Jonah Goldberg

Taken together, these two ideas -- that everything will work out in the long run and that there's some entity other than the U.S. that will take care of things -- provide a license to do, well, if not nothing, than certainly nothing that might detract from your golf game.

"One thing we can all agree on," the president said in his statement Wednesday, "is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century." The jihadists will "ultimately fail ... because the future is won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him."

It's a very nice thought. But is it actually true? The jihadists are building something. They call it the Caliphate, and in a remarkably short amount of time they've made enormous progress. If I had to bet, I'd guess that they will ultimately fail, but it will be because someone actually takes the initiative and destroys -- as in kills -- those trying to build it. Until that happens, there will be more beheadings, more enslaved girls, more mass graves. Obama has been very slow to learn this lesson.

Perhaps this is because there's a deep-seated faith within progressivism that holds that the mere passage of time drives moral evolution. As if simply tearing pages from your calendar improves the world. It is as faith-based as saying evil will not stand because God will not let it, and far, far less effective at rallying men of goodwill to fight. No doubt some people will face death to defend an arbitrary date, but not many.

Sometimes lazy TV writers will resort to what is called a deus ex machina, a godlike intervention or stroke of luck that saves the day and ensures a happy ending. But in real life, as in "Game of Thrones," that doesn't happen. The good guys get beheaded while scanning the horizon for a savior more concrete than world opinion and more powerful than a date on the calendar.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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