A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
September 15th, 2012
By Dan Miller
To be abject failures, more harmful if possible even than his domestic policies.
The free flowing Arab Spring, once beloved of President Obama, continues to gush red-tinged waters bountifully. Although President Obama owns his foreign policies, he may now find bitter some of the fruits the spring has watered. There is little if anything that he can do to bleach the waters or to sweeten the fruit. Is it possible that President Obama saw this video and took to heart only those portions of its wisdom that appealed to him?
There is no magic window into President Obama’s heart or mind. Nevertheless, there is ample evidence that he sees the world through a fog of ignorance made impenetrably dense by wishful thinking and an apparent but fallacious belief that both our enemies and friends share our desires — for the “real thing.”
Regardless of such “real things,” maintaining our freedoms as set forth in the First Amendment is among our most important desires and those freedoms are also crucial bases for attaining our other desires.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Jonah Goldberg, in yesterday’s Goldberg Report (e-mail) observed,
The First Amendment makes things harder for the government.
Seriously, it helps if you say this over and over again. The First Amendment makes things harder for government. It’s not a bug it’s a feature.
In fact, if you go through the Bill of Rights, you’ll find that nearly every amendment serves as an impediment to efficient government. Why? Because that’s the #$%^ing point!
He’s right, that is the !@&^%$! point. Yet at every turn, President Obama has sought to dispense with those parts of the Constitution that make things difficult for the Government, particularly the Executive Branch which he makes a pretense of leading. He “can’t wait” for the other branches to proceed constitutionally, so he proceeds unconstitutionally. Sometimes, to relieve the strain and to avoid depression, I indulge my fantasies and write frivolously of such things as an Executive Order to be issued by President Obama should he fail to win reelection. However, our situation is not one of fantasy. President Obama’s reactions to the Arab Spring diminish our rights as well as reveal his perceptions of them.
The fruits of the Arab Spring are bitter.
As reported here, President Obama said
“The historic change sweeping across the Arab world must be defined not by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists, but by the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people who are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate here,” Mr. Obama said at the Democratic National Convention, poking fun at Republican rival Mitt Romney for saber-rattling and for being “new” to foreign policy. (Emphasis added.)
Perhaps the words from President Obama’s convention oration emphasized above need to be taken in what would once have been seen as a peculiar context. To whom did President Obama refer by the “we” in “we celebrate here?” To those who strive on behalf of their own God, Political Correctness, to prevent others from hurting religious feelings (except, of course, those of Christians and Jews) through the (to them) less important free exercise of religion, speech, press and peaceful assembly? Perhaps “we” as used in President Obama’s phrase emphasized above refers principally to his supporters, who favor such things as
♣ mandatory provision of free contraceptive devices and abortifacients paid for by religious organizations and others whose adherence to their religious doctrines precludes their compliance and/or
♣ Official damnation of “Islamaphobes” who rely on what must be (to them) an aberrational First Amendment loophole to protect disparagements of the Religion of Peace by making such outrageous claims as that Islamists are violent, unreasonable and tend to kill themselves and others merely because their feelings have been hurt; such untruthful disparagements unfairly force them to kill themselves and others in righteousness indignation.
I do not know whether President Obama referred to that “we,” to another “we” (everyone at the Democrat National Convention) or to a broader “we” in speaking of the rights that “we celebrate.” However, to the extent that his foreign policies are grounded in belief that “ordinary people” throughout the World “are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate here,” his policies are doomed to abject failure. Much of the rest of the world is very unlike the United States and always may be; the United States seem to be headed in the direction of becoming like much of the rest of the world, rather than the other way around. Like it or not, there are many whose hearts and minds we cannot win, no matter how much money, respect and even love we throw at them and no matter how often President Obama and his colleagues grovel before them to agree that our ways (before he took over) were as perverse as they view them. Sadly, many did not get the Change you can Believe in Memo and still think of the United States as the great Satan.
There has been a surfeit of that sort of stuff lately.
As protests erupted outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, embassy public affairs officer Larry Schwartz tweeted — and then re-tweeted — a condemnation of the controversial film which initial reports suggested motivated the rioters. “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others,” the embassy’s feed declared. The Arabic tweets were even more fervent: “We vehemently reject the actions of those who abuse the worldwide right to freedom of expression in order to injure the religious beliefs of others.” It would be unfair to make Schwartz the fall guy. After all, the tweets — which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered deleted — were no outlier. Even before the smoke cleared from the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, President Barack Obama effused moral equivalency. “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” he declared, “we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.” (Emphasis added.)
As suggested here, the Embassy tweets reflected administration policy. Even President Obama’s modestly different line noted above seems almost equally to disparage exercises of free speech and violence by members of the Religion of Peace. Yesterday, it was reported that
The Obama Administration has formally asked YouTube “to review” the anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims.” In a perfectly incoherent position, White House press secretary Jay Carney stressed that the White House was not asking for it to be removed … only “reviewed.” I have been discussing this controversy on NPR and CNN. The latest White House move appears to be an effort to get YouTube to remove the video without taking responsibility for expressly asking for the removal. For civil libertarians, the announcement leaves an uneasy — and all-too-familiar — feeling with this Administration. The White House has repeated[ly] compromised on civil liberties in favor of political advantage in areas like torture, immunity, and surveillance policies.
The request from the White House reflects the same dishonest approach of some of our closest allies who refused to punish the Danish cartoonists while then quietly cracking down on anti-religious speech. The correct and only answer is that [T]he filmmaker has a right to express his views of Muhammad and Islam. Muslims have a right to respond in kind. However, we cannot allow murderous mobs to turn this into a debate over free speech. These mobs are in countries that have long killed and arrested those who speak out against their beliefs. We cannot yield to such demands.
Different cultures are different. (Please excuse the tautology.)
Last December, I wrote here about similarities between our perceptions of alien cultures and of the center of the Earth back in the mid nineteenth century.
When I go to bed, I generally read novels until I doze off. Recently, I have been reading Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth — a very strange place for which our experiences on the surface of the Earth would ill prepare us. In Verne’s fantasy world the Earth is hollow, with an inland sea and pleasant temperatures, is lit by electro-luminescence, has yummy stuff to eat and the remains as well as living examples of prehistoric critters can be found (or might find the traveler). As I dozed off, it occurred to me that we in the West are no more familiar with Korea, and particularly with North Korea, than we would be were we trying to understand and analyze goings on at Verne’s center of the Earth. We have never been to the center of the Earth, know very little about it and what we would encounter there would be very different from what we have experienced at home. …
Until we learn that people around the world are not necessarily the same as we are, don’t necessarily think in the same way and don’t necessarily appreciate the same things, we will continue to muck up foreign policy terribly. Our troops and those of our allies and enemies will continue to die unnecessarily, we will continue spend money that we don’t have and continue to be impoverished in the process. Are we stupid, or just mistakenly well-meaning? (Emphasis added.)
Some needs and desires are relatively simple and probably universal or nearly so (at least on the surface of the Earth). Bertrand Russell, in his 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, addressed politically important desires. For those seeking power, they have little to do with freedom, democracy or ideology. Rather, the principal motivators are acquisitiveness, vanity and love of power, the latter being the most important. Talk of freedom, democracy, plentiful food and various other wonders can be conducive to gaining political power, but are the vehicles, not the destination. As Russell noted at the beginning of his speech,
I have chosen this subject for my lecture tonight because I think that most current discussions of politics and political theory take insufficient account of psychology. Economic facts, population statistics, constitutional organization, and so on, are set forth minutely. There is no difficulty in finding out how many South Koreans and how many North Koreans there were when the Korean War began. If you will look into the right books you will be able to ascertain what was their average income per head, and what were the sizes of their respective armies. But if you want to know what sort of person a Korean is, and whether there is any appreciable difference between a North Korean and a South Korean; if you wish to know what they respectively want out of life, what are their discontents, what their hopes and what their fears; in a word, what it is that, as they say, «makes them tick», you will look through the reference books in vain. And so you cannot tell whether the South Koreans are enthusiastic about UNO, or would prefer union with their cousins in the North. Nor can you guess whether they are willing to forgo land reform for the privilege of voting for some politician they have never heard of. It is neglect of such questions by the eminent men who sit in remote capitals, that so frequently causes disappointment. If politics is to become scientific, and if the event is not to be constantly surprising, it is imperative that our political thinking should penetrate more deeply into the springs of human action. What is the influence of hunger upon slogans? How does their effectiveness fluctuate with the number of calories in your diet? If one man offers you democracy and another offers you a bag of grain, at what stage of starvation will you prefer the grain to the vote? Such questions are far too little considered. However, let us, for the present, forget the Koreans, and consider the human race. (Emphasis added.)
Often, our foreign policy experts mistake acceptance of bags of grain for acceptance of whatever ideology they may have espoused in providing it. Life rarely works that way for long.
Love of power is greatly increased by the experience of power, and this applies to petty power as well as to that of potentates. In the happy days before 1914, when well-to-do ladies could acquire a host of servants, their pleasure in exercising power over the domestics steadily increased with age. Similarly, in any autocratic regime, the holders of power become increasingly tyrannical with experience of the delights that power can afford. Since power over human beings is shown in making them do what they would rather not do, the man who is actuated by love of power is more apt to inflict pain than to permit pleasure. If you ask your boss for leave of absence from the office on some legitimate occasion, his love of power will derive more satisfaction from a refusal than from a consent. If you require a building permit, the petty official concerned will obviously get more pleasure from saying «No» than from saying «Yes». It is this sort of thing which makes the love of power such a dangerous motive.
Love of power may well be the only universal desire that actuates already powerful leaders, and those who seek political power, for the increasing power that it brings; that is the goal toward which they strive, while trying (often successfully) to conceal that goal from the masses whom they hope to manipulate into granting them ever increasing power. Sometimes, equivalents of bags of grain are offered — perhaps in the form of hopes or beliefs the leader will provide gasoline and pay our mortgages. Sometimes democracy and even freedom are offered.
Promises tend to be broken. Might cravings for power and more of it be principal motivating factor behind Egypt’s President Morsi, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad, North Korea’s hereditary ruler Kim and others up (or perhaps down) to our very own President Obama?
Why do such discussions matter? Because it is important to recognize leaders and wannabe leaders who principally desire power over us, to prevent them from obtaining it or at least to require them to make advancement of our wills their principal goal and not their means of achieving their own personal goals. The U.S. Constitution provides the means to restrain them. We have three separate and co-equal branches of Government that were designed not to cooperate slavishly. The Legislative and Executive branches were intended to keep each other honest and the Judicial branch was intended to ensure that both adhere to the laws and the Constitution. We need to be as wary of foreign leaders as of domestic leaders because, in our increasingly global context power, both foreign and domestic, can and often does have adverse and substantial impacts on us.
The decision to vent anger on the United States eleven years ago on Nine-Eleven still resonates as we try — often blindly and absurdly — to avoid recurrences by strip searching elderly Roman Catholic nuns and six year old children in airports while waving through with barely a glance others potentially far more dangerous. According to the Fourth Amendment,
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated;(Emphasis added.)
So? That’s just what the silly old Constitution says.
Political correctness and profiling do not mix well. The 2009 murders of thirteen people at Fort Hood by Major Hasan — while yelling “Allah Akbar!” — was labeled “workplace violence” rather than a terrorist attack, apparently to avoid giving offense to practitioners of the Religion of Peace.
The persistent madness is not new.
Riots are spreading throughout the Middle East. As observed here,
[R]egardless of the elements responsible for the terrorist attack, whoever they are, for millions of Muslims around the world criticism against the Arab world and Islam, critical analysis of Islam, or even a caricature of the prophet Muhammad, are justification for violence and even killing in the name of religion.
There is nothing new in all of this. A few years ago violent protests erupted across the Arab and Muslim world after caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were published in a Danish newspaper. Then, too, Scandinavian embassies were torched in several Arab capitals, while in Afghanistan the protests were aimed at the American soldiers stationed there. Everyone also recalls the author Salman Rushdie, who was issued a death sentence (in absentia) by Iran for his book “The Satanic Verses.”
At that time, Moammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak ruled Libya and Egypt respectively. Both of them, similar to their dictatorial counterparts across the Arab world, did not allow the U.S. embassies in their countries to come under attack. Rather, they allowed the angry masses to let off steam by protesting elsewhere. Otherwise, they feared, the crowd’s wrath would be aimed at them. They simultaneously used these protests as justification for their oppressive regimes which, in their views, were the final obstacle blocking the path of radical Islam. (Emphasis added.)
We cannot hope to be loved and admired by stalwarts of the Religion of Peace, cannibals, head hunters, rabid rats and other barbarians, no matter how often and fervently we praise and try to appease them. Submission might work, but we are not (yet) ready to submit. Even if we did, it would mean to them that they are powerful and we are weak. Weakness tends not to produce much trickle down love for the weakened and love of others does not in any event appear to be among the Islamists’ strong points. We can, however, often win their respect through our own power coupled with clear expressions of our willingness to use it. Such expressions can often obviate the need to use it. These may well be our best if not only ways to survive.
NOT REALLY AN UPDATE because I just was not aware of it when I wrote the article.
The first half of this Latma video provides a persuasive analysis, which I had not previously considered, of why the recent vile video was the cause of all Islamic unrest throughout the centuries which we in the West incorrectly view as bad.
According to this article, “Alleged ‘Innocence of Muslims’ filmmaker taken for questioning, was huge donor to Obama campaign.”
[Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve] Whitmore told The Times that [Nakoula Basseley] Nakoula was taken in for a voluntary interview with probation officials and has not been arrested or detained.
Authorities waited until most media had left for the day to take Nakoula in.
Earlier Friday, sheriff’s deputies had to escort attorneys through a scrum of news cameras into Nakoula’s home. When the man was taken away early Saturday, authorities had to dodge only a lone photographer for The Times and a few lingering reporters.
Nakoula has told the Associated Press that he was a logistics manager on the “Innocence of Muslims” movie, not the director. He told a Coptic Christian bishop on Thursday that he had no role in it, the clergyman told The Times.
Nakoula is believed to use the alias Sam Bacile, which was the name a caller who took credit for the film gave to the AP and the Wall Street Journal.
Read more at the link. For such interest as it may hold, the article provides no support for the statement that Mr. Nakoula was a “huge donor to Obama campaign.” Although the poorly made video has received most of the blame for the spreading Islamic riots, it strikes me that it was, at most, a convenient excuse.
(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)
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