Sunday, February 17, 2008

From the 5th Annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum

Tamara Cofman Wittes, who's attending the annual 5th Annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum notices that anti-US rhetoric is way down this year. Instead of fire-breathing anti-American keynote speakers, "the opening keynote was instead delivered by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who argued that Muslims in Afghanistan and Bosnia were right to expect and accept American military intervention to relieve their suffering, and America was just in coming to their aid."

The reason for the change in tone has been a grudging respect for successes in American foreign policy and Washington's new focus on Iran.

Violence in Iraq is down, there’s new (if fragile) hope for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and pushy rhetoric from the White House, once directed at autocratic Arab allies, is now reserved for Iran, which Americans and Arabs both perceive as threatening. A cynical colleague of mine here argued that the positive tone from the regional leaders at the conference reflects age-old realities of international politics: when America is weak, he said, everyone loves to beat up on us—but when America is stronger, everyone wants to be on our side. That’s great—as long as the current lull in Iraqi violence lasts.

But the real buzz at the conference has been about the Face.

Quite honestly, though, I don’t think the relative love-fest at this year’s meeting is all ascribable either to regional shifts or to the conference organizers’ choice of speakers. The most powerful explanation for the change is evident in the overwhelming fact that all anyone at this conference really wants to talk about is Barack Obama.

A friend from the Gulf tells me her young relative was so excited about the Democratic candidate that he tried to donate money over the Internet, as he’d heard so many young Americans were doing. Then he found out he had to be a U.S. citizen to do so. Another young woman, visiting from next-door Saudi Arabia, said that all her friends in Riyadh are “for Obama.” The symbolism of a major American presidential candidate with the middle name of Hussein, who went to elementary school in Indonesia, certainly speaks to Muslims abroad.

There are two ironies here. The first is that while Barack Obama has gone out of his way to say that he is 'not a Muslim', in a wider sense the Muslims have taken him into their bosom. An acquaintance, writing from Jakarta says the same feeling is pretty strong over there too. While in America he projects the image of rallying America he simultaneously conveys the impression of being on the side of the Arab too.

The other irony of course is that the Arab attraction for Obama is potentially at odds with the Arab desire for a powerful America which can contain Iran. So far Obama has managed the remarkable feat of being all things to all men, even men who are mortally opposed to each other. What happens when he has to come down on one side or the other?




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13 Comments:

Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Obama is likely to be as hated as Jimmy Carter.

Obama reflexively sides with American enemies, part of his upbringing in Indonesia as a Muslim (though he is nominally an ethno-centric "Black" Christian now) and his anti-American "ethno-centrism" steeped in Malcolm X beliefs.

But he can't offer what Muslims DEMAND: full adherence in America by EVERYONE to Sharia. Though he'll try half measures.

Obama is likely to be hated abroad for not fulfilling the dream of harnessing America to Sharia. A dream shared by Osama and Ahmadinejad alike. And he's likely to be hated in America as an outright traitor, valuing Muslim opinion abroad over America's interests.

2/17/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Part of the excitement about Obama is natural. There is a component of wonder at an American process than can bring a man of his background to the forefront of national life. By itself that's a credit to the American political system.

The problem with Obama has nothing to do with his face or race; it's in his policy positions. It comes from the public's present inability to grasp that Obama isn't a symbol but a man; with strengths, limitations, insights and prejudices. In other words, aside from his unusual exterior he is like any of us.

The moment Obama starts making decisions, his universal appeal runs the danger of provoking a risk of becoming universal betrayal. Already some people in the black community are saying he's "sold out". If he keeps the troops in Iraq the antiwar crowd will accuse him of tricking them. Yet if he pulls them out the rage of conservatives will know no bounds. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. And when he does or doesn't his Face won't help him. God might, but his Face won't.

It would be better if, like a jar with compliant labeling, Obama became more specific about what his presidency might be like. He should pre-disappoint people before November before he disappoints them afterward. But his political handlers are probably going to make him as vague as possible. Is he the Manchurian Candidate? Yes, but also the Kenyan, Iowan, German, Afghan, Indonesian, Illini and whatever else candidate. One day he's going to have to become one of the above to the exclusion of the rest. And that'll disappoint those who thought he came for them.

2/17/2008 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

the rage of conservatives will know no bounds

Wretchard, what can conservatives really accomplish with boundless rage?

I think if conservative rage was something to be feared the Republican Party would be much different than what it is.

No enraged conservatives will be voting for Obama, so what prevents him from enraging them with impunity?

"conservatives" don't do street theater, they don't do riots, mobs, sit ins, don't chain themselves to recruiter's offices. Anybody can diss conservatives. They won't do anything about it.

2/17/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I can't think of a better way to sink Obama with the American voter than to identify him as being "the choice of Muslims everywhere".

There's already a stealth whispering campaign about the possibility of him being Muslim. All he needs is some reporter to dig into his donation lists and finding a bunch of donations from Dubai and Saudi Arabia made by people with names like Abdullah, Omar and Mohammad.

It would make the uproar over Bush trying to sell our ports to Dubai look quiescent.

2/17/2008 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/17/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Since his mother is from Kansas and his father from Kenya, he should run as an Afrikansan. And a liberal. Since he has advocated invading Pakistan, he should state that while he is for losing any war he opposes, he's for winning any war he starts -- at least until he starts opposing it.

As for the raging conservatives: they should all faint. Obama will be so busy passing out water he won't have time to pull out of Iraq.

2/17/2008 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Hope Muntz said...

'The rage of conservatives' at John McCain already knows no bounds--how has that worked out? I think it's more realistic to say that if Obama is elected president--something I think very unlikely--and if he actually makes good on his campaign promise to immediately withdraw all troops from Iraq (even more unlikely), it is the rage of his former admirers from abroad that will know no bounds. Particularly Iraq's Sunni neighbors. But that would be the least of the many problems for an Obama presidency, one that swiftly would come to resemble that of Allende or Chavez. The economic remedies he prescribes for America are similar to the early policies of both--hence the adulation he has already received in the leftist Latin American press.

2/17/2008 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Raymond Ibrahim has an interesting take on Barrack Obama.

2/17/2008 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Elmondohummus said...

Funny how Obama's become the blank slate to write on as opposed to being the set of values, principles, and promises to vote for. Which demonstrates how little his supporters actually know about him; they're expressing joy over a perception, not knowledge about the realities of the man. It's sort of like the initial surge of attraction when you first meet and start to get to know someone you want to date: There's much projection, but little actual knowledge from experience.

Like Roger L. Simon said:

"I don't know about you, but my observation in life has been that when you fall in love your judgment is, shall we say, skewed."

2/18/2008 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

And what if he is elected and continues to not come down on one side or another? That is possible, is it not? All of Obama's history suggests that he will simply fail to act in the face of conflict.

2/18/2008 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Yehudit said...

"...Wretchard, what can conservatives really accomplish with boundless rage? ..."

Look here. also comment threads on Hugh Hewitt's site. A lot of them are threatening to stay home or vote for Obama in hopes that his presidency will be so bad they will get in with a "real" conservative in 2012.

I think we can't afford it, and it's awful chancey that the elctorate will behave the way they want. The Dem will have momentum and an incumbent. Carter is the only Dem in decades who only served one term.

These people are putting pure principle above everything else, which is completely irresponsible given what we are up against.

2/18/2008 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger mike said...

THE MOST STRANGE CASE OF MR. OBAMA.

Mr Obama was raised by a single white mother and her white parents.

Where he stands on anything is a guess that is best left to history

I'm guessing the he picked up his "accent" at Harvard.

Mrs Obama is now for the first time "proud of her country"

Where do we get this Americans?

2/18/2008 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger StarBanker said...

Obama is a Murtad Fitri, an apostate from the religion of his birth, Islam. Apostacy confers a death sentance in Islam. If so, where are the fatwas? I find it impossible to believe that Muslims would consider Obama someone that "they" could support, or more to the point, someone they could "live" with. Either they believe him to still be a Muslim or they ought to be sharpening knives as I write. It was said, "When you stop believing in something, you'll believe in anything," that sums up my opinion of Obama and his sheep.

2/19/2008 11:58:00 AM  

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