Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WaPo's Reassessment of Obama, Arab Free Speech (?), and Friedman Hearts Mearsheimer

Mideast Media Sampler 12/14/2011

by DG

1) Expectations

Three years ago in its endorsement of Barack Obama for president the Washington Post wrote:
But Mr. Obama, as anyone who reads his books can tell, also has a sophisticated understanding of the world and America's place in it. 
However the paper offered one caveat: 

Mr. Obama's greatest deviation from current policy is also our biggest worry: his insistence on withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq on a fixed timeline. Thanks to the surge that Mr. Obama opposed, it may be feasible to withdraw many troops during his first two years in office. But if it isn't -- and U.S. generals have warned that the hard-won gains of the past 18 months could be lost by a precipitous withdrawal -- we can only hope and assume that Mr. Obama would recognize the strategic importance of success in Iraq and adjust his plans.
This week the same newspaper worried about President Obama's too-rosy vision of post-war Iraq
Those concerns, as well as the hope of checking Iran’s influence, prompted U.S. commanders to recommend that a follow-on force in the tens of thousands remain in Iraq next year. Iraqi politics, and the agreement struck by the Bush administration mandating a full withdrawal at the end of 2011, made that tricky — but a conflicted Obama administration never tried very hard to strike a deal with Mr. Maliki. Now, having promised in 2008 to end the war “responsibly,” Mr. Obama seems to feel obliged to prematurely declare the war over — and to oversell the regime that U.S. soldiers are leaving behind.
In ten or eleven months, I have little doubt that the Washington Post will endorse President Obama for a second term. The question is whether it will be candid about the ways that the President has disappointed.

2) Frank discussions


At issue is the "Istanbul process conference" talks with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) about fighting Islamophobia.  Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, offered the administration's opening remarks the other day. She said:
In this country, religious freedom is guaranteed in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. We continue to work at improving respect for our religious diversity and protecting freedom of expression. Yet we continue to see individuals involved in acts of intolerance, and attempts to discriminate against other religious groups. 
They usually get wide coverage in our free press, and yet, we have freedom of expression and use effective measures to deal with these issues that are consistent with the steps recommended in Resolution 16/18. Complacency is not an option.
Over the next three days, we seek frank discussions that will help our governments promote tolerance, combat discrimination and violence, and help us learn from each others’ experiences. Resolution 16/18 is a roadmap. Our agenda for the next three days is to explore how to use that map to implement the resolution in ways that will improve conditions for all of our citizens.
It does not appear that much of the conference will be open to the public, but Nina Shea was invited to the opening and closing sessions. She was discomfited by what she saw:
The three-day conference was closed to the public, but I was invited to its opening session (as well as to the closing session to be held on Wednesday) by virtue of my being a commissioner on the official but independent U.S. 
Commission on International Religious Freedom. “Chatham House Rules,” which State directed us to abide by, forbid releasing anything about a specific delegation or quoting for attribution. 
To speak more generally, then: Legal and security officials of a delegation which will remain unnamed gave a sweeping overview of American founding principles on religious freedom and how they have been breached time and again in American history by attacks against a broad variety of religious minority groups — including now against Muslims. A raft of current cases were mentioned; America’s relative exemplary and distinctive achievement in upholding religious freedom in an emphatically pluralistic society was not. That same speaker reassured the audience, which was packed with diplomats from around the world, that the Obama administration is working diligently to prosecute American Islamophobes and is transforming the U.S. Justice Department into the conscience of the nation, though it could no doubt learn a thing or two from the assembled delegates on other ways to stop persistent religious intolerance in America. 
Across the room, smirking delegates from some of the world’s most repressive and intolerant regimes could be spotted, furiously taking notes.
The OIC  has been promoting the criminalization of Islamophobia, so these "frank discussions" aren't that reassuring.

Would Ambassador Cook suggest that the intolerance, extremism and violence promoted by Islam was a reason for Islamophobia? Just asking.

3) Walt, Mearsheimer, Friedman

Today, in Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir, Thomas Friedman writes (h/t LennyBoyUSA):
I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused.
Is there any difference between Friedman's sentiment and Walt and Mearsheimer's? Netanyahu got a standing ovation in Congress because Israel is popular with the American people. The pro-Israel lobby wouldn't be successful, if Israel did not already have grass roots support in the United States.

And Friedman's line about the University of Wisconsin ignores the anti-Israel dynamics on North American campuses. Nearly ten years ago, Netanyahu tried to speak at Concordia University but was prevented from doing so by protests. Given that Ahmadinejad was allowed to speak at Columbia University, anyone reasonable would conclude that (the hypothetical) opposition to Netanyahu on campus is not rational, but the result of especially virulent antisemitic activism.Academia and journalism are out of touch with the rest of the country.

In one paragraph Friedman ignores antisemitism in academia and feeds antisemitism in the political sphere.

Not content to stop there Friedman continues:
It confuses them to read that Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia last Wednesday, was quoted as saying that the recent Russian elections were “absolutely fair, free and democratic.” Yes, those elections — the ones that brought thousands of Russian democrats into the streets to protest the fraud. Israel’s foreign minister sided with Putin.
Not to excuse Lieberman's comments, but this is rich coming from the man who considers China's "one party autocracy" superior to American democracy.

Not only is Friedman echoing the unhinged thesis of once serious academics, he criticizes someone else for misplaced admiration of tyranny. He's a hypocrite too.

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1 comment:

Zachary said...

So Thomas Friedman considers the Univ. of Wisconsin more representative of America than the House of Representatives. Interesting.