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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Obama would rather deal with the extremists

Lee Smith has an interesting (and probably correct) theory about President Obama's apparent preference for dealing with extremist Muslims rather than with 'moderate' Muslims.
Obama, it seems, doesn’t care about moderate Muslims for the same reason that he doesn’t make much noise about human rights and democracy promotion in the Middle East: For all his talk of hope and change, he takes a much more pessimistic—and more realistic—view of the region’s political culture than the Bush Administration did.

And the truth is that the Bush White House was never entirely serious about backing up its talk about moderate Muslims with action. Sure, the White House rode Cairo and Riyadh hard for their human-rights abuses, but it still wound up describing Egypt and Saudi Arabia as “moderate” Arab states—meaning that they were less bad than Iran. Worse yet, the Bush Administration committed the cardinal sin of Middle East politics: failing to protect its (moderate) allies and punish (extremist) enemies. Take the case of the late former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, an exemplary moderate Muslim politician, whose foundation provided tens of thousands of scholarships to students from all confessions while Hezbollah’s culture of resistance turned the Shia community into a death cult. And yet five and a half years later, after Hariri was killed in a car-bomb explosion in Beirut, there’s not even an indictment in his murder. The message is clear: There’s not much use for Middle East moderates since, like Hariri and Anwar Sadat before him, their moderation only gets them killed by extremists.

President Obama has keyed in on Muslim extremists because his own history shows that it’s the strategically sound choice. The lesson that extremism is the foundation of political legitimacy in politically charismatic communities was driven home to the president, Sunday after Sunday, as he sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years. Obama, a half-white community organizer from Hawaii by way of Harvard Law School, did not seek to establish his bona fides in Chicago’s black community by attending the church of some middle-class black pastor who would speak about the glories of mowing the lawn every Sunday. The politically ambitious Obama chose to sit in the church of a man who spouted lunatic conspiracy theories about how the CIA was killing black babies not because he believed it, but because he knew back then that extremists confer legitimacy—especially when you are an outsider hoping to curry favor with the locals, as he is now with the Muslim world.

What Obama knows about extremists and moderates was not lost on our founding fathers, who understood that the great and vast moderate majority anywhere are a bunch of saps who will gladly follow the knave who knows how to play on their grievances and lusts. The moderate majority is the hash you get when you have made a virtue of human nature by balancing off competing prejudices, fantasies, fears, and vanities; and if you want to deal with this moderate majority you must go to their leaders, the men of fierce purpose who nurture the worst in mankind.

It is typically assumed that the president’s history, his family background, and the time he has spent in the Muslim world have made him deeply sympathetic to the Muslim masses. Another possibility is that it has left him wary of what he has seen and heard. As someone with a Muslim father who grew up partly in a Muslim country, and who embraced radical political tropes, it is notable that Obama chose to become a Christian and reject his father’s religious faith. Both his critics and defenders are quick to argue that his choice must have been motivated by naked political expediency. But what if it was a conscious decision to distance himself from a Muslim world he found distasteful?

In any case, Obama sees, correctly, that the real choice isn’t between moderates and extremists, but between cutting a deal with the extremists or making war against them. The fact is that a war against all the extremists in the Muslim world—Sunni and Shia, from the Persian Gulf to Western North Africa—is effectively a war against Islam. And a decades-long war of civilizations is not a war that an economically damaged United States can afford to wage. We have neither the money, nor the manpower, nor the will. A total war of the kind that appears to be on offer would change U.S. society in ways that are unimaginable and would make the Bush years look like an idyllic holiday. Our few remaining allies—with the exception of Israel—would no longer wish to fight beside us and would make deals of their own, if they already haven’t.

So, instead, we’re going to bargain with the actors who have the final say over war and peace: the extremists.
Smith believes that the American people will not accept Obama's compromise with the extremists, nor will they accept the extremists' style of bargaining. We can only hope and pray that is true and that the American people assert their will before it is too late.

Read it all.


At 9:58 PM, Blogger Andre (Canada) said...

I think the premise is absolutely right. The moderates in any conflict generally do not call the shots. Look at Sri Lanka...the government decided to deal with the "extremists" in a particular way: fight to the death. The government eventually won. In Ulster (northern Ireland), the British decided that they could not win and instead eventually sat down to talk to the IRA. In Spain, the government is negotiating with the Basque Separatists (ETA), etc...
I think that it is safe to say that the problem of Hamas and Hizbollah will not be resolved until Israel decides to "deal with it". But in this case, contrary to the other examples mentioned above, because the "extremists" have made it abundantly clear that they are not interested in speaking with Israel in the least as their intent is to simply destroy Israel, Israel has one option and one option only to "deal" with the problem: fight until they destroy these groups, whatever the cost.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Alexander Maccabee said...

"Obama chose to become a Christian and reject his father’s religious faith. Both his critics and defenders are quick to argue that his choice must have been motivated by naked political expediency. But what if it was a conscious decision to distance himself from a Muslim world he found distasteful?"

A Christian who hides his baptism records, and goes to a Church which honors Louis Farrakhan, and attracts a large number of Muslims as well as Christians... whose pastor uses Nation of Islam thugs as bodyguards?


If Obama went to anything resembling a normal Church there would be much less reasonable doubt to this man's ideas. -- Normal Churches are suspect enough.


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