This article is published on PJMedia.
By Barry Rubin
At last, a perfect description of the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy which—unintentionally—shows why it is heading for disaster. Now what place would be so simultaneously uncomprehending and over-confident to give us that image? The New York Times, of course, in the person of Middle East correspondent and reliable apologist for revolutionary Islamist groups, Robert Worth.
First, let me repeat what I’ve been saying for almost four years: The problem is that the Obama Administration and its numerous supporters in academia and the mass media keep saying the following:
–Only al-Qaida is a real threat because only al-Qaida wants to attack the United States directly right now.
–Al-Qaida has been defeated due to the great policies of the Obama Administration.
–The remaining revolutionary Islamist groups are potential friends. After all, [sarcasm warning] they only want to seize state power, overthrow all existing relatively moderate regimes, create Sharia dictatorships, suppress women’s rights, persecute Christians, wipe Israel off the map, and drive U.S. influence out of the region.
War over; we won. Who needs security in Benghazi? Who’s afraid of the big and not-so-bad Muslim Brotherhood?
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Is this an exaggeration? Could anyone believe this narrative? Of course, yes. It is the dominant world view in the White House, the mass media, the left-wing think tanks, and those who speak publicly in academia. Other views are censored out, ridiculed, or subtly subverted. Now here’s Worth in the New York Times. Referring to the last presidential debate he writes:
“The candidates offered profoundly different answers during their final debate last week, with President Obama repeating his triumphant narrative of drone attacks and dead terrorists, and Mitt Romney warning darkly about Islamists on the march in an increasingly hostile Middle East.
“In a sense, both are true. The organization that planned the Sept. 11 attacks, based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is in shambles; dozens of its top leaders have been killed since Mr. Obama assumed office, and those who remain appear mostly inactive.”
Note the wonderfully neat trick Worth pulls. First, he poses as even-handed (“In a sense, both are true.”) but then he affirms President Barack Obama’s view as correct and ridicules what Republican candidate Mitt Romney said.
Let’s pause here for a moment. What Worth did in this article could stand as the poster article for a decade of mass media bias. The bias is often transparent (for some of us) while others—and I constantly meet such people—simply take the mass media’s coverage as their own belief without any consideration or revision.
The first part of the trick includes focusing on the “top leaders.” Yes, the top leaders are in many cases dead but al-Qaida isn’t a strictly hierarchical group. Local affiliates operate independently of those guys in Afghanistan or Pakistan, as we can see in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Morocco, and other places. By focusing on “top leaders,” Worth is profoundly distorting the issue. It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t get this obvious point.
Next, listen to Worth trash Romney’s argument despite the fact that this is the most important point on the Middle East today and should be the centerpiece of U.S. policy:
“But there is an important distinction: most of the newer jihadist groups have local agendas, and very few aspire to strike directly at the United States as Osama bin Laden’s core network did. They may interfere with American interests around the world — as in Syria, where the presence of militant Islamists among the rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad has inhibited American efforts to support the uprising. But that is a far cry from terrorist plots aimed at the United States itself.”
Again, Worth distorts the issue. Of course, terrorist plots aimed at the United States itself are a serious matter. Yet those “local agendas” include things very destructive to U.S. interests and may include—to cite a potential case—assassinating a U.S. ambassador in Libya. One might have said that Nazi Germany and the USSR were not intending to make any direct attacks on the United States either. That “local agenda” also may include taking over countries and fomenting war and terrorism aimed at U.S. interests and local facilities as well as U.S. allies.
Worth also proves my point about the idea that al-Qaida is bad and out of action while other revolutionary Islamists are no big problem. But he goes even further:
“Jihadists have also gained strength in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, just across the border from Israel. At one point during the debate, Mr. Romney appeared to link these varied threats with the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt. To some terrorism analysts, this kind of talk is counterproductive, because it blurs crucial distinctions between potential allies who profess to believe in democracy and civic rights, like the Brotherhood, and more militant Islamists who view those principles as heresy.”
Of course the example Worth cites proves that his argument is ridiculous. The appearance of these groups obviously is linked “with the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt.” They didn’t exist before because the Mubarak government suppressed them. In contrast, the Brotherhood government tolerates these radical forces and views them as allies, unless they make the mistake of launching armed attacks on the regime.
Moreover, Worth—in the guise of one “terrorism analyst” at a left-wing think tank who I’ve never heard of and has no visible qualifications to claim such a title—calls the Muslim Brotherhood (and presumably Hamas and Hizballah?) “potential allies who profess to believe in democracy and civic rights.”
Here is the unspoken reality of Obama policy. He has been treating these groups as “potential allies.” For more than two years, until it became impossible to continue, he deemed Iran and Syria as “potential allies.”
And how can a journalist get away with saying that people are “potential allies” because they “profess” to believe in democracy and human rights. Didn’t the Communists and most of the world’s worst dictatorships and totalitarian forces “profess” such a belief? What matters is what they really do and believe.
Finally, here is what I wrote recently that Worth shows to be accurate:
“Al-Qaeda, however, is a relatively weak organization, capable of staging only sporadic terror attacks, with the exception perhaps of remote Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan. It cannot take over whole countries. The fact that Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Turkey, and perhaps soon Syria are governed by Islamists is a far greater strategic threat.
Then why couldn’t the Obama administration have said that the consulate was attacked by evil al-Qaeda for no reason other than its lust to murder Americans, with the perfect symbolism of the attack having been staged on September 11?
“There was a dual problem. First, the group involved was one the U.S. government had worked with during the Libyan civil war so it could not admit they were close to al-Qaeda. Second, the official line was that al-Qaeda had been defeated so it could not still be a threat. Therefore, an alternative narrative and a cover-up were needed.”
Yet the cover-up of the Benghazi killings is only a small portion of a cover-up that incorporates the Obama Administration’s entire Middle East policy and all the lands from Morocco to the borders of India.
The problem with all this is that respected institutions are spouting what can easily be deciphered as pure nonsense just by analyzing their own words. Such corruption of key American institutions is frightening and must be reversed.
Any man who cannot or will not distinguish between his country’s worst enemies—groups that hate America, wage a real war on women and Christians, and are the world’s leading antisemites—and “potential allies” should not be president.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.