There’s a remarkable exchange from a May 2009 presidential press conference that is extraordinarily revealing.
Question: “Aren’t you concerned that your outstretched hand has been interpreted by extremists, especially [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, [Hizballah leader] Nasrallah, [Hamas leader] Meshal, as weakness?”
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it’s not clear to me why my outstretched hand would be interpreted as weakness.
Yes, that’s the problem, isn’t it? I have often written that Obama does not accept the most basic principles of international relations. Why should he know any better since he lacks any experience while the advisors he most depends on usually also lack experience? In place of understanding and experience, they have an ideology that so distorts reality as to ensure failure.
(If you say that Obama is doing it on purpose, I would suggest that if that were true he’d be doing a better and less obviously incompetent job than he’s doing now.).
I think the above sentence from him is pretty sincere. He has no idea at all why apologies, unilateral concessions, undermining friends, and rewarding enemies doesn’t work. A lot of the problem is the absolute refusal of politically correct (but factually incorrect) politicians and intellectuals to understand that other people in certain parts of the world think differently from them. Indeed, this has been defined as “racist” thinking.
If Obama were to offer an “outstretched hand” to Canada, for example, of course it wouldn’t be “interpreted as weakness.” The two countries have a relatively similar history, system, and worldview. Both sides accept the other’s good intentions and desire for friendship. Neither seeks to conquer the other or institute a system that would dominate the region or even world.
That commonality doesn’t apply across certain cultural-intellectual-historical lines. Yet the previous sentence in this paragraph is not (or only barely) permissible. By being deprived of any understanding of these fundamental differences, students and the public simply cannot understand most of what’s going on in the Middle East.
Of course, a lot of the public has enough life experience to see what’s obvious. But the more “education” (consider “conflict resolution” training) one has under the current indoctrination, the harder for them to comprehend reality of this sort.
My education on this point was considerably advanced about 35 years ago when a very “Westernized” and “moderate” Egyptian fellow student explained to me that Israel and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin cooked up the hijacking of a passenger plane and all of its passengers to Entebbe. The goal of the plot was to let Israel rescue them and thus make that country look good. He really believed this to be true.
Contemporary behavior in the West (media, academia, government) rewards and humors such thinking. A turning point in my life came more than two decades ago when I was in a meeting with high-ranking Egyptian officials in Cairo. They were spouting the most incredible nonsense about the region, U.S. policy, and Israel.
What was the point for me, a researcher, to sit there and hear this recitation of propaganda, lies, and conspiracy theories that I’d already heard so many times? I wasn’t a diplomat there to flatter or befriend but rather to find out things. So I challenged them. The other members of the delegation were shocked and I was promptly disinvited from the rest of the trip.