Pondering America in the World

June 12th, 2009

Shortly after President Obama delivered his speech to the Muslim World in Egypt, the news was filled with reactions by individuals and by other countries. There are two reactions in particular that are worth a second thought: the thoughts of Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, and the reactions of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran (the one who pulls the strings of the puppet Ahmadinejad).

The day after President Obama’s speech Prince al-Faisal sat down for an interview with a reporter for Newsweek. In the article Prince al-Faisal had all good things to say — but pay attention to what he’s saying. Here’s an excerpt (italics added):

… he showed sincerity in his talk. Different people came away with different impressions, but for me it was positive, balanced, comprehensive and many parts of it were very personal and touching. It hit the right tone from the opening salutation, ‘Assalaamu alaykum’, to the quote from the Qur’an at the end. President Obama is very good at atmospherics.

But the key point was that America is changing policy. It is not the same America. He talked about humility, not power. He talked about democracy — that the United States wished the world to be democratic but is not going to force the world to be democratic.

“Not the same America” — That is also the title of the Newsweek article, joyously proclaiming that the United States is not the same under Obama as it was under previous presidents. The prince is right; and, in the area of foreign policy, we may never be the same again — and that, in some respects, may be a good thing.

Then on June 4th, The Washington Post published an article titled: “Supreme Leader of Iran: Muslim Nations ‘Hate America.'” In this article Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks his mind about President Obama and America. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Iran’s supreme leader dismissed President Obama’s speech at Cairo University Thursday, saying the Muslim world continues to “hate America.” And he criticized the United States and its allies for asserting that Iran seeks nuclear weapons, which he insisted are forbidden under Iran’s brand of Islam.

Speaking shortly before Obama delivered his address, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that “beautiful speeches” could not remove the hatred felt in the Muslim world against America.

[He then went on to explain why.] “People of the Middle East, the Muslim region and North Africa — people of these regions — hate America from the bottom of their heart. For a long time, these people have witnessed aggressive actions by America, and that’s why they hate them. He attributed these feelings to “violence, military intervention, rights violations and discrimination” by the United States.”

Khamenei went on to say, “Even if [Obama] delivers hundreds of speeches and talks very sweetly, there will not be a change in how the Islamic countries perceive the United States.” He called on Obama to deliver change “in practice” (not just in words).

I really don’t care what either Prince Saud al-Faisal or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei think of America and have no interest in making them happy because caring what they think and making them happy, in the world of the Middle-East, are both signs of weakness — and weakness is just what President Obama displayed to the Muslim world. A dog showing his belly to the pack!

The paradox is, both al-Faisal and Khamenei have a valid point. The United States has indeed involved itself in too many contentious situations, in too many parts of the world when our involvement could have been avoided. We have engaged in a self-anointed mission to spread Democracy around the world — it’s an effort that has gained us very little and has cost us far too much.

An example is President Carter’s devotion, for a large part of his administration, to the overthrow of the “Peacock Throne” in Persia and the return of the brutal, mindless Muslim regime that now has the world in such a huff over nuclear power. He did that for strictly personal and humanitarian reasons.

Then, under George Bush, in the wake of 9/11, we invaded Iraq. One of the original contentions after 9/11 was that it happened because the United States instigated it by its over-involvement in the Middle-East, where it did not belong. I disagree with the contention that we didn’t belong there, at least when we were assisting our ally Israel (that same ally that President Obama has just thrown to the wolves), but our presence there and our natural bias toward an ally was certainly one factor in the hate that turned into 9/11. Did we go into Iraq:

a) because there was no other way to find out if they had WMDs?;

b) to punish them for supporting terrorists?; or

c) to overthrow a brutal dictator and spread Democracy??

Many people have offered answers to that question, but who are you going to believe? I have a strong feeling that the correct answer is “c”.

In these and in many other places, the United States has been very vocal and very active trying to “spread Democracy” around the world. Are we, like the Blues Brothers, on a mission from God? I certainly hope not. Perhaps it’s time we backed off of saving the world from itself and returned to focusing our energies on our own defense preparedness and assisting our allies.

Not that I mind being hated by the uncivilized (by our standards) masses in the world — not as long as we are also feared. But the problem is, we are not feared and not respected, and our President’s speech to the Muslim world may have just made that situation worse.

News links:

Not The Same America, Newsweek

Supreme Leader of Iran: Muslim Nations ‘Hate America’, The Washington Post

Blog links:

Blow Back And Foreign Policy, Rebelliousvanilla’s Blog

President Obama and Cultural Relativism, Matt and Ryan’s Blog

(This article was also posted at My View from the Center.)


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2 Responses to “Pondering America in the World”



  1. Brian Bagent |

    “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”

    Wise words from a wise man. More’s the pity that we haven’t had many presidents or congresses in the last 100 or so years that have heeded Jefferson’s warning.


  2. Harvey |

    The perfect quote for the occasion! Thank you!

    There were definitely some brilliant thinkers among our founders. They were also wise enough to envision the power, greed, intolerance and acrimony that follows every human enterprise; they did what they could to account for these things but, in the end, man cannot redefine human nature.


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