The PJ Tatler

Americans Have the 'Right to Be Stupid' ... and that Includes the President

Thank God for John Kerry. Our snobby, elitist secretary of State offered this bit of wisdom to an audience of German students a few days ago:

“As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view,” Kerry told the students in Berlin, the second stop on his inaugural trip as secretary of state.

“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another,” he added.

“The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be,” he said, prompting laughter. “And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be.

A ringing defense of liberty, tolerance, and free speech, don’t you think?

That “right to be stupid” extends to the secretary of State, the president, and any actions they take that make America’s position weaker in the region:

Case in point: Food and medical aid to the Syrian rebels. Not surprisingly, the reaction from the rebels was less than overwhelming gratitude:

Rebels took little solace from Washington’s latest promises, or from reports that, according to U.S. and European officials, the U.K. is expected to agree to provide combat gear, including body armor, night-vision equipment and military-transport vehicles.

“The way I see it is that this is all nonsense and lies to people who are dying. Anyway, the final word will go to the revolutionaries on the ground,” said an activist inside Syria.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the U.A.E. already provide light weapons, delivered mostly across the Turkish and Jordanian borders. France and the U.K. fund local civilian activist and aid councils directly, and, like the U.S., provide communications and satellite equipment, and train Syrian activists on them.

“Nothing has changed, the U.S. position of no arming is crystal clear,” said Mohammad Sarmini, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council, the opposition coalition’s largest faction, which boycotted the Rome conference at what it said was insufficient Western support for the rebels.

“This has become embarrassing and degrading,” Mr. Sarmini said. “The regime’s escalation has rendered even our unmet pleas foolish. We used to beg for antiaircraft missiles. What do you ask for to counter Scuds?”

It would, of course, have been better to give nothing, to maintain the status quo. This way, we actually look weaker while generating zero gratitude on the part of the rebels.

The president’s decision not to arm the rebels is rational and sound. The chances are very good that any arms we give them will only be used against pro-western factions after Assad is overthrown. Why insult them by handing out a few scraps of food and a some pills?

Meanwhile, our erstwhile allies in Iraq have taken a hand in the civil war, firing at Free Syrian Army positions inside Syria.

For the first time, Iraqi forces opened fire on Syria shelling the positions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) days after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned that a victory of the Syrian opposition would spread chaos in the region.

Al Arabiya correspondent near the Syrian-Iraqi border reported that Iraqi snipers took up positions on buildings near the Rebiya crossing while others forces shelled the positions of the Free Syrian Army.

The correspondent said that large reinforcements were being deployed by the Maliki government in Baghdad near the Syrian borders.

On Wednesday, Maliki warned if victory by Syrian rebels will spark sectarian wars in his own country and in Lebanon and will create a new haven for al-Qaeda that would destabilize the region.

Maliki fears a post-Assad massacre of Shias and Alawites, which would enrage the Shia majority in Iraq and might arouse Hezbollah in Lebanon. While this is more evidence that Obama and the west are doing the right thing in denying the Syrian rebels sophisticated arms to aid Sunnis elsewhere in the region, the pittance with which we are supplying the rebels only breeds contempt for the U.S. among the very people inside Syria who we want ascendancy in a post-Assad political environment.

If we’re not going “all in,” we shouldn’t be going at all.