More Inflammatory than YouTube: Obama’s Foreign Policy Falsely Dubbed Dovish
In the wake of Christopher Stevens’ murder in Benghazi the Romney camp has been striving to cast President Obama as the dovish milksop.
Romney took a recent jab at the Obama administration’s foreign policy, blaming the President for not pressuring Arab governments to reform, a preventative measure Romney argued that could have prevented the Arab Spring all together, let alone the fatal attack in Benghazi. “President Obama abandoned the freedom agenda” Romney chided before the newspaper Israel Hayom.
Yet the popular uprisings that have ousted dictators from Tunisia to Yemen, Libya to Egypt were an expression of freedom from tyranny regardless of how the power vacuum was filled in the aftermath. If the uprisings ousted tyrannical leaders like Ben Ali, Saleh, Qaddafi or Mubarak to make way for popularly supported governments throughout the Arab world we can hardly say that Mohammed Bouazizi’s public self-immolation was in vain or that the uprising were not yearnings for freedom.
Election year politics have a way of distorting the reality that events in the Middle East were something other than publicly supported popular uprisings.
The Benghazi attacks that occurred on September 11th were part of Arab world’s sustained protest against Western society and its contemptuous disregard for Middle Eastern people’s and the values they espouse. While the conception of freedom the protestors rallied for on September 11th, freedom from Western denigration of Muslim culture, may seem at odds with America’s conception of freedom of expression, the dynamics that led to the mass demonstrations are far more complex.
Reports of the attacks that occurred two weeks ago in Benghazi are already being spun by mainstream news outlets, casting the event into a national security prism. Such oversimplifications of international events benefit our politicians eager to rack up points in a heated presidential contest. The big debate unfolding in the mainstream media today is whether or not the attacks were a synchronized terrorist effort or a “spontaneous response” to a perverted Youtube video that turned the Muslim world on its head. Tailoring the debate to the classic false dichotomy provides leeway for President Obama and candidate Romney to eldue the real questions about what is happening in the Middle East.
The inflammatory Youtube video The Innocence of Muslims, was little more than a rallying call to unite the Muslim world against the West. What underlies the mass mobilizations that led to attacks at embassies across the Muslim world and culminated in the death of Stevens at the consulate in Benghazi is the unrelenting rage many Muslims harbor against the West and the American foreign policy that imposes it.
It’s one thing when your friend calls your mother fat. It’s another when a bully hurls the same insult. That’s why when the Romney camp exploited the recent events in the Middle East to win political points he was adding salt to a wound that has been festering for decades. Barack Obama “does not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth” Romney ejaculated, implying that Obama’s foreign policy has been too soft for a power wielding America.
However a closer look at Obama’s foreign policy tells a different story. The grievances Obama’s foreign policy has produced throughout the Muslim world may shed light on the underpinnings of the recent anti-American rallies that engulfed the region.
For starters the Obama administration has still not closed the Guantanamo prison facilities that have been anathema to sovereign nations worldwide. Despite effusive promises to shut down the scornful effigy of Bush’s War on Terror the Obama administration continues to violate Habeas Corpus detaining prisoners without charges, trial by jury, access to legal counsel or any due process rights enumerated in American and international law.
Secondly, America’s continuous presence in Afghanistan has exacerbated resentment towards the U.S. military occupation. Although American military operations have been reduced significantly and now serve more as training and personnel support for the fledgling Afghan National Army, the sustained U.S. presence has been mired in scandal. Abuse of Afghan military trainees by American superiors has soured relations between the joint military forces responsible for securing the war torn nation. The Koran burning by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan incited Taliban fighters to wage attacks on American installations and prompted outcry that resonated from the government in Kabul across the Muslim world. Making matters worse last January a video of U.S. soldiers urinating on dead Afghani bodies surfaced, enraging the country and reinforcing the perspective that America is callous, perverse and reckless towards the “unpeople” of the world.
Obama’s use of drone attacks has been rankled in controversy. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that since 2004 at least 2,347 people have been killed in Pakistan alone (http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/08/10/most-complete-picture-yet-of-cia-drone-strikes/). Of the 347 strikes that have occurred since Bush’s drone war began in Pakistan in 2004 Obama has been responsible for 295 of those strikes which have also resulted in up to 884 civilian deaths. That figure includes the 176 Pakistani children whose lives were also taken been drone blasts. While the exact numbers on total deaths by drone strike in Pakistan remain murky, even to the pentagon, those numbers elevate when the deaths caused by drone fire in Yemen and Somalia are also included.
That sovereignty is transgressed every time an American drone flies through foreign skies, scouring the lands below for Obama’s handpicked targets is bad enough for Muslim countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. But the gross loss of innocent life is where the real outrage resides. Woman, children and innocents from all walks of life have been the murdered victims of Obama’s covert Drone War.
To top it all off a video produced in the United States that denigrates the prophet Mohammed goes viral at a time when anti-American anger had already been stewing. Obama’s foreign policy which includes the indefinite detention of foreign prisoners suspected of ties to terrorism, a more limited but sustained presence in Afghanistan and the heavy use of drone attacks to combat terrorism in the Middle East is more boss than Bush, at least in the tactical sense.
Romney’s saber rattling rhetoric on the campaign trail misconstrues Obama’s foreign policy undermining its fatal potency and ignoring the resentment it has stoked in the Middle East. It’s not so much that Obama “has abandoned the freedom agenda”. It seems rather that he never quite let it go. For much of the foreign policy agenda that the Obama administration has pursued was born out of the neo-conservative cauldron stirred by Bush II.