Can the U.S. stop the wave of Muslim protests targeting its embassies?

Tony Karon writes: Egregious insults like the Innocence of Muslims film would not be so easily translated into rage at U.S. power were it not for the simmering long-term rage at Washington over its invasions of Muslim countries, its support for Israeli governments and Arab despots, its drone strikes and more.

Deep anger at U.S. foreign policy is the extended preexisting condition that geopolitical Obamacare has failed to significantly alter; the outrage at an offensive film is the opportunistic virus that, when combined with the preexisting condition, creates a crisis. Instances of American Islam-bashing are used to prove that the policies and actions of the U.S. that most anger ordinary Arabs are not simply discrete foreign policy choices driven by self-interest and other agendas but rather expressions of a deeper animus toward Islam itself — a proof that functions as a chemical catalyst that can bring residual anger to a boil.

Yes, it’s always manipulated by cynical opportunists driven by narrow political agendas, but the outrage itself is real, and it’s hardly confined to a movie. Without the pre-existing anger, in fact, the film would be like a detonator without dynamite. Only the combination of the two creates the explosion.

So in that sense, President Obama’s Republican critics are not wrong in suggesting that this week’s upsurge in protests represents, at least in part, a response to the Administration’s handling of the Middle East or even to what vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Friday called ”mixed signals” from the White House. But where Ryan and those echoing him are wrong — egregiously, spectacularly wrong — is in suggesting that the protests are a response to a retreat from “moral clarity and firmness of purpose,” watchwords of the Bush era. On the contrary, the Muslim world was up in arms against the U.S. on a sustained basis for most of the Bush presidency, precisely because of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its unconditional backing of Israel as it pummeled Palestinians and the obvious hypocrisy of a policy of proclaiming democracy and freedom while coddling friendly despots. If the Arab world is angry at the “mixed messages” coming from the Obama Administration, that’s because the President in Cairo in 2009 had promised a break from Bush-era policies yet failed on many fronts to deliver it. It’s not the changes Obama’s made since the Bush era that drive Arab anger; it’s his Administration’s many continuities with Bush-era policies in the Middle East.

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1 thought on “Can the U.S. stop the wave of Muslim protests targeting its embassies?

  1. Leslie Garrett

    The Americans and their NATO camp followers have been dominating the Middle East oil reserves for well over a century, killing and dominating and playing divide and conquer. Everyone knows that their hand is about played out, with a debt bubble looming large, and Israel wants desperately to play its death wish card one more time, for old times’ sake. The West kills millions over the decades while the Muslims go submissively on living with their low-low carbon footprint; they get some backbone, kill an ambassador, and suddenly this threatens America, it makes them terrorists? Lets look at history. A hell of a lot more Muslims have been killed by Europeans and Americans over the last 100 years and the last decade than the other way around, and most of what the West thinks it knows about Islam and its spread is pure propagandistic baloney. Who owns almost every significant media empire in the West? It is not the Muslims or Mormons. No wonder we get such a distorted view.

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