On September 11, Embassy walls were stormed in Egypt, and the black flag of militant Islam was hoisted over what is sovereign American soil in Cairo. An American ambassador and three of his staffers were murdered in Benghazi in what US Ambassador Susan Rice has called a “spontaneous” protest over the release of a minor movie. (Conversely, Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf has said this was a planned “criminal act” by militants.)
Since then, American flags have burned across the Middle East in countries like Pakistan where hundreds were subdued with tear gas while marching to the American Consulate in Karachi. Protesters in Morocco, a moderate Muslim country, chanted “Death to Obama.” In Kabul, crowds yelled, “Death to America.”
Rocks and bottle rockets have been hurled outside the US Embassy in Jakarta where the AP recorded a protester yelling, “We will destroy America like this flag!” In Sudan riot police have had to protect the American, British and German Embassies.
Still, Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney insists, “This is not a case of protests directed at the United States at large or at US policy, but it is in response to [a] video that is offensive to Muslims…”
In regards to that perspective, one should note ABC News and other outlets have reported that the producer of Innocence of Muslims used an alias while promoting his film. While he claimed to be a Jewish real estate agent, he is actually an Egyptian who raised the money for his movie in Egypt. The American government did not fund or condone the creation of this movie mocking Islam, and the producer wasn’t even an American. Thereby it seems the movie’s only real relationship to the United States—apart from the location where it was filmed--is the cherished American value that purports even offensive speech is free.
This creates a problem for the Obama presidency.
The Obama doctrine as demonstrated by multiple speeches and foreign policy initiatives is one that rests on the assumption that the animosity that has long radiated towards the United States was in large part a reaction to a lack of American humility, military posturing and interference in the affairs of other cultures.
Yet after four years of a recalibrated relationship with the Middle East, a video has caused radical Islamists to yell such niceties as “Obama, we love Osama” and “Our dead are in paradise; your dead are in hell.”
Were such things said in a remote outpost of the Hindu Kush where radicalized sheepherders with Internet access are unable to differentiate You Tube videos from American endorsed positions?
Actually, the “Obama, we love Osama” folks were gathered in Sydney, Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun, and ABC News Australia reported police used batons and dog squads to repel the five-hour long protest conducted by violent radicals wearing Arabic scripted headbands that read, “We are your soldiers, Mohammed.”
In fact, while still in the “peaceful” stages of assembly, children were photographed holding signs that said, “Behead all those who insult the prophet.”
This gives pause for reflection.
Let’s assume that all of these protests really are the result of a movie.
Does Western culture condone the beheading of producers? Obviously not, so what can the United States do to appease Islamic fascists? Disavow such films? Stop them from being made?
To think about what this really means in the context of our own values, put aside for the moment a silly film produced by a fringe Egyptian for nefarious purposes.
If an author like Salman Rushdie is ever murdered and wider protests erupt around the globe because of his writing, should the United States respond by tweeting that Americans repudiate Rushdie’s highly acclaimed work?
If not, one has to consider the broader implications of how the Obama administration has handled the violent—and not isolated—reactions to a remote film.
Is it okay to continue to propagate the idea that insanely intolerant people have a reason to be mad? How do Americans live peacefully with extremists who are alive, well, and so easily agitated despite President Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policies? (This was the description an Obama adviser gave to The New Yorker of the president’s approach to the Arab Spring.)
It would be refreshing if someone seemed even remotely interested in analyzing what this crisis actually says about American security around the globe.
After all, the Commander-in-Chief’s primary duty is not to protect the feelings of fanatics. It’s to engage in policies that protect the people of the United States.