Evan Barrett writes: It has been rightly observed that the Republican Party’s long tolerance of racist attitudes set the stage for Donald Trump’s rise. But Democrats, too, are using expedient prejudice to drive their political agenda this cycle. Consider how the Obama White House has embraced talk about the “backward” Middle East to account for their own staggering foreign-policy failures there.
The first full embrace of this rhetoric by President Obama himself appeared in Jeffrey Goldberg’s remarkable Atlantic profile, wherein he explicitly cited the notion that conflict and the Middle East are inherently linked. Describing the political fallout of his intervention in Libya, Obama bemoaned “the degree of tribal division” amongst the Libyan people, suggesting that a sort of Libyan sophistication deficiency was responsible for the “chaos” that followed the NATO intervention. Through the article, the President contrasts the people of the Middle East with those in Asian and African societies “filled with striving, ambitious, energetic people who are every single day scratching and clawing to build businesses and get education and find jobs and build infrastructure.” The contrast is, Obama declares, “pretty stark” — leaving the implicit question: What can you do with these people?
This attitude was also reflected in the President’s final State of the Union, when he declared that “The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.” This age-old canard about the “eternal” Sunni-Shia conflict was not only historically inaccurate, but a total departure from the Obama of 2009, the man who made the historic and ill-fated Cairo speech. An intellectual of his sort, and a student of history, surely knows this ugly old lie for what it is, but managed to pronounce it nonetheless in the service of anti-war spin. [Continue reading…]