In Barack Obama’s statement on the uprising in Libya Wednesday, he asserted somewhat counterfactually that “throughout this period of unrest and upheaval across the region the United States has maintained a set of core principles which guide our approach.” He added that “these principles apply to the situation in Libya” – and as he delineated them further, it became clear that he was siding strongly with the Libyan people and other Middle Eastern protesters, and that he was assuming that the recent Middle Eastern uprisings were all idealistic, humanistic pro-democracy movements. In reality, they’re anything but.
Obama condemned “the use of violence in Libya,” declaring that “the suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya.” He affirmed that “the United States also strongly supports the universal rights of the Libyan people,” and enumerated several of those rights: “That includes the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny.”
That phrasing itself suggested that Obama envisioned the crowds thronging the streets of Tripoli, crying out for Gaddafi’s blood and holding up pictures of him with Stars of David drawn on his forehead, as something akin to the Founding Fathers of the United States of America in Congress assembled. He saw Jefferson and Madison elsewhere, also, as he added that “even as we are focused on the urgent situation in Libya,” his Administration was working to determine “how the international community can most effectively support the peaceful transition to democracy in both Tunisia and in Egypt.”
Obama expressed satisfaction that “the change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspirations of people who are seeking a better life.” And he quoted a Libyan who said: “We just want to be able to live like human beings.” In conclusion, he vowed that “throughout this time of transition, the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.”
The one thing the President didn’t explain was on what basis he believed that the Libyan (and Tunisian and Egyptian) people themselves were interested in principles and rights such as the freedom of speech and the dignity of all people, or held an understanding of freedom and justice remotely comparable to that of the American Constitutional system.
Unfortunately for him, there are numerous signs that they don’t. It is not insignificant vandalism that protesters in Libya have marked Gaddafi’s picture with the Star of David; rather, it is an indication of the protesters’ worldview, and of the pervasiveness of Islamic anti-Semitism. When Muslim protesters want to portray someone as a demon, they paint a Star of David on his picture. This also shows the naivete of Obama and others who insist that the demonstrators in Libya, Egypt (where the Star of David was drawn on Mubarak’s picture also) and elsewhere in the Middle East are pro-democracy secularists. They may be pro-democracy insofar as they want the will of the people to be heard, but given their worldview, their frame of reference, and their core assumptions about the world, if that popular will is heard, it will likely result in huge victories for the Muslim Brotherhood and similar pro-Sharia groups. Hence the ubiquitous chant of the Libyan protesters: not “Give me liberty or give me death,” but “No god but Allah!”
It’s also hard to reconcile Obama’s warm approval of these protests as “being driven by the people of the region” with the clear indications that the mood of the “people of the region” is decidedly anti-American. Even before CBS reporter Lara Logan was brutally raped in Cairo’s crowded Tahrir Square by a mob chanting, “Jew! Jew!,” several other mainstream media reporters from the United States were roughed up or otherwise imperiled, including Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour. These two hard-Left journalists have repeatedly insisted that Islam is a Religion of Peace and that anyone who said otherwise was bigoted and racist; in Cairo, they ran up against the buzzsaw of reality.
Meanwhile, also in Egypt last Friday one of the biggest crowds of the entire Egyptian revolution thronged to Tahrir Square to hear Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential Muslim clerics in the world. Qaradawi, although he has been praised as a “reformist,” is actually a fanatical antisemite who is barred from entering the U.S., has given Islamic theological justification to suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, endorsed the death penalty for apostasy, and boasted that Islam would soon conquer Europe. Last Monday he called for the murder of Libya’s Gaddafi. The enthusiastic reception Qaradawi received in Cairo on Friday, along with the barring of secular liberal Wael Ghonim from the same stage, were ominous signs that genuine democracy is not in the offing in Egypt.
The likelihood that the Muslim Brotherhood would play a significant role in a post-Mubarak Egyptian government led two thousand Christians to mount a protest in Cairo last week, calling for a change in Egypt’s Constitution to guarantee a secular state. Although Egypt does not fully implement Islamic law, Article 2 of its Constitution currently stipulates that “Islam is the religion of the state. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia).” Protesters chanted: “Tell the people that the revolution is a cross and crescent!” One declared: “We sacrificed our souls for the sake of Egypt, and our aim was a civil state not a religious one. I came here to ask for equality, the Constitution has to be changed and article 2 removed.”
Nothing seems less likely to happen than that; the momentum is moving in the opposite direction. Aware of this fact, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was more realistic than Obama when he remarked on the Middle East situation Tuesday. “These states are difficult,” Medvedev said, “and it is quite probable that hard times are ahead, including the arrival at power of fanatics. This will mean fires for decades and the spread of extremism.”
Obama should take heed, since – at least for the next two years – those fires will be his responsibility.