "drive them out. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this Earth." Powerful words for a critical moment. "Only time will tell what the total impact of the speech will be," General Boykin went on, "but what's clear is that America has a bold leader again."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.