The fantasy presidency melts away on the Arab street
During much of the Bush presidency, we were constantly told that the “Arab street” was going to explode because of some aggressive statement our unilateralist cowboy president had made, or some action he was about to undertake. It never really happened. No, it took four years of Barack Obama’s Nobel-prize-winning apologetic open-hand “smart power” to make the Arab street explode.
What you’re seeing across the Middle East today is the result of Obama’s fantasy presidency colliding with international reality, leaving shattered illusions to burn as Molotov cocktails slam into the walls of the U.S. embassy in… Jakarta.
When did we lose Indonesia? Who knows? Nobody in the Obama Administration pays attention to such things. They run foreign policy exactly the same way they handle domestic affairs: by imposing a manufactured political narrative that bears little resemblance to reality.
It’s been more or less working for them within the United States, because they enjoy the nearly universal support of an extremely pliant media, whose reporter-activists accept Obama spin that their grandfathers would have laughed right off the front page. The President who blew the American workforce down to a three-decade low claims he’s a job-creating machine. His party hasn’t been able to provide a budget for the swollen federal government in three years, but Obama gets to pretend he’s the man with a plan, while his Republican rival supposedly needs to offer another several hundred pages of specific proposals before voters will take him seriously. The President ducks every opportunity for reporters to ask him questions, and they respond by shrugging and doing their best to imagine what he would have said, if he were the bold and brilliant leader of their dreams… while laboring mightily to suppress whatever stories they think he wouldn’t want them to bring to the public’s attention.
Look at the events of just the past few days: the Administration’s destructive policies have made such an utter disaster of the American economy that Federal Reserve had to implement another round of monetary trickery to keep us from toppling over the edge of an outright recession in the final weeks of the campaign. A major financial agency almost immediately responded by downgrading America’s credit rating again, stating outright that the Fed’s new round of quantitative easing demonstrated this Administration’s utter lack of seriousness at dealing with flat GDP growth and excessive government spending. But next week Obama will go on saying he’s a deficit hawk whose second term will produce both the prosperity and fiscal restraint so conspicuously lacking in his first four years, and the media will take him seriously.
But that doesn’t work on the Arab street, which is not interested in steaming loads of pro-Obama spin produced by “journalists” who have a remarkable amount of prior service to Democrat politicians and liberal interest groups on their resumes. The fantasy presidency does not impress them in the slightest.
The Libyan government insists it warned the Obama Administration about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi. Al-Qaeda issued a statement that the attack on the Benghazi embassy – a carefully organized, heavily armed strike involving hundreds of fighters and rocket-propelled grenades – was revenge for the killing of a senior operative. Al-Qaeda’s black flag appears over U.S. embassies all over the Middle East. Any fool could see that the 9/11 anniversary should have called for heightened security in a town known for terrorist activity, including a bomb recently detonated outside the American consulate.
And yet, there’s U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on ABC’s This Week, blandly pushing the Administration narrative that this is all spontaneous outrage over a few minutes of YouTube video, and no one could have been better prepared to deal with it than they were. Pretty soon, the Obama team will be calling Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ death a “tragedy,” as though he’d been blown away in a freak dust storm.
White House spokesmen Jay Carney robotically insists “this is not a case of protests directed at the United States,” not a response to “United States policy, obviously not to the Administration, not to the American people. It is in response to a video, a film, that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting — that in no way justifies any violent reaction to it.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports crowds screaming “Death to America!” across Afghanistan, while Barack Obama is burned in effigy in Pakistan.
Obama and his media allies have a storyline they want to impose on the Middle East, the same way they imprint ridiculous tales of Barack Obama the job-creating deficit hawk on the much more submissive American populace. The Middle Eastern fable is the tale of a compassionate Islam-friendly Lightworker who ushered in a new era of peace with a lovely speech in Cairo, in which he proved very willing to accept Islamist critiques of his own country. When the “Arab Spring” toppled America’s unpleasant ally Hosni Mubarak, Obama popped up in the final hours to claim credit, push the dictator into a hasty exit, and daydream about young Facebook-savvy democracy activists stepping forward to build a brighter Egyptian future.
Obama even ignored the laws of his own country to launch a war in Libya on behalf of another “Arab Spring” movement. Surely his reward would be adoration and respect! Obama promised a restoration of America’s standing across a world alienated by arrogant shoot-from-the-hip jingoistic cowboy leadership, and the American press was eager to write stories about his fulfillment of those promises.
Instead, we’re watching a familiar story play out, direct from the darkest hours of 1979: a lack of American resolve and leadership leading to the widespread perception of weakness, which the organizers of these “spontaneous” protests are happy to exploit. Whatever any given member of the mob thinks about this “Innocence of Muslims” video, the intensity of the physical and verbal attacks against the United States itself makes one thing clear: they think they can bully the Administration into suppressing speech they find blasphemous. They’ve already heard concessions to their point of view from this White House and State Department. They have every reason to push even harder.
A protester in Afghanistan is quoted by the Associated Press saying “People around the world are angry. It is the responsibility of all Muslims to show reaction whenever they hear any disregard and disrespect.” Another added that unrest would continue “until the people who made the film go to trial.” Obviously, they think this is a possible outcome, and they don’t find it a waste of time to demand it. How they must have laughed when they heard Barack Obama’s intelligence director insisting that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” organization!
The Cold War paradigm involved totalitarian dictatorships imprisoning people who yearned for freedom. The new, more dangerous post-9/11 paradigm is an unpleasant encounter with enemy populations, which in some cases were held in check by totalitarians. Barack Obama’s negligent fantasy of high-tech young democracy enthusiasts who can be jollied into American-style constitutional republics with a couple of high-profile speeches is dangerously unsuited to dealing with this world.
Almost a week after the brutal murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, this Administration still can’t see what is actually happening on the ground across the Middle East. It still thinks reality can be shaped to conform to its preferred narratives, or at least hidden behind them for a couple more months. Obama and his people keep telling themselves this is all about a movie… a really lousy movie… made by a rather shady character. Like moths to the flame, they are drawn to a simple problem, which their court stenographers can give them credit for “solving.”
Update: From Haaretz comes word of Israeli officials making the same point about the Obama Administration’s stubborn refusal to deal with the realities of the “Arab Spring.” In the words of one senior official, “The Americans were constantly trying to supply explanations and excuses for events in the post-revolution Arab states, and simply ignored the problems. In practice the administration’s ability to affect events in the Arab world has decreased immensely.”
Update: Congressman Allen West (R-FL) unloads on the Administration’s behavior during this crisis, making many of the points I made above, except he also works in the word “asinine”: