Monday, February 23, 2015

Obama's Rhetoric about Islam Is Wise If Not Satisfying

Obama's speech at the White House Summit on violent extremism, as well as his
prayer breakfast talk, wasn't an anti-Islam war whoop. And that's a good thing.

We, of course, should have seen this coming. The president could have called out Islam as the cause of all of America's ills and called for unlimited war forever, and Lindsey Graham and the rest of the chicken hawks would have found fault with him. They would speak of the weakness of his core values or say it's all just too little, too late.

Just as an aside, when you take a good look at all the talk that criticizes Obama for his "feckless" foreign policy, you rarely actually hear any specifics Graham or others would have put into action. The rhetoric generally comes with a "there's only so much we can do at this time because of a host of logistical and diplomatic obstacles, I don't know what we should do, but that doesn't mean Obama is or isn't doing it or can't do it or should do it, but why isn't he doing or not doing what I'm not saying he should do, but he's weak!!" Or something to that effect. A proper label for that kind of talk is war-mongering word salad. Throw in the buzz words for those Americans that want to kill all the Muslims now, now, now, and that's what they'll take from the talk, not the part where none of the war-mongers actually have a plan for moving forward.

However, Barack Obama is president, and he has to bring a number of Muslim countries into a broad coalition that will be needed -- not just for the ISIS threat, which may be history in a couple of years, for all we know -- but also for the longer task of eliminating terrorism over a period of decades. Alienating moderate Muslim countries will hardly help us restore peace in the hornet's nest that Barack Obama wasn't, if your memories work at all, primarily responsible for. That was George W. Bush's handiwork, not to mention the damage done in decades of neo-colonial meddling going back to the First World War.

Josh Marshall did a fine job over at Talking Points Memo of sifting through the brighter minds on both sides of this overheated discussion and comes to a conclusion that fair-minded Americans should have no trouble signing on to. Read all the links that he offers on the subject.

I'll highlight one of them and another that I found along the way. Fareed Zakaria at WaPo clarifies the reasons why Obama is and should be proceeding the way he has been. Zakaria comes off as an apolitical voice of reason once again, as does moderate conservative Michael Gerson, also at WaPo, with his very sensible column in support of Obama's rhetorical choices, albeit with the off-point condemnation of the president's prayer-breakfast remarks. Oh, well, I'll take his grasp of the Realpolitik involved where it's offered. Read those and the ones Josh shares.

Obama is following the right course here. I've always felt the trick is to, over time, turn the war-making in the Middle East over to so-called moderate countries -- obstensibly allies -- like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, even Egypt. It's their fight, as much as we're responsible for messing things up. If they take up the fight and we recede, so will the ill-will we've earned over the years.

It's time we withdrew from this mess. We aren't helping.

Does Bibi even want peace? Did the thousands killed in Gaza in the most recent
attacks prove that Judaism is a religion of peace? Regrettably, quite the opposite.

An added thought. It's important that we remember that all this is taking place in an atmosphere, in Washington at least, of over-heated negative rhetoric, mostly by the GOP, that continues unabated. It began shortly after Obama won his first term. It isn't helpful, and it's based on hatred rather than anything resembling sincerity. That's why Josh Marshall's reasoned discussion is so valuable. Turn off the noise machine and get on with governance. Please. I'm talking to you, GOPers. Fat chance.

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