Middle East Madness

By Victor Davis Hanson, REAL CLEAR POLITICS,Sept 20/12

Last week, Muslim mobs took to the streets to murder the American ambassador in Libya and three of his staffers. American embassies were attacked from Egypt to Yemen.

Embarrassed White House press secretary Jay Carney and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice insisted that these assaults were just reactions to an insensitive video that disparaged Islam and was circulating on the Internet. As embassies burned, we were assured that there was no animosity directed at America in general, or at this administration and its foreign policy in particular.

That is hogwash. The weeks-old video was a mere pretext, in the manner of the Danish cartoons that Islamists used to stir up mobs in their war against the West. The street rioting was long ago synchronized across the Middle East to celebrate the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Apparently, the administration was left stunned and without a clue about the latest Middle East madness.

President Obama chose not to support nearly a million Iranian dissidents in 2009. Two years later, he belatedly offered encouragement to the revolutionaries who overthrew Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Yet those snubbed in Iran were far more likely to oppose radical Islam than were the protesters who later put the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Cairo.

Who, exactly, were we “leading from behind” in Libya? Moammar Qaddafi was a monster, but also one in a sort of rehab who was seeking better relations with the West.

As for Syria, the Obama administration had called dictator Bashar Assad a reformer. Then he became a mass murderer who had to step down. Then we called in Kofi Annan and the U.N. to practice soft-power diplomacy. Then we threatened to intervene. Now we have backed off.

As a candidate and as president, Obama assumed that his own multicultural politics, his familiarity with Islam, his novel transracial personal story, and his repudiation of George W. Bush would all combine to win over the Middle East. Supposedly, Middle Eastern dislike of America had little to do with longstanding existential differences that did not start with Bush and won’t end with Obama.

Obama’s al Arabiya interview, Cairo speech, and loud reset diplomacy sent mixed messages. He gave the impression that Middle East anger was largely either America’s fault or due to misunderstandings that the sensitive Obama alone could mitigate — as he distanced himself from the supposed pathologies of prior American policy in the region.

That myth-making is now discredited. But it still makes it hard for the administration to admit that hatred in Egypt is deep-seated and irrational — and has very little to do with a silly video. Those in the Arab street hate the West and America because they are told daily that our supposed godlessness and decadence should not make us so rich and powerful — especially when such pious believers as themselves are so poor and impotent.

But rather than addressing the real causes of their present misery — tribalism, misogyny, statism, corruption, authoritarianism, fundamentalism, and religious intolerance — amid rich natural resources, Islamists scapegoat. Sometimes they fume at American support for Israel, at other times at an obscure video, cartoon, or rumor of a torched Koran.

We only feed these adolescent tantrums when America wrongly apologizes for the occasional insensitivity of a few of our citizens, who enjoy free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

America looks even weaker when this administration sends confusing signals about U.S. power. The Obama administration too often spikes the ball — whether it is Joe Biden bragging about killing Osama bin Laden, the president joking about Predator assassination missions, Hillary Clinton high-fiving over the death of Qaddafi, or unnamed top officials disclosing classified secrets about the cyber-war against Iran.

Yet at other times, amid promised defense cuts, the Obama administration loudly announces a strategic pivot away from the Middle East toward Asia, or derides the very antiterrorism protocols — Guantanamo Bay, renditions, tribunals, and preventative detention — that it later embraced.

Nothing is more dangerous in regard to the contemporary Middle East than misunderstanding the source of Islamist rage. Speaking loudly while carrying a small stick only makes that confusion worse.

What can we do?

Start developing vast new oil and gas finds on public lands here at home. Get our financial house in order. Quietly cut back aid to hostile Middle East governments. Put travel off-limits. Restrict visas and call home ambassadors — at least until Arab governments control their own street mobs.

Develop a consistent policy on the so-called Arab Spring that applies the same criticism of illiberal dictators to the theocrats who depose them. Keep quiet and keep our military strong. Don’t apologize for a few Americans who have a right to be crude. Instead, condemn those pre-modern zealots who would murder anyone of whom they don’t approve.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of “A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War.” You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com.
© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

September 25, 2012 | 12 Comments »

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12 Comments / 12 Comments

  1. @ yamit82:

    “All seem to be applicable. After due consideration… ‘anal-retentive’ [is the] most accurate description when applied to you.”

    IMPOSSIBLE that I’d be BOTH “lactose intolerant” AND “anal retentive.”

    That would make for a most unstable — NOT TO SAY, “EXPLOSIVE” — condition for my digestive system

    (extremely hazardous for anybody in my presence at the time).

    I’d explain, but some online readers might be eating their dinner as they read. . . .

  2. @ dweller:

    So, “stupid” is now off-limits for me, is it? (Can’t imagine why.)

    What happens once “naif” gets knocked out of the box of acceptable digs?

    Do we then move on to “treasonous”?


    “Lactose intolerant”?

    All of the above when I bother to consider which digs in my box to apply to you. All seem to be applicable.

    After due consideration, taking all of a nano second, I have settled upon “anal-retentive” as most accurate description when applied to you.

  3. @ yamit82:

    “What state checks for citizenship when people register to vote?”

    Dunno; actually I’ve been PUSHING for a citizenship check for years.

    Seems to me that THAT kind of check is at least as important as checking ID at the polls.

    But then, I’ve long been concerned that there is no longer an English-language literacy test for citizenship (let alone, for registration); used to be SOP.


    “Millions of illegals vote in all American elections just by presenting a valid or counterfeit divers license or SS card etc.”

    Not millions, the scam is not that well organized (as yet) — but you’re right that they could.

    — That’s why the Demo’s keep resisting the move to crack down on voter fraud.

    Most states allow illegals a valid drivers license.”

    It’s true that SOME do. Not too sure about that “most” part; it’s been a significant public policy issue in recent years.

    “I credit you with not being stupid but naivete seems to be your exceptional forte.”

    So, “stupid” is now off-limits for me, is it? (Can’t imagine why.)

    What happens once “naif” gets knocked out of the box of acceptable digs?

    Do we then move on to “treasonous”?


    “Lactose intolerant”?

  4. As always Mr.Ted Belman looks far and wide for great articles for Israpundit.For this new year; keep up the great work and service you give all of us. You deserve a standing ovation. Many thanks and Shana Tova to you and your family!

  5. @ dweller:

    Only if they get citizenship. . . .

    What state checks for citizenship when people register to vote?

    Millions of illegals vote in all American elections just by presenting a valid or counterfeit divers license or SS card etc. Most states allow illegals a valid drivers license.

    I credit you with not being stupid but naivete seems to be your exceptional forte.

  6. @ Canadian Otter:

    “[I]llegal Mexican immigrants…”

    They aren’t ‘immigrants.’

    It’s most regrettable but the fact is that the term “immigrant” has been used so much for purposes of political manipulation of late that it is immediately suspect.

    Words have real meanings. You can’t redefine them to mean anything you find convenient — except in the chilly visions of Orwell & Kafka (and perhaps Lewis Carroll on a bad day).

    Immigration is a lawful process, one which by its nature entails proper legal documentation.

    Therefore there’s no such thing as an “illegal immigrant” or an “undocumented immigrant.”

    — Conceptually such an expression is something on the order of a “kosher pork chop” — an oxymoron: a contradiction in terms.

    The correct designation — long-established in diplomatic parlance & international jurisprudence — is ILLEGAL ALIEN, not ‘immigrant.’

    Of course, the phrase “illegal alien” may grate on modern ears, but not because of any recently contrived, ‘conspiracy of dehumanization,’ rather, quite the contrary: precisely because it has been around for such a long time — since long before people thought seriously about space flight to other planets, and when “alien” referred strictly to foreign nationals, without any weird, exotic, or paranoid connotation of “unearthly creatures from another galaxy.”

    “[Illegal aliens] will dutifully vote for multicultural, Muslim-loving Democrats for many years to come.”

    Only if they get citizenship. . . .

  7. Middle East Madness. In a way we brought the cancer -Islam- to our countries. Russia; China; Japan and Switzerland do not take in millions so called refugees, why should we? For years they also claimed that Israel is the culprit and only if the Palestinian problem was settled, everything will be O.K – who the Hell are we kidding? The attack on Iran by Iraq in 1980; The attack on Kuwait by Iraq in 1991 has anything to do with Israel or the Palestinians? the answer is a big NO. The problem is that we in the West don’t seem to understand the culture and the power of Islam, which is bent on concquering the world. The sooner we realize that, the better for us, otherwise, we better start learning Arabic. R.A

  8. WHO IS HE KIDDING? Does he really expect those recommendations to be the answer, without including some kind of reform of immigration laws too? Will an improved foreign policy – or gestures defying Sharia law such as cartoons and posters – make a difference in the end? I don’t think so.

    Europe is lost to Islam now. – America, Canada, Australia, and other Western countries will follow. Watch this calm, confident, articulate Belgian Muslim tell the truth: Those Muslims who oppose Sharia in the West are not true Muslims. Islam IS Sharia. And it’s only a matter of time till the whole world embraces Islam.


    PS – the much maligned wave of illegal Mexican immigrants could have saved America in a demographic sense, except that for the most part they are indifferent to the Muslim threat and will dutifully vote for multicultural, Muslim-loving Democrats for many years to come.

  9. I agree entirely with his advice, as to “what to do”. Disengage, separate, let the Arabs sort out their own messes, sans U.S. aid money, and then focus on America’s domestic finances. (I was just reading a New York Times article by a Bill Keller — he writes about how the U.S. must stay the course with the Islamists — with the end goal being to “build a rule of law, an infrastructure of rights and an atmosphere of tolerance.” Wow. Such idiots should be laughed out of existence. It is simply staggering the level of ignorance these NY journalists display. They need to take some elementary Anthropolgy course on Arab Middle Eastern cultures — learn a bit about Sharia, look at the Pew polls (how many support stoning, amputations, flogging, executing gays, etc.) — maybe then they might catch a glimmer of how ludicrous they sound when prattling on about the “rule of law” or individual rights in Arab countries.