The Arab Spring overturned a compromise the US had struck with Arab dictators, namely, we knew they were brutal, corrupt and basically lacked talent with respect to government (other than clinging to power), but that they would, for all intents and purposes, behave somewhat responsibly with respect to our own interests. We traded a terrible status quo for stability and avoided the volatility that has a tendency to explode from time to time with the Middle East.
Now that arrangement is gone. The US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and four others are dead after an attack on the American consulate in Bengazi, the city saved from total destruction by Gaddafi, when crowds were outraged after seeing a film that denigrated the prophet Mohammed. Demonstrations at the US embassies in Egypt and Yemen have also threatened our diplomatic staff there with violence as well. All three are countries that have recently undergone a transition in government. Previously, none of the dictators that ran any of the countries would have allowed anything like this to happen, usually for fear of reprisals by the US government. And also for fear that they would lose control over any crowd they assembled to do this on their behalf.
These events underpin my long-standing belief that we should play a much less active role. Not to say that we should retreat into a shell and become isloationists, but that we should try to influence outcomes much less with respect to how these countries govern themselves. It hasn’t worked in the nearly three quarters of a century since we’ve started trying it, and it’s only caused countries to hate us. Granted, this is only a part of the problem. I think there’s deep cultural problems within Islam and how it relates to non-Muslims. Make an obscene joke about Jesus and what’s my response? Probably to laugh, not to decapitate you.
And while all of this is tragic and sad, that Mitt Romney would try to score political points over the President on this speaks volumes as to the lack of character the man suffers from. As Joe Scarborough of Mitt Romney: …’He’s neither a true conservative nor a courageous moderate. He’s just an ambitious man. Nothing wrong with that, except when you want to be president. Great leaders combine ambition and ideas and conviction.’ I won’t say more on the topic, as I think his actions throughout this episode tell everything one needs to know in order to form a judgement about the man.
What happened in Libya is tragic. We’re not going to change the cultural patterns of the Arab world, but we can change how we interact with them in order to stop being the bogeyman in their minds.