RoundTable 5 Middle East Turmoil

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

This week’s Energion Roundtable question with Bob Cornwall, Arthur Sido, Allan R. Bevere, Joel Watts, and myself is:

Do you approve or disapprove of President Obama’s and Governor Romney’s responses to the violence in Egypt and Libya and now in other countries in the middle east?

One of the problems with reacting to events like this is that information is in flux. Not only does new information come in, but we find much of the early information was just flat out wrong, that is very true here. Thus my comments are based on the information I have as I write, which is on evening of Monday  the 17th

Let me start with Romney.  I judge all such comments by two criteria: truthfulness and prudence.  Concerning truthfulness, I see nothing wrong with Romney’s statement. The state department is under the executive branch and thus speaks for the administration.  Thus at the time of his statement, Romney’s comments about the “Obama administration” reflected what was known at that time.   More importantly I do not think we should be apologizing for our values, but more on that shortly.  Bottom line I find nothing wrong with his statement and a lot right about it.

Still, while I might wish it otherwise, Romney is irrelevant in the current situation.  He is not the President, and thus he has not had any effect on the conditions leading up to these attacks, and cannot affect them now.  Maybe after next January, if he is elected, but the attention really should be on Obama.  Though I must say that the open mike incident with the press, revealed that they coordinate the story line far more than even I believed was the case.

As for Obama, I do not hold him responsible for the statements from the embassy, and applaud his rejection of it.  But, that is about the only good thing I can say about his handling of the situation, and much of what he has done causes me great concern. 

First off, I am disturbed by the attempts to mitigate the situation by condemning the video that allegedly sparked the demonstrations.  I say allegedly because right from the start I doubted that this was the true cause and believed that at best it was a pretext. After all does the administration really expect us to believe that this video that has been on YouTube since July, just happen to be discovered by Muslim on Sept 11?

Thus while Romney was severely criticized for accusing the administration of apologizing for the video,  in one of the strange paradoxes that surround so much of the coverage of Obama, much of what the administration has done since can, I  believe, be put squarely into that category.  Rather than condemning the video and pressuring YouTube to remove it, the President should be defending Freedom of Speech, something he is required to do by his oath of office.

In fact, I am very disturbed that the film maker was taken out of his home in the middle of the night by the police and taken in for questioning. Not exactly what I call standing up for the right of free speech. Then again it is troubling enough that government officials seek to suppress speech.  It is more troubling when they use the military to do so.   If we can have the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff make a call, could we have a squad of Navy Seals make a visit?

What I do think the incident reveals is how out of touch and naïve Obama has been.  With Obama’s detached management style, it should have come as no surprised that he skipped over half of his daily intelligence briefings.   Following this disclosure, the While House claimed that he reads them, but despite their claims, this is just not the same thing. The briefing is not just a one way street, but a time for questions, direction and feedback.  But rather than get the briefing, in the middle of the crisis, Obama felt it was more important to fly off to Vegas for a fundraiser.  No wonder he does not have time for Netanyahu. This detachment becomes increasing important as the evidence grows that we had advanced warnings that were ignored.

Ultimately, this incident is a repudiation of Obama’s Middle East policy, and a confirmation of his critics. The key issue in the Middle East is how to deal with the growing power of radical Islam.  The administration assured us that the Muslim Brotherhood were no longer bad guys and that we should celebrate the Arab Spring.  Unfortunately, the Arab Spring has become the Islamic winter, just like I and many others thought it would. 

There is a simple rule in life that even applies to foreign policy: That which gets rewarded, gets repeated. Islamic extremists attack embassies, kill 4 Americans including our ambassador and so far while there have been some verbal condemnation from the White House, their actions have been to go after those who produced a heretofore obscure video.

What the Obama administration seems to miss is that the real problem is from Arab extremists who claim they represent the Religion of Peace, and who will kill anyone who says otherwise. While Hillary Clinton can say for the administration that “we absolutely reject its content and message” of the video, one as to  wonder if she felt the same way when she attended the Broadway play “The Book of Mormon” which broke new ground in its use of profanity on Broadway. 

One has to wonder, if we are going to limit free speech when it comes to Islam, what about other religions?  Have liberals suddenly reconsidered their view of putting a crucifix in a jar of urine, smearing a painting of the virgin Mary with elephant dung, or depicting Jesus and the apostles as homosexuals?  Somehow I think not.

So what should Obama have done.  While he certainly could, and should, be very diplomatic about it, he should also have been very clear that this is a free country and citizens have the freedom to write, speak, and even make videos that others find offensive. In short, he should have stood up for our freedoms.  Like Romney did.

Sep 17th, 2012

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