Friday, September 21, 2012
Illusions Exposed: Islamic Turmoil Shows Nice Words Won't Heal Old Conflicts
The explosion of anti-American unrest in the Islamic world will damage the Obama campaign in its drive for reelection for two reasons.
First, the turmoil undermines the administration’s claims for transformative success in producing a more peaceful and stable world.
And second, the lurid displays of violent fanaticism dramatically discredit the underlying world view promoted by Barack Obama since the earliest days of his candidacy—negating the notion that concession and conciliation toward hostile, backward societies can bring an end to stubborn conflicts.
The threat to the president’s prospects posed by the first factor has become so obvious that even The New York Times has begun to acknowledge it. In a front-page story on Sunday, the Journal of Record reported the administration “girding itself for an extended period of turmoil” while “a range of analysts say it presents questions about central tenets” of Obama’s Middle East policy.
Even without expert analysts, the public can recognize the way that the angry protests in more than two-dozen countries serve to shatter the core narrative of the Obama presidency. With bloody riots, teetering governments, and new threats of terrorism, it’s hard to argue that the new administration triumphed in cleaning up the mess left over by the purportedly odious George W. Bush. The fact that protesters now call Obama himself a terrorist and demand his death and dismemberment, while putting the torch to any visible U.S. targets (including fast-food restaurants in Lebanon and an American school in Tunisia), demonstrates that the president failed miserably in resetting the West’s relationship with the Islamic world.
His much-heralded 2009 Cairo speech promising a “New Beginning” now counts as an embarrassing bust, as does his outrageously overblown peace-in-our-time U.N. speech of last year (“The tide of war is receding … The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open.”). The president’s touching and eloquent annual greetings to the Iranian people for Nowruz (Zoroastrian New Year) have done nothing to bring the United States and the government in Tehran closer together, proving that not even a silver-tongued winner of the Nobel Peace Prize can talk the world’s more than one billion Muslims out of their deep-seated sense of grievance and resentment.
The situation conclusively counters a central argument of the Hope-and-Change campaign of 2008: that anti-American rage stemmed from the personality and policy blunders of George W. Bush and that an idealistic new president could significantly improve the nation’s standing around the world. Burning embassies and murdered ambassadors in the final months of the Obama first term hardly advance that optimistic narrative.
Recent developments support the perspective of Bush, Cheney, and the dreaded neocons, not the naive contentions of the Obama brigades. Islamic radicals really do hate us for what we are, not for what our leaders say or do. Even after the president banned enhanced interrogation techniques, repeatedly acknowledged mistakes by his predecessors, cut loose our longtime Egyptian ally (yes, Mubarak was officially an ally for three decades) to support “progressive” voices in the Arab Spring, and pressured the Israelis to make uncompensated concessions to the Palestinians, anti-Americanism looked as virulent as ever.
After nearly four years of the “sure-handed” foreign policy the Democrats celebrated so proudly at their convention, any attempt to blame the new round of violence, threats, and hysteria on George W. Bush would look at least as lame as the rightly derided efforts to suggest that the rage stemmed exclusively from a shoddily produced, 12-minute anti-Muslim video on YouTube.
And continued expressions of that self-destructive rage, along with the feeble attempts to explain it away, present a second profound problem for the president and his perspective: indicating that most Islamic societies remain so deeply dysfunctional that Obama’s conciliatory policies not only have failed so far but will continue to fail in the foreseeable future.
When furious multitudes respond to an Internet trailer for an unseen film produced by a Christian Arab ex-con in California by burning flags and chanting “Death to America,” even many fair-minded observers will conclude that such people count as incurably medieval and insane. The fact that the riots predictably peaked on Friday, the holy day of Muslim public prayer, casts further unflattering light on the very nature of Islamic religiosity. Americans know that Christians rarely surge out of Sunday church services screaming for blood and vengeance, and Jews will leave our congregations on Rosh Hashanah this week without brandishing rocks and torches to trash some unpopular target.
This matters to Barack Obama’s political future not because he counts as some sort of secret Muslim—the angry anti-Obama shouts and signs by the recent Islamic demonstrators ought to disabuse even the most stubbornly irrational right-wing conspiracists of that lame-brained supposition. The problem for the president involves the multi-polar, multicultural view of the world at the very heart of his foreign policy. He has called repeatedly for a less dominant, more modest and cooperative American role, emphasizing the idea of moral relativism and even moral equivalence in describing our relationship with societies that often demonize the U.S.
In his Cairo speech of June 2009, for instance, he rightly denounced Islamic extremism, but also declared that “tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims” and claimed that the “fear and anger” caused by Sept. 11 “led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.” In that context, he promised “concrete actions to change course,” proudly announcing that, “I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.” That particular pledge became unimportant to the Obama team only after they realized they couldn’t possibly fulfill it.
Most notably, the president in Cairo called for a “sustained effort” with the Islamic world “to listen to each other” and “to learn from each other.” In the wake of the latest violence, many Americans might reasonably ask what, exactly, we stand to learn from Islam as it is currently practiced—other than the horrible costs of religious fanaticism? In even the most enlightened and tolerant Islamic nation, Indonesia, demonstrators gathered last week not far from Barack Obama’s boyhood home to burn Israeli flags and chant “death to the Jews!”
Such images only serve to make the public less tolerant of the notion that the divisions between the West and Islamism amount to a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, awaiting the healing power of enlightened leadership. We are far more likely to echo President Reagan’s view of the long struggle against the “Evil Empire”—a vision suggesting that we’re right and they’re wrong, and where the only possible outcome requires that we win, and they lose.
In short, the new eruption of fanaticism (a strain of thinking that never really abated or disappeared) in the Muslim world will discredit the split-the-difference, both-sides-are-flawed attitudes of the Obama administration and build support for the bright-lines, clear-distinctions approach of Mitt Romney and his longtime pal, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel.
Anyone who doesn’t see that the surge of anti-American extremism has raised new questions about the president’s emphasis on solving all problems through Israeli-Palestinian accommodation, or his odd faith in negotiations rather than clearly delineated red lines in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, is someone who hasn’t watched recent alarming news reports from across the Islamic world.
While Obama advocates and elements of the news media may want to distract attention by focusing on ill-timed or in artfully worded statements by Mitt Romney, the new turmoil in the Middle East strongly suggests that the president’s much-hyped policies are both failing in practice and wrong in principle.
Gypsy wins human rights case against campsite that threw her out for causing 'very substantial nuisance'
A gipsy thrown off a campsite after her son threatened other travellers with a gun suffered a breach of her human rights, European judges ruled yesterday.
Maria Buckland and her family were evicted after being accused of causing a ‘very substantial nuisance’ and presenting ‘a risk of disturbance and violence’.
Despite a series of appeals being rejected by Britain’s highest courts, judges in Strasbourg yesterday ruled the eviction was an ‘extreme’ interference with the 53-year-old’s human rights. They also ruled she should receive £3,400 to compensate her for ‘feelings of frustration and injustice’.
The judgment by the European Court of Human Rights could now pave the way for other traveller families to use human rights grounds to fight eviction orders.
The Buckland family first moved to the Cae Garw caravan park in Port Talbot, South Wales, in 1999.
Six years later the Gipsy Council – the traveller-run organisation which operated the local authority-owned site – obtained a possession order claiming Mrs Buckland and five others were causing trouble.
The family were, the Council said, ‘guilty of causing very substantial nuisance’.
In November 2007, three Appeal Court judges headed by Lord Justice Dyson upheld a possession order against Mrs Buckland, saying that she had a ‘generally disruptive family’ with a ‘culture of disrespect’ who ‘presented a risk of disturbance and violence’.
The European judges admitted that, during another appeal, a Swansea county court judge ‘was satisfied that her son, who resided part of the time with her, had been involved in an incident in which he threatened someone with a gun, although it was not clear whether the gun had been real or an imitation; and had dumped garden refuse’.
However they claimed that the only wrong committed by Mrs Buckland herself was the failure to pay a £95 water bill.
They ruled that British judges had been wrong to claim the eviction order was beyond challenge, ruling it should have been considered in the light of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for a person’s home, private and family life.
They said: ‘The loss of one’s home is the most extreme form of interference with the right to respect for the home.
Any person at risk of an interference of this magnitude should in principle be able to have the proportionality of the measure determined by an independent tribunal.’
In total Mrs Buckland - who left the site in May 2008 to live on land owned by her brother, which had no planning permission for residential use – was awarded nearly £7,000 in damages and legal costs.
In past cases British courts have ruled against traveller families who have protested that evictions break their human rights, especially when there has been evidence of their disruptive behaviour.
Mrs Buckland’s case is thought to have cost taxpayers around £80,000 in legal aid and local authority fees on its way through the British court. Legal aid is not paid by the taxpayer to support cases in Strasbourg.
Prudish fundamentalist clergyman objects to saucy British postcards
Cheeky postcards from the seaside are a British tradition
Police were called to a gift shop on a seaside pier after a complaint that the postcards on sale were 'obscene' and 'damaging the image of the town'.
Shop owner Ian Donald was stunned when an officer turned up at his store in Eastbourne, East Sussex, and accused him of selling pornography next to buckets and spades.
The cheeky postcards, featuring women on the beach displaying their bottoms or breasts, had outraged Ashley Steinschauer, an assistant minister at the local church, but the complaint has left some bemused.
Mr Donald has owned his shop on Eastbourne Pier for 25 years and said the light-hearted postcards are popular with all ages and were just part of the ‘seaside tradition’.
He said: ‘People would see worse than these postcards if they just walked along the beach. ‘The police officer saw the funny side of it though when I showed him the postcards.’
But Mr Steinschauer from Elim Family Church was not laughing when he made his complaint to the local council, arguing that the postcards were obscene and 'damaging' the town's image.
The complaint made to the council was passed on to Trading Standards who told police that obscene images were on sale on the pier.
In response to the incident some took to micro-blogging site Twitter. One posted: ‘Charge the complainant with wasting police time.’
On the website of local paper The Argus, readers also commented on the police visit. One wrote: 'Some people do really need to get a life and a sense of humour.'
Another posted: ‘So the country is going down the toilet, Police are being murdered and there is a sense of general dissatisfaction but some person has taken the time to call the Police about a postcard at a seaside stall? Grief.’
Mr Donald, who sells other postcards including scenic shots, said: ‘I sell 600 of these every year and I’m not going to stop now.
‘We get loads of elderly people buying them, although they do tend to turn them face down when they come to the counter because they are a bit embarrassed.’
Neil Stanley, the council’s lead member for tourism, said: ‘Visitors to Eastbourne expect wholesome good fun and the saucy postcard is a vital part of our seaside heritage.’
A Sussex Police spokesman said they could not find any record of a complaint being made to them about ‘saucy postcards’.
Australia: Big brother is watching you -- even at the beach
Surf Life Saving Australia says unmanned aerial drones will patrol some Queensland beaches this summer. The organisation's head, Brett Williamson, says the drones will be used on North Stradbroke Island in a trial of the technology.
He has told Radio National's Background Briefing program the drones, which have a wingspan of one metre, use cameras to search for swimmers in distress.
Mr Williamson says the drones will be fitted with flotation buoys that can be dropped down to the ocean.
"[Drones] have also been fitted with a siren so if nothing else the UAVs flying along the coast and either sees somebody in trouble or a group potentially in trouble or if there's marine life, dangerous marine life such as sharks or whatever in the area, the siren can be sounded," he said.
Mr Williamson says he would like to see the trial expanded nationally to provide surveillance of remote beaches.
He says he does not think flying surveillance drones over secluded beaches will intrude on people's privacy. "At the end of the day this is about public safety," he said.
"It's not about intruding on anybody's privacy and, fortunately, with our experience of having the fixed cameras network we haven't had one problem or one complaint or one operator that hasn't operated in strict accordance with those protocols that we have in place."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.