To tell the truth, Barack Obama’s second Mideast pontification sounded better
than his first – the one he delivered in Cairo soon after assuming office. His
waxing ecstatic about burgeoning democracy in the Arab world appeared preferable
to his bowing before sleazy Arab potentates and pretending that Muslim despots
should be weighed on the same scales of pluralist evenhanded-ness as Western
Prima facie, more than the Arab/Muslim world had changed,
Obama seemed to have substantively backtracked from entrenched moral relativism.
Remember, early in his presidency he opted to coolly ignore the popular uprising
in Iran and treat the Ayatollahs’ rigged election as the bona fide verdict of
the masses.Still, in a world where the three-word slogan and five-second
sound bite prevail, it’s politically correct to forgive that lapse. It’s bon ton
to forget that Obama’s sweet palaver sugarcoats the bitterest poison-pill. It’s
uncool to mention that should Israel refuse to swallow what Obama prescribes,
it’d be accused of upsetting the regional/international equilibrium.
Obama groupies, Israeli democracy is anyhow not preferable to authorized
Palestinian thuggery. It doesn’t matter that Israelis never sent suicide-bombers
to Arab streets nor incited Jewish masses to annihilate
Obamaesque fair-mindedness ostensibly demands that blame for
Arab/Muslim crimes be apportioned to Israel, albeit minus a shred of
justification. To protest transparent distortion is to blaspheme against the
Gospel of Obama.
It doesn’t even matter that a Palestinian state already
exists on nearly 80 percent of Palestine (although, for purposes of political
expedience, it’s called Jordan). We can make this a nice world if we only make
nice. Yet we mustn’t force our version of nice on the bad guys who’re anyway not
bad... only misunderstood victims of our narrow-mindedness.
all global arena players to abide by the conventional wisdom inculcated into him
at Harvard – i.e., to broadmindedly tolerate adversarial viewpoints, submit a
priori that no cause is unavoidably more valid than any other and effectively
favor Third World professed underdogs with a peeve.
My country, Obama was
taught at Harvard, isn’t necessarily more right, its democracy isn’t necessarily
democratic and all belligerents can be soothed with sufficient sympathy,
flattery and concessions.
Obama’s initial conception was that rogue
regimes harbor reasonable grievances that can be reduced or redressed. Eclipsing
his ardor to appease them is now his ardor to appease potential Arab democracy
via Israeli giveaways.
However, the more things change, the more they
stay the same. Israel’s status as a banana republic apparently must, in Obama’s
view, stay irrevocable. Obama’s immutable perception is of Israel as somehow
remaining morally culpable and therefore charged with mitigating Arab
Obama-speak obliges Israel to take existential risks, while
Arab cooperation merely entails waiting patiently for Israeli suicide rather
than rushing in for the precipitous slaughter.
That said, shouldn’t the
fact that Obama so enthusiastically embraces the seeming democratic stirrings in
the Arab world be greeted as a heartening transformation? Perhaps Obama has seen
the light. Perhaps he genuinely renounced his postmodern blanket denial of
absolutes, of values or virtues in select cultures, of the greater moral
uprightness of some societies versus the comparative depravity of
IN MIDEAST Speech II, Obama went to great lengths to sing
freedom’s praises and denounce overthrown autocracies.
American president’s panegyric romanticizes Arab demonstrators as enlightened,
freethinking proponents of civil liberties.
If any doubt remained, Obama
took pains to hone the point: “For the American people,” stressed America’s
president, “the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the
forces driving it are not unfamiliar.
Our own nation was founded through
a rebellion against an empire.”
Oops, hold on – do we detect niggling
traces of moral relativism, Obama’s apparent redirection notwithstanding? We
Americans, says the current White House occupant to assorted Mideasterners, are
no better than you.
The American Revolution of 1776 is no different from
the so-called Arab Spring of 2011.
Surely during his Harvard salad days
Obama was introduced to Democracy in America, the Alexis de Tocqueville classic,
inspired by the young French aristocrat’s 1831 tour of the then-fledgling
De Tocqueville, awed by what America had achieved, understood that it
wasn’t only due to the limitless prospects of a wide-open continent. Portuguese,
Spanish and French colonists hardly matched the British, who “were more
conversant with the notions of right and the principles of true freedom than the
greater part of their European contemporaries. At the period of the first
emigrations, the township system – that fruitful germ of free institutions – was
deeply rooted in the habits of the English; and with it the doctrine of the
sovereignty of the people which had been introduced into the very bosom of the
monarchy of the House of Tudor.”
This seed, transplanted across the
Atlantic, accorded everyday Americans “the right to indict public functionaries
before ordinary tribunals and gave all judges the right to convict public
officers... Yet a solid ground of complaint must exist before anyone thinks of
prosecuting a public officer, and these officers are careful not to furnish such
America’s mind-set was rights-oriented and law-oriented from
In other words, for democracy to thrive, it requires a
fertile socio-cultural soil. Without proper conditions democracy doesn’t
flourish, as it hadn’t in Jacobin France, where it “was enfeebled by its own
excesses” and “abandoned to its wild instincts, like children deprived of
parental guidance, who receive their education in the streets, acquainted only
with society’s vices and wretchedness.”
French society, de Tocqueville
deduced, lacked “that concomitant change in laws, ideas, customs and morals
necessary to render any revolution beneficial... The spell of royalty was broken
but not supplanted by the majesty of law. People have learned to despise all
authority, but they still fear it.”
De Tocqueville was mindful of the
danger that in some settings, new oppressions would merely replace prior
oppressions. Can Obama be sure it isn’t so in the Arab realm?
No way. Arab
societies – rife with illiteracy, violence, volatility, runaway birthrates,
xenophobia and religious fanaticism – are today immeasurably less ripe for
democracy than 19th-century France. Cloying blandishments from Washington cannot
Obama’s basic hypotheses and consequent comparisons are
spurious. That leaves us only with two possible conclusions – he either
willfully misrepresents reality, or he utterly fails to comprehend a world
vulnerable to his whims. Both alternatives are dreadful.
Obama may be
fully aware of the fact that he unconscionably manipulates the truth and is
hence disingenuous, to say the least (for whatever ultimate purpose). If not,
then Obama is deluded and entirely incapable of discerning the critical
fundamentals of our existence, which should alarm the entire free world, as he
nominally, at least, leads it.
We Israelis cannot, therefore, accept
Obama’s recommendations- cum-diktats for our own life-and-death struggle for
survival. For us, it’s inherently immaterial whether they spring from hardened
cynicism or from inordinate naïveté. In any case, subscribing to this
president’s bottom line would doom us all irredeemably to the bottom of the
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