Claremore Daily Progress

September 17, 2012

Obama, the Middle East and the future of the U.S.

Dakota Wood
Special to the Progress

CLAREMORE — The current turmoil unfolding in the Middle East that has resulted in attacks on our embassies and the deaths of our citizens can be laid at the feet of President Obama and his feckless foreign policy team.

The purported reason for the protests against the U.S. is a 13-minute trailer for a stupid movie posted to YouTube. I watched it. It’s stupid. Stupid dialogue, horrible acting, even worse cinematography. Why the fuss? Because Muhammad is portrayed as a lecherous, hypocritical opportunist. 
This is blasphemy in the eyes of the Muslim faithful warranting the mob behavior, pillaging of foreign embassies, and killing of innocents. But the movie is actually just an excuse and a poor one at that. 
The violence actually reveals deeper problems in both the Muslim world and the Obama Administration, the latter fixable if he is voted out of office in November while the former may never by rectified.
Understandably this diplomatic crisis has been fodder for the presidential campaigns, news media, and pundits of all stripes. For me, the incident serves as yet more evidence that: 
- our foreign policy is in shambles; 
- our President is either sincere but ignorant, incompetent, or actually wishes our country harm (one can make a solid argument for all three propositions); 
- radicalized, militant, fundamentalist Islam is a sorry system that will keep its adherents rooted in the 11th Century; and
- if $1 trillion in budget cuts (known as ‘sequestration,’ half of which must come from Defense) mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 is allowed to continue we will see more of this nonsense and even less ability to protect our interests around the world.
History shows that strength begets respect while weakness invites abuse. Teddy Roosevelt knew that diplomatic words are only effective if they are backed by military power - “speak softly and carry a big stick.” 
Ronald Reagan reminded us that, “preparedness deters aggression and that weakness invites it.” The American statesman Dean Acheson observed, “No people in history have ever survived, who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies.” 
From refusing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu about the threat posed by Iran, to abandoning the Poles and Czechs when we canceled missile-defense systems in deference to Russia, and “standing silently with the mullahs” as “the Iranian people [took] to the streets to fight for their freedom” (all cited by Liz Cheney in a WSJ Op-Ed this week), Obama’s policies place accommodation over principle. 
Consequently, we find ourselves threatened by enemies, losing friends and allies who don’t feel we can be trusted as a steady partner, and unable to influence events around the world like we once did. 
The fundamentalist Muslim world understands strength, if nothing else, and is philosophically polar-opposite to the West. 
A decade before 9/11, Bernard Lewis, the renowned scholar on Islam, wrote that the “struggle of the fundamentalists [within Islam] is against two enemies, secularism and modernism…Islamic fundamentalism has given an aim and a form to [the] resentment and anger of the Muslim masses at the forces that have devalued their traditional values and loyalties… [Since] the United States is the legitimate heir of European civilization and the recognized and unchallenged leader of the West, the United States has inherited the resulting grievances and become the focus for the pent-up hate and anger.” 
Taking this further, Robert Reilly, a former director of Voice of America and senior official in various Republican Administrations, noted in his latest book “The Closing of the Muslim Mind” that the struggle between philosophies within Islam through the end of the 11th Century resulted in a view that the will of Allah trumps everything, that Man insults Allah by attempting to understand ‘why?’ ‘Reason’ was not just subordinated by submission to the will of Allah, it was fully replaced. 
Man should simply accept whatever comes his way because what comes his way is ultimately the will of Allah. By contrast, the West thrives on exploration and critical inquiry and therefore stands in direct opposition to fundamentalist Islam.
So what does this mean with respect to the Obama Administration, pending cuts to the Defense budget, and our current troubles overseas? 
Simply this: Obama’s approach to foreign affairs especially in the Middle East shows the most fundamental ignorance of the nature of that region and is precisely what Acheson warned against when we try to make ourselves inoffensive to our enemies. 
Our very nature, our philosophy of inquiry, the value we place on individual responsibility, and our tolerance for different perspectives makes us intolerable to the radicalized, fundamentalist, Islamic community that has taken root throughout the Middle East. 
To the extent we reduce our strengths even if well intended under the misguided notion that our enemies will interpret it as a ‘good will gesture,’ our enemies will exploit our weakened status to full effect. 
A U.S. foreign policy based on apology, accommodation, self-imposed demilitarization, and tepid responses to attack will invite the very thing advocates say they are trying to prevent: greater threats to the U.S., destabilization of key regions, the loss of friends and allies, and the rise of cultural, political, and economic competitors who do not have our best interests at heart. 
A second Obama term would leave the U.S. perilously weak and without friends or meaningful influence in a much more dangerous world. 
We simply cannot afford it and neither can the Free World.
Dakota Wood is a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, noted national security and defense policy expert, graduate of Claremore-Sequoyah High School and the U.S. Naval Academy.