Culture, Statecraft, and Obama's Middle East Failure
A nation advances its interests not just by the exercise of good policy decisions, but also by the acknowledgement of policy failures. Obama's Middle East policy has been a consummate failure, and the repeated fabrications of what happened in Benghazi show an administration so devoted to its policies in the region that it has concocted explanations whose absurdity rivals that of Baghdad Bob at the height of his media exposure. On Sunday, September 23, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs was still peddling the line that the situation was fluid and that new facts were coming into play. But the facts that have long been in play repeatedly contradict the administration's evolving narrative.
We now know that there was no demonstration outside the American consulate in Benghazi. The attack on the consulate did not evolve spontaneously from a nonexistent demonstration that got out of hand. There is nothing spontaneous about the use of highly coordinated fire and RPGs. It wasn't a coincidence that the attack occurred near the anniversary of September 11. There is not a shred of evidence linking the attack to the poorly made and distasteful YouTube video about Islam. Even the president of Libya, early on, did something the Obama administration initially refused to do -- he called the assault a terrorist attack. And if you have any doubt that the administration has bungled this cover-up, consider that the New York Times has, to date, refused to report on the administration's lies, not even dumping a summary where it put the Holocaust -- on the back pages.
Why is the administration so committed to denying the obvious? Because Barack Obama promised us that his knowledge of and experience with Islam would usher in an era of greater understanding between our world and theirs. In an exercise of naiveté worthy of a college sophomore, Obama genuinely believed that by adopting a sycophantic approach to a culture built on honor and shame, he would ingratiate himself to Islam. Nothing could have been farther from reality, a reality easily comprehended by anyone who understands the relationship between culture and statecraft. Obama doesn't.
Obama came of age in the intellectual era of ideological multiculturalism: an ideology best understood by the oxymoron "We are all different, but we are all the same." At the core of the multiculturalism-indoctrination as a faith-based learning experience in our colleges and universities is that we need to understand and appreciate peoples' cultural differences, but once we do so, we will understand that we are all the same.
In the left-dominated academy, there is no room for intellectual deviation from this catechism. The reality is that we are indeed different, and we do not want the same things because our cultural immersion also leads us to different perceptions of what is real and what is desirable.
The person who best understood this was Adda B. Bozeman, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College. Amid the swirl of mindless and orthodox multiculturalism, Bozeman was showing us how differences in culture lead to differences in thinking about statecraft as both a means and end. Long before Samuel Huntington was outlining the clash of civilizations, Adda Bozeman was depicting how cultural fault lines influence people using the same words to depict contradictory visions, values, and outcomes.
Bozeman understood politics both from an immersion in the process of exacting scholarship and from life. She was a refugee from both Soviet and German totalitarianism. She had little tolerance for those leftists who could parse a difference between these ideologies, those who found the Soviet variety palatable and the German variety abhorrent. Bozeman had experienced both and knew them to be separated by a mere difference without a distinction.
Obama and those who surround him have absorbed the mythical ideal of multiculturalism: we all want the same thing. But, as Bozeman so eloquently noted, we don't.
Robert Gibbs speaks glowingly of the Arab and Islamic worlds' embrace of democracy. What Gibbs and his naïve colleagues fail to comprehend is that superficial democratic processes do not necessarily produce democratic outcomes, especially when democracy is not a value long resident in the culture. Simply put, one man, one vote, one time is not democracy.
The Arab Spring merely opened a power vacuum, as did the French and Russian Revolutions. In France, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity led to Robespierre and the Terror, Napoleon as emperor, and then the restoration of the Monarchy. In Russia, the Kerensky Government quickly fell to the madness of another revolution and the Great Terror. In Iran, the democratic revolution, so fawned over by Jimmy Carter, simply opened the door to the ayatollahs. In Egypt, the young people, with their democratic revolution, opened the door for the repressive Muslim Brotherhood.
Obama, like Carter, forgot the difference between form and substance, clinging to the appearance of democracy as if it were the thing itself. Democratic processes do not necessarily lead to democratic outcomes. After all, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Gaza and the fundamentalists in Turkey, Hitler was elected. Today, more journalists have been locked up in Turkey than in Iran or China. This has not stopped the naïve and Muslim-enamored Obama from relying on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to guide him through the complexities of the Middle East.
Despite the continual undemocratic changes in the Islamic world, Gibbs faithfully echoes the theme of the Obama administration -- a theme most reprehensibly characterized by Obama's current press secretary, Jay Carney -- that the burning of our embassies is not about America and certainly not about President Obama, but rather about a YouTube trailer. To do otherwise is to admit that Obama's obsequious policies toward the Islamists have been a failure. One has to look only at Obama's picture burning in effigy and the ignited American flags in the Muslim street to know that this is very much is about him and us. "Obama, we are all Osama" says it all!
Adda Bozeman would note that in Obama's embrace of a pseudo-multiculturalism that has become a cult among the left, he has ignored the essence of what culture is. The Islamic world has a long road to travel toward democracy, and along the way there will be numerous dictators who will speak in the name of both democracy and Islam without worrying about what ideas they take in vain -- and most assuredly without the least consultation with those in whose name they have arrogated power to themselves. No amount of spin, cover-up, or outright lies from Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama, or his minions will hide the fact that Ambassador Chris Stevens, like American policy in the region, died because Obama never truly understood the culture in which the Arab Spring was imbedded.