As if President Obama did not have enough self-created foreign policy disasters to deal with, he generated two more in advance of his own speech to the United Nations.
As to the first, the Associated Press reports:
Iran’s president called Israel a nuclear-armed “fake regime” shielded by the United States, prompting Israel’s U.N. ambassador to walk out of a high-level U.N. meeting Monday promoting the rule of law.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also accused the U.S. and others of misusing freedom of speech and failing to speak out against the defamation of people’s beliefs and “divine prophets,” an apparent reference to the recently circulated amateur video made in the U.S. which attacks Islam and denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. . . . The U.S. delegation did not walk out of Monday’s meeting, as it has in the past when Iran attacked Israel directly. [Emphasis added.]
Two former State Department officials with whom I spoke last night were taken aback by the U.S. decision to remain present. One explained that in such situations the United States “pretty much always had a lower level person at the desk who was instructed to walk out at the first offensive statement and to leave a note taker behind.”
Whether this was an intentional change in U.S. practice — due, one can suppose to the frantic desire to show deference to the “Muslim world” and specifically to remain “engaged” with Iran — or yet another in a long line of foreign policy screw-ups can be debated. But it really doesn’t matter. The message sent to the “international community” is that the U.S. can be cowed and won’t stand up (literally, and then walk out) for Israel.
There can’t be any doubt that another noxious decision was intentional. Reuters reports:
The United States has paid Pakistani television stations to run advertisements featuring President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, hoping to soothe public opinion in a country hit by protests against an anti-Islam movie made in California, the State Department said on Thursday.
The US embassy in Islamabad spent about $70,000 to run the announcement featuring clips of Obama and Clinton underscoring US respect for religion and declaring the US government had nothing to do with the movie.
This is a grave error, showing just how misguided is the Obama approach to the Middle East. Yesterday the president, for the first time, confessed (on “The View,” of all venues) that “there is no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the on-going assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action.” Well that is not what his own spokesman and his U.N. ambassador were saying day after day. And if this was really, as his critics have been telling him, an organized terrorist attack, why in the world would we be spending taxpayer money to apologize for an anti-Muslim video? Are Clinton and Obama going to be the new Siskel and Ebert, giving reviews of each video (what about books? cartoons?) that takes a jab at Islam?
It is entirely inappropriate for the president and secretary of state to go on bended knee, giving fodder to the Islamists who claim that the West brings these assaults on itself. Obama and Clinton should be, if anything, going on the air to defend American values of free speech and the rule of law. They should be denouncing the extremists who manipulate the population, making fear rather than the rule of law the governing principle in these countries. That would be a message welcomed by the Muslims in the Middle East fighting to keep the extremists at bay.
But just as our representative remained seated for Ahmadinejad, the video apology (not unlike his Iranian New Year video missive and this Cairo speech) conveys precisely the wrong message and stems from a gross misunderstanding of our foes. The “problem” is not free speech, which we fervently hope will continue in its boisterous and irreverent form, but the extremist ideology that gives license to extremists to kill and maim, with perfect certainty that their cause is just.
The president is deeply confused about our foes, and his policy is in shambles. He should stop doing fluff TV, cut out the hand-wringing over a video, talk to some level-headed foreign policy advisers and actual Muslim leaders struggling against the Islamist extremists, and stop trying to soothe the jihadists. We look weak and foolish doing so, and we set back our own cause and the cause of secular reformers in the region who know all too well that the problem is not insufficient deference to Muslim believers.