Monday, November 24, 2008

The Perils of Isolationism: Al Qaeda Greets Obama

As the reality of a recession sets in, the proponents of isolationism will argue that we need to keep our money at home. “Bread not bombs” and appeals not to put money into foreign economies will resonate with millions. Such appeals should be approached with great skepticism by the public. It is not only nature [...]

As the reality of a recession sets in, the proponents of isolationism will argue that we need to keep our money at home. “Bread not bombs” and appeals not to put money into foreign economies will resonate with millions. Such appeals should be approached with great skepticism by the public. It is not only nature that abhors a vacuum but the world stage. If America were to retreat to its borders and pull all of its soldiers home from overseas, the world would not turn into a family of peaceful small nations. Others wait in the wings to take our place as the next superpower, empire or caliphate.

Al Qaeda has already weighted in with their opinion of Barack Obama, attempting to shame him with the epithet of “house negro” and attempting lo use footage of Malcolm X to improve their standing among radical whites and African American followers of Malcolm X. The tape has the demanding tone of a high school delinquent putting a double dare to the new kid in school. What the demagogues of Al Qaeda gloss over is Malcolm X’s evolution towards a greater level of racial tolerance shortly before his death in 1965. Their silence is even more glaring about the Arab role in the slave trade that persists until the present day. Islamist propaganda is more significant in its omissions than in what it chooses to stress.

I mention Al Qaeda’s hypocrisy to underscore the fact that those who would replace us as a world power do not offer a step up in moral evolution. Plenty of campus radicals that helped Obama early on are now coming to claim what they believe is their due for supporting him early on. Forgetting his early friendships might be a case of putting loyalty to country ahead of loyalty to old friends. It might also be a pragmatic assessment of America’s mood.

The “honest broker” argument will likely be employed in the Middle East, particularly concerning Israel. According to this argument, America should be “evenhanded” and not favour Israel over its adversaries. There is a world of difference between adversaries with a border dispute and an opponent who wants to erase their adversary from the map. Additionally, finding moral equivalency between those who accidentally kill in conventional warfare and those who send a suicide bomber into a pizza shop is a fundamental corruption of morality.

Some of Obama’s old buddies probably nod in agreement when they watch the Al Qaeda tape. Some of them probably rationalise suicide bombers as desperate freedom fighters. Jimmy Carter is in close agreement with such people. How much weight will Carter’s opinions have in the Obama White House?

In good part because of the environmentalist lobby, America is economically dependent upon foreign energy. Iran was among America’s strongest allies in the Middle East of the 1970’s. With Jimmy Carter’s facilitation, the Shah was overthrown and replaced with Ayatollah Khomeini, who paid him back with the Iranian hostage crisis. If Obama is expecting to placate radicals and then call in a debt of gratitude, then he is in for a rude awakening.

Saudi Arabia is a volatile region. It has a restive Shiite minority and radicals who believe that its leadership is unfaithful to Islam. Protection money that it pays to domestic radicals subsidises unrest elsewhere in the world.

Al Qaeda’s latest video is a fitting wakeup call to America that our enemies are not celebrating Obama’s victory. They are looking for an open champion of their cause. Short of that, they will settle for a “useful idiot” who can be bullied, coaxed or conned into doing their bidding.

There are countries that can afford to tread softly in the world. A small country like Costa Rica or Mauritius has no global responsibilities. America can not be such a country, and it would be devastating to many small nations for us to even try.

America is ready to give Obama a chance. That is what in American politics is called a “honeymoon.” Obama’s honeymoon in the Middle East ended on November fifth.

Sometimes people get married who were “players” or “party animals” in their single days. Those who adapt best to married life are the ones that shut their wild buddies out of their married life. Obama had Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright as close friends. America chose to forgive that. If he takes them on his “honeymoon” or even calls them up to talk about old times, it will show in his eyes. America will know something is up. The choice is up to him

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