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Friday, April 1, 2011

The Foreign Policy Keystone Cops

Two issues irk me about the current administration's foreign policy, both of which underscore the Administration's ability to consider American interest.

One, of course, is the Libyan intervention. Uncle Cephas does not believe that any vital American interest is at stake, not even oil. And, if the Europeans are more dependend on Libyan oil, it would be no skin off their teeth to simply wait for the dust to settle and deal with whoever ends up in power, whether some rebel coalition or a triumphant Qaddafi.

And did not Candidate Obama fiercely criticize Dubya Bush for a reckless foreign policy? Is there no apology in the offing?

The humanitarian argument doesn't wash at all. Our sophisticated, humanitarian European allies who are all weepy over a bunch of rag-tag Qaida sympathizers from eastern Libya may have slapped a few sanctions on Mainland China after 1989, but went back to business as usual with that very effective tyranny after a decent interval. As for the rebels themselves, they pin a Magen David on Qaddafi's image before torching it, suggesting that they are no more evolved in their view of the rest of the world than Qaddafi himself. Will Qaddaffi unleash a bloodbath if he wins? Of course. But Uncle Cephas is pretty certain that the rebels have their own little list, probably headed by the people who waved the Cross of St. Andrew to welcome home the Lockerbie bomber--but these folks will get killed not for supporting terror, but for openly displaying a Christian symbol.

But there is something worse.

A Florida yokel preacher by the name of Jones wanted to burn a Qur'an in protest against the manifold sins of Islam. Indeed, the whole Christian world has a gripe against the world of Islam for a string of anti-Christian crimes ranging from usurpation of holy sites in the Middle Ages to the murder of Christian Pakistani cabinet ministers who voice concerns over unfair applications of Pakistan's blasphemy laws (usually against impoverished Christian farmers in Panjab who object to the rape of their daughters or theft of land by Muslim squatters). When Mr. Jones first broached the possibility of this act, the whole force of Washington's political elite came down on him, warning him of the drastic repercussions such an act would have. Jones simply waited a few months, and went on with his plan.

Well, Uncle Cephas is too much an heir of Milton's _Aereopagita_ to condone book-burning, and doesn't even burn books by Marx, Mao, or Hitler, whom Uncle Cephas sees as monstrous criminals. But that is not the main point.

Our government let slip an enormous teaching opportunity. Every elected or appointed official of the US Government is expected to swear an oath to uphold the US Constitution. That document included the First Amendment, which recognizes rights of free exercise of religion and free speech. It protects the publishers of the hate-blinded Malcolm X's autobiography. It protects second-hand bookstores that sell ratty copies of Eldridge Cleaver's _Soul on Ice_ or the screeds of Saul Alinsky. it protects Muslim imams who tells their flocks that Jews are the kin of apes and pigs, and that violent jihad is the duty of every Muslim (as long as nobody acts on the latter). It also protects Mr. Jones' right to burn a copy of the Qur'an.

Since this action, Afghanistan's Muhammad Karzai has demanded that Jones be "brought to justice" for such blasphemy, as if Sharia was part of the US Constitution. Muslim mobs in various parts of the Islamic world have attacked targets identified as "Christian", whether the long-suffering indigenous Dhimmi populations of Iraq and Egypt or UN compounds in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. Yet where is a single administration spokesperson who had spoken up to remind the world that the US enshrines free speech in its Constitution?

The Obama administration has gone from exaggerated deference to European and Muslim sensibilities to thoughtless and potentially coslty intervention too quickly. Now, however, it adds to its stumblings a lost opportunity to remind the world of some of the things for which the US stands.

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