Nothing is more central to the Obama foreign policy than his outreach to the Muslim world as reflected in his June 2009 Cairo speech. As is often the case, the speech was soaring. It reflected a great sensitivity to Muslim religion, culture, and history. It also leaned forward in criticizing the Bush policies - interrogation, Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan. At various points it criticized Germany (the Holocaust), Spain (the Inquisition), and Israel (West Bank settlements). What it did not do was mention the positives of America's relation with the Muslim world - for example, it rightly praised Al Azhar and the University of Cairo, but made no mention of the prominent American University in Cairo. It did not offer concrete assistance, set goals or challenge the Muslim leadership.
So, three years later what do we know?
`1. Our friends cannot depend on our support.
- In Egypt we have abandoned not only Hosni Mubarak, but also the moderates as reflected in the military, the tourist industry, and the Coptic Christisan community. Obama doesn't know if Egypt - the most important state in the Arab world - is an ally.
- In Israel there is a break with the leadership, with Obama refusing to meet with Premier Netanyahu. All options for stopping Iran's march to nuclear weapons are on the table - where they will remain.
- Obama was silent while the Iranians put down pro-democracy demonstrators in 2009.
- He is again silent in 2012 when the Iranian-backed president of Syria slaughters 20,000 civilians seeking his removal.
- Allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates can only wonder what awaits them.
2. Our enemies see us in withdrawal and sense that they can attack with impunity.
- In Afghanistan the resurgent Taliban are conducting more brazen attacks on our troops who are hanging on until 2014. President Karzai is taking an increasingly independent posture, recognizing that his future does not rest with the United States.
- Anti-American demonstrators, with Al Queda influence, are free to attack embassies, consulates, schools, and businesses with little consequence.
3. It is, of course, somebody else's fault.
- The animosity between the Muslim world and the West built up over centuries and cannot be solved in one term. With Obama's background, he is the best hope. But for some reason the Pew attitude surveys of Middle Eastern countries show a decline in positives for the United States since 2008 in every case.
- The attack on the Benghazi consulate was spontaneous and not anti-American or against Obama's policies, although the (politically incorrect) Libyan president, the 9/11 timing, and the weapons and tactics of the attackers all indicate that it was. The State Department investigation will probably be available about November 7.
- The attention should be on Mitt Romney for criticizing the Cairo embassy's apologetic message which was later disavowed by the State Department and the White House.
The Obama administration's response to events across the Middle East is similar to its response to the domestic economy - passive, ineffectual, and blame shifting. The quandry for the Romney campaign - how much time to spend discussing Obama's foreign policy failures when the public wants to hear specifically what he will do to fix the economy. Perhaps things will get so bad that even CNN and the networks will have to set the record straight on the collapse of Obama's foreign policy. Good luck with that!
This week's video is of UN Ambassador Susan Rice doubling down on the administration's position that the rash of violent demonstrations from Morocco to Jakarta had nothing to do with anti-Americanism or the Obama administration's policies.
bill bowen - 9/21/12