The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bagdad Bobs

Remember "Bagdad Bob?" He was an Iraqi official who went on camera on the streets of Bagdad and claimed with great fervor that American troops had been repelled in their assault on Bagdad. Comically, as he made these claims, a column of U.S. Abrams M-1 tanks passed by in the background.

Jay Carney, the President's Press secretary and Susan Rice, the President's UN ambassador, did their best impression of Bagdad Bob in the wake of the sacking of our embassy in Libya and attacks on our embassies in other Arab capitals. They claimed, to typically incurious reporters and interviewers, that the attacks were precipitated solely because of a crude anti-Islam film, and that nothing more was at play. As reports of al Qaida involvement in the Libyan attack and Muslim Brotherhood conniving in the Egyptian protests came streaming in, the Bagdad Bobs stuck by their story, reciting a script that was designed to protect a foreign policy credentials of the President in an election year.

The Wall Street Journal editors comment:
Ms. Rice's the-video-did-it explanation is no doubt intended to shield Obama Administration policies from any domestic political blame for the attacks. But far worse is the message it sends to adversaries and even friendly governments abroad: Overrun sovereign U.S. territory, even kill U.S. diplomats, and the first reaction of the American government will be to blame Americans for somehow provoking the violence.
But that's what the Obama administration is best at—deflecting criticism by blaming others. In this case, the leadership of the United States does a subtle mea culpa and blames a misguided citizen who exercised, however poorly, his right of free speech. And now, Arabs are demanding punishment of that citizen, or else. No word from the President on that.

Recall candidate Obama's comments in 2008:
"I think the world would see me as a different kind of president, somebody who could see the world through their eyes. . . . If I convene a meeting with Muslim leaders around the world to discuss how they can align themselves in our battle against terrorism, but also put our--the relationship between the West and the Islamic world on a more productive footing, I do so with the credibility of somebody who actually lived in a Muslim country for a number of years."
And so, the President did just that. The events of the last week are the result. Even worse, a recent Pew Research poll indicates that negative feelings about the U.S. have increased—not decreased—on the Arab street since Barack Obama took office. Hmmm.

Victor Davis Hansen explains the real reasons rather well:
Remember the source of premodern Islamic anger. Why did the Zawahiri brothers, or the late bin Laden, or the Islamist of the week hate the West, and in particular the United States?

It surely is not, as their apologists plead, because of our “foreign policy.” We are enlightened compared to what Putin did in Chechnya or how Chinese treated their Muslim minorities. You, readers, know the American record better than do I: we graciously accepted Muslim refugees, even ingrates like Mohamed Morsi or the 9/11 mass murderers. We fed Somalis; helped to remove Gaddafi; freed Kuwaitis; liberated Afghans (twice); birthed Iraqi democracy; bombed Christians to save Muslim Kosovars and Bosnians; fund Jordanians, Egyptians, and Palestinians; and so on.

Instead, the wrath of the Muslim Street is elemental and existential (read The Al Qaeda Reader to fathom all the twenty or so excuses given by bin Laden for his hatred of the U.S.). It can be explained in terms something like this: Islamists have convinced the Arab masses that their present mess (so easily fathomed in a globalized world in second-by-second, instantaneous comparisons with other cultures — via cell phones, the Internet, DVDs, and cable television) is not their own fault.

Discussions of the pernicious effects of endemic tribalism, misogyny, statism, anti-Semitism, fundamentalism, religious intolerance, xenophobia, and anti-modernism are taboo. So there is never serious reflection about self-induced pathologies that keep fostering a Saddam Hussein, Muslim Brotherhood, and Ba’ath Party, or the preconditions that throughout much of the 20th century made the Arab world so susceptible to Hitlerism, then Soviet communism, then Baathism, then Western authoritarianism, then authoritarianism, and, then, or rather always back to, Islamic radicalism.
Barack Obama's naive belief (or was it hubris?) that he could cajole the Arab people into a more modern, democratic, and friendly stance toward the U.S. was misplaced. Instead, we get murderous rage that can as easily be attributed to weak and apologetic Presidential policies as it can to a repugnant and obscure "film" that almost no one in the Arab street has actually seen.

Update: (9/18/12)

As the election approaches, the majority of the U.S. Media has become an extension of the Obama campaign and refuses to investigate the Bagdad Bob claims of the Obama administration. So ... let's look at another source. Margaret Wente of the U.K.'s The Globe and Mail makes the following comment:
Well, I guess blaming the video is easier than facing the facts. Back in 2009, President Barack Obama went to Cairo and promised to reset the U.S. relationship with the Arab world. Unlike his predecessor, he sympathized with Muslim aspirations. Muslims were anti-American because of bad American policies, and he would fix that.

Things didn’t quite work out as planned. Back then, 70 per cent of Egyptians had an unfavourable opinion of the U.S. Today, 79 per cent do.

The U.S. doesn’t have much influence in the Arab world these days. As Syria goes up in flames and the Arab Spring turns into a series of messy power struggles among countless rival factions, it’s clear that the transition from repressive dictatorship to moderate democracy will be a long time coming. The infamous video seems to have been a handy pretext for riots organized by radical factions who want to make the “moderates” look bad. If not for that pretext, there would have been another one.

Update 2 (9/18/12)

And this from the non-partisan STRATFOR on the naive approach and ultimate failure of Obama's foreign policy in Libya:
What emerged in Libya is what you would expect when a foreign power overthrows an existing government, however thuggish, and does not impose its own imperial state: ongoing instability and chaos.

The Libyan opposition was a chaotic collection of tribes, factions and ideologies sharing little beyond their opposition to Gadhafi. A handful of people wanted to create a Western-style democracy, but they were leaders only in the eyes of those who wanted to intervene. The rest of the opposition was composed of traditionalists, militarists in the Gadhafi tradition and Islamists. Gadhafi had held Libya together by simultaneously forming coalitions with various factions and brutally crushing any opposition.

Opponents of tyranny assume that deposing a tyrant will improve the lives of his victims. This is sometimes true, but only occasionally. The czar of Russia was clearly a tyrant, but it is difficult to argue that the Leninist-Stalinist regime that ultimately replaced him was an improvement. Similarly, the Shah of Iran was repressive and brutal. It is difficult to argue that the regime that replaced him was an improvement.