Shovel-Ready in the Middle East?
Osama bin Laden famously said that people in his region always follow the strong horse. President Obama sent bin Laden to sleep with the sturgeons earlier this year in a move widely hailed. No one but the michaelmoores complained that bin Laden hadn't been given a Miranda warning or carped that our faithful friends, the Pakistanis, hadn't been tipped off first.
As it turned out, however, the Osama raid proved to be the outlier. President Obama turned from that undeniable success and ratcheted up the pressure on Israel. (Why is it every time we finish off some Arab mass killer of Muslims we seem to find it necessary to tighten the screws on the Israelis? It's as if some State Department expert wants to prove we are "even-handed.")
Apart from the success of the Osama raid, this president has been stumbling, and stumbling badly, in the Mideast throughout his time in office. First, the newly inaugurated Barack Obama bowed to Saudi Arabia's king during a 2009 London summit. No American leader had ever done this before. No American had ever so humbled this country before one of the world's worst despots. Even if you wanted to show a kinder and gentler face to Muslims, doesn't he know that the king of Saudi Arabia is widely resented -- among Muslims? Saudi police treat Muslim pilgrims to Mecca like cattle.
President Obama soon followed up that shocking act with a rhetorical salaam before assembled scholars at Al Azhar Mosque in Egypt. He chose this site for his highly publicized speech reaching out to "the Muslim world." Doesn't Mr. Obama know that Al Azhar is notorious for being the center of Muslim Brotherhood influence throughout the Arab world? The Brothers are the ones who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 in broad daylight. Sadat won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending thirty years of war with Israel. That's why the Muslim Brotherhood killed him.
So what did President Obama say there? He spoke of the Koran as "holy." No American president has ever done that before. He said Islam had been "revealed" in the Mideast. As in revealed by God? As a candidate, he had told Nick Kristof of the New York Times that he recalled the muezzin's call to prayer from his boyhood days in Indonesia. Then, he recited it in what the journalist called a perfect Arabic accent. (Does Kristof speak Arabic? How does he know what a perfect Arabic accent sounds like?)
So, what have been the results of all this bowing and salaaming? The prestigious National Journal this week reports that Arabs' views of Obama and the United States are at historic lows.
Across the Mideast, the article reports, the latest polls show sharply increased hostility to America. James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute. He expresses his frustration with Obama policies. "By the time of his speech in Cairo, the favorable ratings for the U.S. were at their highest ever." But, reports the National Journal's Anna van Hollen, those to whom Obama abased himself are frustrated with his lack of follow-through. Zogby says, "You get credit for trying after 100 days, but after two years...you get credit for producing, and the production isn't there."
Hmmm. Doesn't that sound familiar? Sounds like the same story in diplomacy with Arab regimes as we have seen with jobs at home. All show and no go.
How bad is it? Zogby International did the polling. Most Arab countries today view the United States less favorably than in the last year of the Bush administration. Only 9 percent of Egyptians were warm to us then. Today, that figure has been cut in half: Only 5 percent of Egyptians have a good opinion of America. Maybe they need some stimulus money.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not have dreamed of bowing to any Saudi king -- even if he had been able. Instead, he insisted on conducting Sunday Christian worship on board his ship, the USS Quincy. When he learned of Roosevelt's piety, King Abdulazziz said he respected the president for that.
President Harry Truman was willing to override the man he respected most in the world -- his Secretary of State, George C. Marshall. General Marshall had opposed Truman on recognizing the newborn State of Israel. The former five-star military leader warned Truman that the Arabs would be fiercely opposed to us on Israel. And Marshall was right about that.
Nonetheless, Roosevelt and Truman did the right thing in the Mideast and were willing to let the Arabs hate us so long as they respected us.
President Obama turned a strong horse into a hobbled horse with all his appeasement -- and billions of our tax dollars going to people who hate us. James Zogby is more sympathetic. "He didn't get a magic wand when he took office. Instead, he got a shovel to get out of a deep hole. Every one of the issues he's inherited has been more difficult than he or anyone else expected."
So that's the shovel-ready project we've heard so much about. Maybe the president can use that shovel to bury his failed Mideast policies.