Our current economic distress, like the Depression of the 1930s, has been hailed by some as definitive proof that market capitalism has failed. But that is not the conclusion of most leaders and most voters around the world. Rather, elections here last week and in Europe earlier this year revealed a recoil against job-killing, big-government policies, even if the House defied public opinion by passing late Saturday a government-run health care bill.
1989 removed the threat of totalitarian communism, but other threats remain, as we learned on Sept. 11, 2001. Islamist terrorists despise our tolerance and freedom, and work to inflict as much damage as they can on Western society.
But Obama and his administration, eager to placate our enemies and ever ready to disrespect our friends, tend to downplay this threat. The president has been mulling his course on Afghanistan and declaring his slavish respect for the mullah regime in Iran.
In response to Maj. Nidal Hassan's mass murders at Ft. Hood, Obama and top officials -- Gen. George Casey and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano -- seem less worried about whether military and civilian officials ignored clear signs that this man was an Islamist terrorist and more worried about whether ordinary Americans might indiscriminately stage mass attacks on Muslims.
This carries our virtue of tolerance to a ridiculous extreme and makes our system of laws, in Justice Robert Jackson's words, "a suicide pact." If our enemies today seem less formidable than our enemies before 1989, they are nonetheless dangerous. If the process of distinguishing Islamist terrorists from ordinary Muslims is difficult, so was the process of distinguishing communists from social democrats.
Our earlier leaders had faith in the ability of ordinary Americans to make such distinctions and to behave tolerantly even while aggressively fighting evildoers. And they had confidence, even in that Short Twentieth Century, of the basic goodness of our system. Does Obama have that faith and that confidence?