I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. – Barack Hussein Obama, Cairo, 2009
The devil is not in the details
One does not have to be an expert in Islamic history or culture, or be familiar with the details of Koranic verse or Hadithic texts to realize that Obama’s characterization of the alleged affinity between America and Islam is entirely detached from any reality on the ground–particularly with regard to the matters he enumerates in the preceding excerpt from his 2009 Cairo speech.
All one has to do is follow the daily news that routinely convey reports of the Hobbesian horrors that flared across Syria, Libya, Egypt and other Arab countries once the Leviathan “cap” of tyranny, holding these bestial impulses in check, was “uncorked.”
Worse, in some parts of the Muslim world, blood curdling atrocities have become so commonplace they hardly make the news at all.
For when it comes to issues such as justice, progress, tolerance and respect for societal and/or religious diversity, a yawning chasm divides America from Islam. Indeed, American society, as a product of the values embodied in the Constitution and the Judeo-Christian values it draws on; and Islamic society as a product of Sharia and the Muslim values it draws on, are irreconcilably exclusive and antithetically opposed to one another.
No amount of convoluted scholarly debate on the intricacies of Islamic scriptures or benign interpretations of their “real” significance, can change the gruesome facts that prevail throughout Muslim-majority societies – from West Africa to East Asia.
Justice? Like stoning of female rape victims for “adultery? Progress? Like fathers slaughtering daughters to preserve their “honor”? Tolerance? Like summary lynching of “gays” because of their sexual preferences? Dignity of all human beings? Like butchery of non- Muslim “infidels” for practicing their faith?
Pervasive and perverse
Neither are these unrepresentative or isolated anecdotal instances of barbarity and bigotry that occur in Islamic societies. Indeed, they– and other manifestations of harsh brutality, totally foreign to American and “Western” ways –pervade much of the Muslim world. Extensive surveys of Muslim majority countries across Africa and Asia show that there is widespread endorsement for making Sharia the law of the land and adopting the severe practices prescribed in it.
A recent 2013 poll by Pew Research Center found that “solid majorities in most of the countries surveyed across the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia favor the establishment of sharia, including 71% of Muslims in Nigeria, 72% in Indonesia, 74% in Egypt and 89% in the Palestinian territories.”
An earlier pre-Arab Spring survey conducted in 2010 across seven major Muslim countries from Nigeria to Indonesia found that in most there were large majorities in favor of stoning for adultery, amputation of limbs for theft and death for apostasy (leaving Islam).
So while there is considerable country-to-country variation in the degree of support for the enforcement of the more brutal Sharia compliant prescriptions, it is clear that in terms of defining societal parameters – individual liberties, gender equality (including equality before the law), religious tolerance and socio-cultural pluralism – a gigantic gulf separates America from Islam.
One would be hard pressed to find any area where they do in fact “overlap and share common principles” in any significant manner.
‘Islam has always been part of America’s story’
In his Cairo “outreach” speech, with the Muslim Brotherhood seated in positions of prominence –much to the chagrin of his host Hosni Mubarak – Obama told his audience: “I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.” Then extolling the alleged Muslim contribution to the development of the US he declared, no more than a few years after 9/11, when in the name of Islam, Muslims reduced the Twin Towers to a pile of rubble, he remarked: “Since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have... built our tallest building [sic].”
Admittedly, much water has flown under the bridge since Obama’s initial outreach address to the Muslim world in June 2009, shortly after his election. But precisely because it was delivered when he was still unencumbered by domestic constraints and foreign frustrations, it perhaps reflected most accurately the unfiltered essence of the political instincts he brought to the Oval Office and the inputs that have gone into shaping his geopolitical credo.
His interpretation of the international role the US should play, the nature of the country’s interests, and the manner in which they should be pursued; his perception of friend and foe and the attitudes that should be adopted towards them, all seem to entail dramatic and disconcerting departure from that of most of his predecessors.
In this regard, he is the first US president who is explicitly and overtly unmoored, both cognitively and emotionally, from the bollards of America’s founding Judeo-Christian heritage, and who somehow conceives that Islam is not inherently inimical to American values.
It is through this Islamo-philic prism that the Obama-administration’s attitude to, and performance of, its foreign policy must be evaluated–including last weekend’s acquiescence on the Iranian nuclear issue.
The chilling thing
In the course of half a decade, under the stewardship of Obama, the US has had its standing shredded both in the eyes of its allies – and worse – in the eyes of its adversaries.
Debacle has piled upon debacle. Allies have been abandoned and enemies emboldened, worse, empowered. Inappropriate action has been complemented by equally inappropriate inaction. True, in 2009 Obama was handed an unenviable heritage from the preceding administration–a severe financial-turned-economic crisis and two ill-considered ground wars in Asia. But Obama has ensured that the latter will end in futile failure– even demoralizing defeat; while in dealing with the former he has precipitated soaring deficits, crippling debt and chronic and debilitating joblessness, coupled with burgeoning dependence on welfare.
But the really chilling aspect of the Obama incumbency is that it is genuinely difficult to diagnose whether the abysmal results we see represent a crushing failure of his policies or a calculated success; whether they are the product of chronic ineptitude or purposeful foresight; whether they reflect myopic misunderstanding, moronic incompetence or malicious intent.
This general conundrum is particularly pertinent with regard to what transpired in Geneva last Sunday, which appeared to many – including erstwhile Obamaphiles – to be an inexplicable US climb-down from what looked “suspiciously” like positions that heralded emerging success.
Some had little doubt as to what lay behind the move. In a forceful article, Caroline Glick asserted bluntly: “His goal is not to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power…The goal of Obama’s foreign policy is to weaken the State of Israel.”
Undermining allies, underpinning adversaries
Others took a more general, less Israel-centric, perspective on Obama motives.
“Obama has no interest in weakening our adversaries while he does seem to have an interest in weakening our allies”, warned Dinesh D’Souza, adding: “If you were trying to find a consistent way to predict what Obama is doing in the ME it is very simple. He has been undermining our allies and allowed our adversaries to remain in power.”
D’Souza, who directed the 2012 highest grossing documentary, “2016: Obama’s America,” which made a number of troubling predictions as to what to expect in the second term of Barack Obama, has now released a new video, suggesting how the president, driven by his “anti-colonial mindset” he allegedly imbued from his father, plans to “take America down a notch.”
D’Souza warned that Obama would “promiscuously” increase the debt to mortgage the US to foreign interests and would purposely strive to shrink the influence of American foreign policy. He points to what he sees as a “double-standard” in US policy under the current administration in the Mideast, intervening when this seems to advance Islamist interests (as in Egypt in 2010) and refraining to do so when this does not (as in Iran in 2009); engaging in Libya to depose a largely reformed Gaddafi but not in Syria to topple an inimical Assad.
D’Souza concludes that “this is not the unintentional effect of a blundering president,” hinting darkly :” When an intelligent man does something contradictory, it’s not because he is a fool but it is because he is up to something else.”
‘Then, it all makes perfect sense’
Now while I would advise against uncritical acceptance of all D’Souza’s arguments and interpretations of Obama’s conduct, they paint a picture plausible enough to be taken seriously. They certainly provide a cogent context for interpreting the reason for, and the significance of, what longtime Obama supporter Alan Dershowitz dubbed the US’s “Chamberlain moment” in Geneva over the weekend.
The veteran Democratic stalwart condemned the P5+1 pact, forged with the Iranian theocracy, as “a deal which is bad for the United States, for the West, and for Israel…” He railed : “…all reasonable, thinking people should understand that weakening the sanctions against Iran without demanding that they dismantle their nuclear weapons program is a prescription for disaster. Have we learned nothing from North Korea and Neville Chamberlain?”
By contrast, Bashar Assad lauded the accord! Indeed, with the ink barely dry on the agreement, it seems on the verge of falling apart, with Iran rejecting the White House interpretation of central clauses in it–regarding Iran’s right to enrich (with the Russians supporting Tehran’s version), and continued construction as the planned plutonium producing plant at Arak; and uncertainties as to the off-site development of components for its future operation.
Were all these flaws and ambiguities unintentionally overlooked? Or were they intentionally ignored? Was the agreement designed to prevent Iran from attaining weaponized nuclear capabilities? Or was it devised to sow dissension in the international front, assembled with such difficulty, to impose effective sanctions on Iran?
So on the face of it Dershowitz’s exasperated query” Have we learned nothing from North Korea and Neville Chamberlain?” should be perfectly understandable.
Unless of course, one assumes, as do Glick and D’Souza, that Obama’s “ goal is not to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power…[but] to weaken the State of Israel,” and that “Obama has no interest in weakening our adversaries while he does seem to have an interest in weakening our allies.”
Then, it all makes perfect sense!
I do not pretend to know what Barack Obama’s true intentions are. I cannot determine with certainty whether he is a bungling novice or a brilliant strategist. I can only judge from his conduct and draw conclusions from my observations.
Now if I were asked: “How would anyone, who was purposefully aiming to undermine the Western world and bolster its antipodal adversaries, behave?,” I would be compelled to respond: “Much like Obama.” It is difficult to understate the long-term ramifications of the Obama-incumbency on what we have come to call the “West.” However it is becoming increasingly apparent that it will emerge from it severely battered, its spirit emaciated and its foundations fundamentally fractured.
Whether it will withstand the Obama legacy, only time will tell. But the outcome is far from certain.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategicisrael.org)