Obama and the Middle East – Jimmy Carter 2.0?
Watching the violence unfolding in Egypt, Libya, and now Yemen, it is impossible to avoid recalling the embarrassing impotence of the Carter administration in dealing with the Iranian Hostage Crisis. And since today’s “protesters” clearly have no compunctions about killing American citizens, it is obvious that they have no more fear of the United States than the Ayatollah Khomeini did in 1980.
In my own life, I have had the opportunity to travel to some of the most contentious areas of the Middle East, including Egypt and the West Bank of Palestine. The first thing that I observed was how the values in the Middle East are quite different from those in most modern Western democracies. From their conception of time to their sense of history, their world view is not at all like ours.
But one of the most important things I learned was that people in that part of the world, especially those with an Arabic and/or Muslim populace, tend to respect one quality above all others – strength. Strength, toughness, the willingness to employ force, are admired, even idolized.
This is the reason that so many Muslim nations are run by autocratic regimes – a powerful leader, even one who is little more than a dictator, will have enormous popular support. Weakness, on the other hand, is looked at with outright disdain. They abhor anyone who is seen as “appeasing” toward their enemies, most especially the United States.
Which is why those who naively believe that “if only we can show them how nice we are they’ll stop hating us” are doomed to fail. Because, while we may see things like “compassion” and “compromise” as admirable qualities, in many of the Middle Eastern cultures such concepts are derided as weak, even “feminine” and beneath contempt. In their world, kindness really does equal weakness.
Obama recently attacked Mitt Romney’s modest criticism of the State Department’s initial “apology” press release as “shooting first and aiming later” (tellingly, the same charge the inept Jimmy Carter made of his opponents). But the larger issue is that Obama has demonstrated that his approach is to “aim, wait, aim” and only “fire” when dragged by his advisers kicking and screaming into acting – then taking credit for making a “courageous” decision. In that respect, Obama is very much like Carter.
Note the rather interesting fact that after 444 days of humiliating then President Jimmy Carter, the Iranian regime suddenly decided to free the hostages – literally just minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn into office. Now, the Carter apologists will try to come up with dozens of explanations for the timing of their release, but most of those held captive knew in their hearts the real reason: the radical Khomeini regime was simply scared to death of that “cowboy” Ronald Reagan.
The Iranians, quite rightly, saw Ronald Reagan as one tough S.O.B. and although they may have even hated him, they respected him. And perhaps even more importantly, they feared him. Now, being feared is anathema to the “sensitive” liberal mindset – they want to be loved. Sure, it would be nice to be loved and respected by our allies. But it is essential that we are feared by our enemies.
Unfortunately, today many of our supposed allies do not love us, and some do not even respect us. And our enemies certainly don’t fear us. And that’s a dangerous thing. Because in the vicious, high stakes, back-alley world that is international politics, it is always better, and ultimately safer, to be feared.
But that is not likely to happen if Barak Obama remains in office. From his voting “present” more than 150 times as an Illinois Senator to his reluctance to “pull the trigger” on Bin Laden, he has shown the kind of “paralysis by analysis” that is the hallmark of someone who has never had the executive experience so essential to the office. Ask yourself, if you were Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (or one of the Muslim Brotherhood) would you fear Barak Obama?
I am still cautiously optimistic about Mitt Romney when it comes to foreign policy, but with his record of solving complex problems and his executive experience, he at least offers a far better chance of “getting it right” than than our current “Trainee” President does.
Heck, he might even allow our embassy guards to have live ammunition in their M-16s….