A sorry lot

A sorry lot
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Since the tragedies, scandals, and controversies of the last few days seem to heavily revolve around the interpretation of a certain sequence of events, a timeline is probably in order:

Some unclear period in the recent past: The Libyan government believes extremists in their country begin plotting a violent September 11 protest at a United States diplomatic mission in the city of Benghazi.

August 30: Some Egyptian members of a local terrorist organization announce plans to stage a protest at the United States embassy in Cairo, also on September 11. The cause? Ritualistic denunciation of the fact that their leader has been imprisoned in the United States on terrorism charges for several decades.

September 4: An Arabic translation of Innocence of Muslims is posted on YouTube. The film, an almost unwatchably low-budget, mean-spirited spoof of Muhammad and the Koran, is s the creation of an equally mean-spirited Egyptian Christian immigrant living in California. “Islam is a cancer,” he says.

Existing plans to protest the American embassies in Egypt and Libya are quickly hijacked by a fresh movement of outrage over the Innocence video, led by a new and broader coalition of Islamists in both countries.

September 11, 6:00 am (ET): Fearful of the looming protests and growing outrage over the Innocence video, the United States embassy in Egypt releases a statement condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”

September 11, noon (ET): Protesters in Egypt attack the American embassy, causing significant damage but no casualties.

September 11, 5:00 pm (ET): Protesters in Libya attack the American consulate in Benghazi. The visiting American ambassador and three staffers are killed.

September 11, 10:23 pm (ET): Mitt Romney releases a statement in which he denounces the fact that the “Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

September 11, 10:44 pm (ET): Hillary Clinton condemns the Libyan consulate attack “in the strongest terms”.

September 12 – present: Violent protests rage across the greater Middle East denouncing the Innocence video.

What’s the most important story here? At least initially, it seems the press concluded it was Romney’s ill-timed and misdirected response, which was immediately denounced across the nation’s editorial pages (even some conservative ones) as yet the latest example of desperate, tone-deaf bluster from a nihilistically opportunistic presidential candidate.

And fair enough. At this point, it does quite stretch the limits of believability for anyone to seriously argue President Obama is a foreign policy lightweight possessing only passing concern for American interests but ample empathy for America’s enemies. Whatever he feels deep down in that crypto-anticolonialist Kenyan Marxist heart of his, the man’s actual track record of bombings and drone strikes and covert killings in the name of national security has been downright Cheneyesque. And even if one stubbornly persists otherwise, the immediate aftermath of a double tragedy on America’s most sensitive date date is hardly the most tasteful moment to say so.

The Governor’s pound of flesh having been happily extracted, however, the embassy-bombing narrative has since steadily shifted to the larger issue of Islam versus free speech, with the Innocence of Muslims serving as the modern-day successor to those infamous Danish cartoons of 2006. To what extent were the attacks of 9-11-2012 the self-inflicted wound of sadistic western provocation?

As was the case back then, Innocence itself is not a terribly sympathetic work. It is crass, vulgar, and poorly-made — so much so, in fact, that it’s mostly incoherent and incomprehensible. It’s undeniably the product of a dark mind drunk on his own inflated sense of cleverness.

But even more like the Danish cartoons, it also comes off as so impossibly pointless and trivial to western eyes; as far as offensive things go, we’ve all seen worse things from better people (to paraphrase Pierre Trudeau) and somehow never felt the slightest twinge of murderous rage. We’ve all seen our most cherished beliefs, heroes, and loves insulted, caricatured, belittled, slandered, and slaughtered — religious icons included — but learned to never think much of it. One of the most basic tenants of what we in the west refer to as “maturity” in fact — a value considered crucial in the evolution to adulthood — is calm resignation to the fact that there exist people who think differently than us, and often express that different thinking in rude, spiteful, jealous, and sadistic ways. This is why the sheer dumbness of Innocence contrasts so irritatingly with its influence: it is clearly not the content of the insult that has caused such fiery outrage, but rather the mere fact that somewhere, anywhere, was allowed to insult at all.

In that sense, Romney does have a point. There is a cloying quality to the way in which the Obama administration has repeatedly emphasized how truly awful and reprehensible etc, etc, this dopey YouTube video is, always in the same breath as denunciations of the violence it provoked. That does seem undeniably phony and un-American on some basic level, as does the news that the friggin’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs personally called that Koran-burning pastor to tell him to tone down his praise of the film. Everyone “gets” why such governmental gestures had to be done, of course, but at some point the constant indulging in the obviously absurd fantasies of others, this idea that Islam has a universal right to unqualified respect from all cultures and all nations and even its most bigoted enemies, makes us lose a bit of ourselves — and gain something much worse.

Almost equally striking has been the Arab street’s other apparent stubborn obsession — this idea that every single cultural product that originates from America does so with the explicit sanction and endorsement of the United States government. This, they say, is something the U.S. has to deny almost as constantly as they must praise the greatness of Islam and the inhumanity of its critics — and seems almost equally nuts. Yes, I realize that on some level this is the sort of paranoid thinking that originates from many decades of living in an authoritarian society where your government does, in fact, control all media, but the sheer parochial naiveté still remains striking. Do the Vietnamese think like this? Do Cubans?

What’s becoming increasingly obvious, in short, is that the tension between Jihad and McWorld is greater than mere cultural misunderstandings mixed with legitimate grudges, it’s actually rooted in a very dark and deep ignorance in which the Islamic world simply lacks some of the pragmatic, practical knowledge necessary for peaceful cohabitation of a complicated, contentious planet. It’s not even about terrorism at all, on some level — the people who actually care enough to plot and conspire and kill are obviously a unrepresentative bloodthirsty minority — but rather the degree to which the intellectual conclusions and logic of extremists are disturbingly mainstream, and a destructive, corrupting force in their own right.

The gap of understanding and empathy between the two sides is obviously vast. I just worry we keep pushing the wrong party in the wrong direction.


  1. JonasB

    I can agree with you here. I think that the islamic world needs to get a thicker skin with regards to how their religion is handeld. I recall that in the aftermath of the koran-burning riots, one person (might have been a muslim leader, but don't hold me to that) pointed out that in the protestor's zeal to set fire to a number of schools (again, been a while since I read the article but I think they were US built or sponsored or something) they also burned down MANY korans which were held inside, yet there was no real backlash for that.

    I think that the need for the "pragmatic, practical knowledge necessary for peaceful cohabitation of a complicated, contentious planet" is an excellent way to describe what is required for a proper development. Instead of trying to make it about free speech (a la the danish cartoons), the issue should be dealt with as sort of a rite of passage (able to handle these things with maturity is a sign that they can be taken more seriously by the rest of the world).

  2. Bill

    The thing is, the Islamic world -was- becoming secular and more modern back in the 60s. Then the CIA decided that Iran was going to join the Commies, and sadly killed/exiled almost every democratic leader in the Middle East. This left a power vacuum which was happily filled by the religious nutjobs. It'd be as if the U.S. was run by the Southern Baptists.

    Also I seem to remember that it was actually a heavily armed group of outsiders that attacked the counselate in Bengzhai, not the protesters themselves. Maybe al-Qaeda had a hand in it?

  3. Juancito

    That's not exactly true. The CIA did overthrow Mohammad Mosaddegh, but they did it in 1953, not the 60s. Beyond that, while it's true the the US has had a bad habit of supporting preexisting dictators, most of the autocratic regimes in the Middle East were either set up by the Arabs themselves or by the British and the French back in the colonial days. For example the recently overthrown Egyptian dictatorship was established in 1952 without either US or Soviet support. After a period of neutrality it drifted in the Soviet camp and remained there until the mid 70s when Sadat decided to start working for peace with Israel. It wasn't just anti-Soviet impulses that drove the US ally with the Sadat regime; the US wanted to reward Sadat for his peaceful intentions and hoped Egypt would become an important partner in Mideast peace talks (and to a large extant it was). This doesn't necessarily justify US actions in the region, supporting dictators will always be a dirty business and it's hard to rationalize all the protesters shot with American weapons, but the region would still probably be nondemocratic even without the United States.

  4. Etc.

    Southern Baptists do actually run local and state governments in the USA, and yet I've noticed an interesting lack of rioting and death every time… that, and those places run by Southern Baptists really, really do not compare to the Islamic Republic of Iran and its ilk, even if one can say that they aren't perhaps as secular as they should be in their government roles. I don't think one can put the two groups on quite the same level.

  5. Etc.

    *every time that their beliefs are mocked, that is to say.

  6. robota rozum

    You were apparently not alive in the 60s. When a belief they held sacred (segregation specifically and racism generally) was threatened, there were fringe but nominally Southern Baptists happy to blow up churches, terrorize, murder, and so on. There are uncanny similarities between speeches by state governors of the period regarding blacks and anything President Ahmadinejad has said regarding Jews.

  7. Etc.

    Why bring up an example that hasn't been relevant for nearly fifty years? Southern Baptists haven't been doing that kind of nonsense in recent times, and in fact somewhat recently elected a black president, one Fred Luter. I don't quite see how that's on the level of them establishing an Iran-level theocracy when those sorts of extremist actions to preserve institutional racism were hardly unique to them, either.

  8. Virgil

    Not to mention this: I watched a lot of those state governor speeches out of historical interest. I have not heard any of them state that "my Baptist faith compels me to do this for God". Its an important distinction since a religious impulse to do violence can not be reasoned away. If it were religious and violence was sanctioned by religion it would not have withered so quickly.

  9. robota rozum

    In fact the racism was sanctioned by the same sort of misinterpretation that "sanctions" Islamic terrorism. In this case it was a comically tenuous reading of the story of Noah and Ham. Like all other obvious misreadings, it was advanced simultaneously with and because of the underlying motive: slavers wanted justification for white supremacy, and if you go far enough out of your way to find anything you'll eventually find it.

    People held onto this reasoning out of spite or stubbornness, not out of any religious conviction. The same applies to the very recent invention of Jewish-Islamic tension, American-Islamic tension, Western-Islamic tension, etc.

  10. snickeringcorpses

    You can't really argue that Western-Islamic tension is a brand new invention, I would say. Islam spread by the sword for centuries, and was only finally halted from taking over Europe by difficult fights in Spain and Austria. When the Crusades are discussed, it's often overlooked that the Muslim states tried to conquer the West first before the Crusades occurred. That's not to justify the wrongs that occurred to Eastern Orthodox, Jew, and Muslim alike during the Crusades, but to point out that early Islamic expansionism is often left out of such discussions. There is a long gap where the Islamic countries were more concerned with their own internal fighting than with Europe (and current Sunni/Shiite warfare is largely a continuation of this) but that drive to establish complete dominance of the world by Islam, by force where necessary, is still strong. It is a mistake to leave that out of the analysis. There are a great many Muslims who may not subscribe to terrorist attacks as a means but do still hold the dream of world domination and have a vengeful attitude towards anything they view as an attack on Islam.

  11. robota rozum

    To demonstrate that fringe elements of any group (including every religion, including Southern Baptists) are happy to perpetrate unimaginable horror on their fellow humans. It's not inherent to Islam, it's inherent to humans.

  12. Jake_Ackers

    1) This was a terrorist attack. They are terrorists (the violent ones anyway). So the US has a right to defend themselves with live ammo if needed. I understand they don't want a blood bath and pictures of civilians getting shot, that would make it worst. But Obama is asleep at the wheel. This is an act of terrorism. they aren't civilians so if they scaling embassy walls just use non-lethal or water if you want. As they have been doing. But after a certain point they are invading, kicking down doors, burning and killing Americans. Bullets should be used. It's an invasion of another country. Label it terrorism and defend yourself. But no, Obama is sleeping at the wheel.

    2) Al Qaeda said the attacks would continue. Why haven't more troops been deployed to all the embassies in these kind of countries? Again, fail.

    3) You shouldn't say sorry for freedom of speech. Again, Obama failed. Saying sorry for the nutjob video makes it seem like the US gov't does have some control over him. Asking YouTube to take it down is just letting the terrorists win. You are doing what they want.

    4) It's an embassy. Then the left says we need dialogue. The point of an embassy is that but they just attack. How much of a dialogue you going to have when you literally kill the messenger?

    5) There was talk of this happening. But Obama literally skipped his intelligence briefings. Furthermore, shouldn't an US embassy in this kind of place have stronger defense? Invading an embassy is an act of war or terrorism if not both.

    6) The irony in this whole situation should of been pointed out. Most of these people would of not been able to protest, regardless if it was pro or anti-American, under any of the old regimes in those countries. If it wasn't for the USA (more so in some places and less so in others but still) in the first place all those people in Libya for example would of been shot during the protests.

  13. Brad

    "One of the most basic TENETS of what we in the west refer to as “maturity” "

    Sorry, that's a pet peeve of mine.

  14. Hentgen

    I agree with you for the most part. It really does follow that if some US Citizen says something that you don't like that you go off and attack a US Consulate. I do think it's ridiculous that the US Government takes such great strides to distance itself from nutjobs like this.

    But, don't you think, that these kinds of things are just, well, excuses to attack US interests? That it works to rile people up so much is indicative of an undercurrent of resentment against America and Europe?

  15. Zulu

    It may seem un-American and "cloy" the way we're is bending backwards to appease these governments, but the President is not dealing with members of a democratic society that understand the freedom of expression. Egypt may be a democracy, but it is not a democratic society, which may be even more dangerous than a military dictatorship. What is worse, we're in the middle of a slow recovery and military transition to a leaner force, which limits are options of response.

  16. Trenacker

    As usual, JJ, you hit the nail on the head.

    I think the simple answer to the, "Why?" question really begins with drawing parallels to the religiously-inspired mob violence of medieval and Renaissance Europe, when questions of religious dignity provoked behavior along similar patterns. Of course, if this line of reasoning is persuasive, the reader has already bought into the notion that (A) the East is on a socio-economic developmental trajectory identical to that in the West, and (B) the East is hundreds of years behind the West along that trajectory. I would argue that this is the case; that the motivating force of change in Western history was violence, both inter-state and intra-state; that the reasons for the comparatively "early" prevalence of this violence in the West are rooted in the unique geography of Europe, which was like a hyper-incubator for conflict; and that the developing world ("the East") faces a unique set of constraints in the form of international law and international norms that prevent it developing precisely along European lines. Yes, the protestors are immature. No, that's not surprising. Yes, it's historically contingent. No, it's not unique to any one particular region or people in the world. We, in the West, were once that immature, and we did precisely the same thing when our "dignity" was supposedly affronted.

    In trying to explain proximate reasons for this violence, I’d be interested to know just how many of the protestors are unemployed and under 25. These protests tell us more about the lack of opportunity in Libya and Egypt, and the lack of central governmental control, than they do about the innate qualities of Arabs or Muslims.

    I think that the simple truth is that the people who are moved to join in these protests are essentially several hundred years behind the West in terms of their thinking about human rights and the body politic. Consider the attempts of at least one “spokesman” in Egypt to try to justify the attacks by asking rhetorically how Americans would feel if the Pope were similarly demeaned. I wonder how he would react to being told that some people smear dung on pictures of the Pope and call it art. It has been said that those distant from power tend to overestimate its effects. There seems to be a shared assumption by many of the participants in these protests, assuming they are more than mere opportunists or hooligans, that the United States Government is considerably more powerful, and its inaction more deliberate, than is actually the case. I don't know how anybody breaks this misperception for an audience that has never seen any example otherwise.

    Another great misfortune here is that this sort of event tends to confirm the negative perceptions of Arabs and Muslims already rampant in the United States. Romney clearly feels that he must pander to the very large number of conservatives, and especially Evangelicals, who firmly believe that all persons attesting to the Muslim faith hold values and agendas fundamentally incompatible with “the American way of life.” This is why the accusation that Barack Obama is a “secret Muslim” is really so pernicious, even aside from the fact that it is a terrible lie: it implies that Muslims cannot also be Americans. Look at how Lowe's responded to criticisms of ads for that store appearing during the "American Muslim" television program. Consider, too, the protests surrounding development of that mosque and community center near Ground Zero. Bigotry against Muslims is one of the last "respectable" bigotries available to people in the United States, and a tragically large number are taking full advantage. Worse? At the same time, the peanut gallery can somehow accept the fact that there are many different “flavors” of Christianity. It is even fond of denouncing certain “so-called Christians” for lacking supposedly core elements of Christian belief. And yet they have thoroughly convinced themselves that all Muslims believe exactly the same things, and that those things are, by definition, awful. That, too, is behind the strong conviction among many Christian conservatives especially that Muhammad was an especially odious person, allowing them to cast aspersion on the entire religion with which he was associated. When confronted with the long list of Christian (or Jewish) leaders who have acted similarly to their caricature of a historical figure few of them actually care to know about, they conveniently fall back on the defense that the only person whom they need be able to defend is Jesus Christ.

  17. Jake_Ackers

    The US like or dislike of Islam is a discussion for another day to be honest. Some valid points but still not the point here. There are rules to international diplomacy. They didn't play by them. I'm not going to give them extra points because they can't shoot a basket or take players off the field because they can't score a goal. But this is what we are doing. If they want to criticize the US for it's bigotry or w/e else that is one thing. But this isn't it. This is a terrorist attack.

    I don't see Jews or Catholics going around bombing Middle Eastern embassies. Two wrongs don't make a right. Regardless of what Americans think or do, this is way worst. Yes, they are behind us, yes there is bigotry in the US. But we need to deal with the terrorists. And talk right over and through them and directly to the people. Talk to the people and defend yourself from the terrorists.

    All in all they are ignorant of how our system works. So we need to defend the punches when they come and at the same time talk to the people. Educate them and teach them about our ways. And in turn learn about their ways and customs and educate our people. But this specific incident still needs to be dealt with correctly, from a terrorism aspect and cultural aspect, and hasn't.

  18. Trenacker

    I think the Romney Camp is especially interested in making hay out of this particular series of events because Obama has unusually strong credentials in the foreign policy arena despite being a Democrat. Obama authorized the attack that killed Bin Laden. Obama has been demonstrably hawkish on detention and “hot pursuit” with drone aircraft. Until recently, Romney was stuck with the fabrication that Obama “apologized for America.” (And that in itself was surprisingly convincing from the point of view of many voters.) Now, it appears that Romney has “proof” that Obama’s foreign policy was mishandled… except that it’s unclear, as many editorials have pointed out, exactly how his approach would have achieved another outcome.

    Obama "asleep at the wheel?" Were Dick Cheney or George Bush asleep at the wheel? Nobody argues that these were acts of terrorism; the question is how much largely powerless governments should be held to account for the acts of a mob or of madmen. In Iran, the guilt lay clearly with new leadership at the national level. Here, the responsibility is with certain segments inside the country who are (or at not) subject to a weak government, short on both legitimacy and confidence in its own security apparatus. What is Obama going to do? Authorize air strikes on the Egyptian parliament in retaliation for street protests that a weak government couldn't fully suppress?

    If I agree that apologizing for the movie runs counter to the promise of free speech, that Islam does not have an unqualified right to respect, and that Obama's message to the film's creator would seem to indicate that the U.S. Government has the power to censor these kinds of products, the alternative is still worse. Obama's public pronouncements are political theatre, as are any president's. And he is speaking not only to his own country, but to the malefactors in other countries as well. He does that not because he is a crypto-fundamentalist, but because there is a benefit to trying to having open lines of communication during these kinds of crises. What is the alternative? For Obama to appear completely tone-deaf to the international audience? That would only increase the intensity of the demonstrations. Do I think that somebody could have written better lines for him? Yes, I do, but I am inclined to forgive him the decision to press for a more nuanced view of things since I don't think that my rights have actually been imperiled. If anything, I think that Romney is taking pot-shots from a position of complete safety, and that the uncompromising strain that many of his partisans urge him to try would only suffice to squander the little goodwill remaining to us. Remember that many Americans have very wrong-headed beliefs about Muslims and Arabs, and that they often try to cast the relationship between Islam and the West in Manichean terms that play into conflict.

  19. Jon

    The alternative is not worse. It may seem trite because the public at large were not caused any restrictions, but by the mere suggestion that this video be taken down, free speech was attacked by the very highest level of authority in the USA. The President should never be making such domestic "requests" in a free society to try to appease foreign interests, let alone terrorists. The proper response would be for the US government to totally ignore this at home, and allow spokesmen in foreign countries, such as ambassadors (assuming they're able to of course) to explain how this isn't representative of our nation. At most, the secretary of state could say something while abroad, but not the President, and certainly no one in the government at any level should request to restrict speech.

    And perhaps, because we are dealing with such an immature group of people it would not be inappropriate for Obama to have explained to them in very simple and basic terms how freedom of speech works. It may fall on deaf ears, but we would at least have a principled stand. Would it seem like we are talking down to them? Yes, but lets be honest, we should be taking the role as mentor in any situation with these types of individuals. It would be a powerful message to the entire Arab world coming from him and not cause any problems here at home.

    Who knew google would stand up to the pressure and be more American than the President himself..

  20. J.J. McCullough

    I kind of like the idea of President Obama giving a "refresher" speech on freedom of speech directed to the Arab world. He could share some Obama-style anecdote about a time he saw something very racist and awful, and then an anecdote about a time he saw something very inspiring and lovely. And then he'd explain how both experiences flow from the same right of non-censored free expression. It would be very immature, but I think it'd be a powerful gesture.

  21. Jake_Ackers

    This is exactly my point. The Left is saying we need dialogue. Normally, I would agree. But this is a joke. The point of an embassy is dialogue. How you going to have dialogue if they literally killed the messenger? They won't let us have a dialogue. There is no excuse here. Obama has failed to lead. This was a terrorist attack. Embassies are suppose to be a place for neutrality and dialogue.

    Regardless of what Americans think or of what has happened in the past, this is straight up wrong. It's an embassy. We don't go bombing Soviet or North Korean or even Nazi Germany embassies. These are terrorists. There is no reason to say sorry for anything. And yes what Obama has done is dangerous. Osama attacked us (one of the reasons anyway) was because he thought we were a "paper tiger." Not responding is exactly this. It's rolling over.

    I think the Pope took the right route with this and did a way better job. He didn't roll over but he still did get the peace point across. That's what we needed. Not an anemic approach. I would agree with you if this was some lesser situation but this isn't. It's a straight up terrorist attack. There is countless of ways this could of been handled. Least of which was deploy troops ahead of time but no not even that he could do. And there are stronger ways of using nonlethal elements as well to completely stop this.

  22. Mark Gibbons

    We had violent demostrations in Australia about this crappy movie. The local Imams condemned the violence but supported the demonstrations in principle. The double standard is obvious: demonstrating outside the US consulate effectively targets the US government/society for the actions of one person. But group responsibility is never to apply in reverse – "don't blame us for the actions of extremists" – etc etc. The same double standard was there in '06 (and noted on this very website- ref: http://www.filibustercartoons.com/index.php/2006/….

  23. Guest

    And this is the thing that concerns me the most.
    It would be easy to say that the demonstrations are the product of impoverished countries that have suffered from disadvantage and lack education and are reliant on what they are told in their mosques and madrassas and who do not understand the Western notions of liberty and freedom of speech.
    But then you see very similar violent protests with outrageous signs and slogans in SYDNEY AUSTRALIA! By people who are worlds away from the condtitions of the rioters in Libya.
    That is what most concerns me – that this is not a problem of poverty or education but of incompatible ideology and values.

  24. Cicero

    As a member of a religion that has spent a good part of the last decade as something of a comic pincushion (I'm Catholic), I must convey my utter lack of sympathy for the offended Muslims. On the one hand, I've been advised that the video is in bad taste, yadda yadda yadda.

    On the other hand, when expressions of outrage move from nuanced statements given to the press and perhaps a protest held outside a theater or a march in the capitol to bombings and shootings…well, let's just say that I quickly lose any sympathy for the aggrieved party when they cross various lines.

    To be blunt, I am worried that some of these jerks will try to re-enact the Iranian hostage crisis and storm the embassy while either cowing a government into not acting against them (turning it into an all-around standoff) or having their tacit support. Considering what happened in Libya, I don't think this is unreasonable to at least fear. It /has/ happened before, after all, or "re-enact" would not be noted above.

    Part of the problem is when acts of terror rise from acts of a few individuals to acts of the mob. It is one thing when you have a few nutjobs committing despicable acts…you can, with comparative ease, jail them. What do you do, though, when those nutjobs are promptly proudly joined by a "human shield" of people marching in solidarity with them, or also shooting off their rifles/cheering as they threaten to execute the infidels and loudly proclaiming their willingness to join in that sort of behavior? What do you do when it's not a truckful of armed gunmen storming the embassy but rather a large, reckless mob crashing forward, some armed and some just "along for the ride"? At what point to those "joining in the festivities", so to speak, become sufficiently enmeshed in events that they are themselves complicit in the behavior going on around them? Yes, I recognize that things were more or less non-violent in Cairo (Benghazi being another story entirely, and I would also note that the US also closed an embassy in Nigeria as a precautionary measure), but the question still begs an answer.

    In a way, I find this crisis to highlight the problems on both sides of the divide:
    -On the Muslim side, the need to grow a thicker skin is evident…again, it is one thing to offer an erudite statement of outrage at a given misbehavior and to call for either a boycott or a ban within a given area. It is another to take to the street shooting guns in the air, condemn folks to death for some percieved slight, and so on. This crap has to stop.
    -On the Western side, the problem is that we, too, have too thin a skin to the possibility that we have insulted some group of people. Whatever that group's thoughts, I see a certain unwillingness to draw a line and say that, whatever the legitimacy of their complaints, when they are expressed in this way we cease to care what they want. In a sense, the apologies (even in the face of violence and clear statements of intent to commit violence) act to enable the other side. The fact that the government felt the need to (preemptively and, ultimately, pointlessly) apologize for a low-budget movie that was coming out is just…well, it's a bit sad. It's not like we sent a misaimed missile into an embassy or something else actually worthy of an apology.

    JJ, I think you hit things pretty well on the head. I have to wonder what the reaction would be to, assuming that an apology were necessary in some form, one which expressed a feeling that "While we may be sorry now, if you attack us we /will/ kill you and then we will most assuredly not be sorry for doing so". Then again, I have to wonder if the apology actually did anything, or if we wouldn't have been in more or less the same boat simply shrugging at the expressed outrage and saying "This isn't our government's problem."

  25. Jake_Ackers

    All around good points. But this is a way to address this. Ironically it is the Catholic Church who handled it best. The Pope asked for peace. He handled it in the right way. He didn't roll over but he didn't fuel the fire. Now Obama could of done that and then when another attack happens he could had complete justification and defending. Obama didn't do that. Instead he let attacks keep happening without a stronger enough response. The man failed, end of story. The media should stop making excuses.

  26. Cicero

    Thanks, Jake. I am actually reminded of the uproar that happened the one time the Pope, quoting from a rather ancient speech from a Byzantine Emperor, set off his own set of riots back in 2006 (Filibuster cartoon on the subject here: http://www.filibustercartoons.com/index.php/2006/…. Never mind the particularly nuanced criticism he was raising nor the context of the source he quoted…he said something bad about Islam, so a riot resulted.

    That, of course, is the problem here: It doesn't seem to matter if the "insult" is a badly-produced video, a cartoon in a newspaper, an inflammatory pastor in Florida, or a well-researched and properly contexted quote from centuries ago in an intellectual speech…any random "insult" turns into an excuse for rioting. This probably has something to do with my view on the matter…I can count at least four outbreaks over the last few years (the Pope's remarks, the Koran burning in Florida, the Muhammad cartoon from Denmark, and now this incident), and that's only the "big" ones. I'm certain I've missed at least one decent-sized riot or another in the last 6-7 years.

    I agree that a stronger response is needed in general. The form it should take, I'm sure we can debate for some time. But the sad thing is that I don't really get the feeling that Romney would do much better on this front, either.

  27. Jake_Ackers

    I wonder if the Pope's speech took that incident into account. Probably did though.

    On the Romney point though I actually think he would have. The Olympic was in massive debt, he spent money to keep it save and yet still made a profit. This was right after 9/11 too. So I think Romney would of at least taken preventative measures. Like actually admit it was planned and deploy troops ahead of time to all embassies in these regions. The same was said about Reagan (albeit at the other side of the scale) with the Iranian embassy situation. "Oh he is nuts, he is going to overreact or bomb them blah blah." In the end he help deal with it even before he was officially sworn into office.

    What I don't understand is this. They want to be viewed as different. Terrorist here and people here. So who's good will are we buying by rolling over? Talk to the good people, kill the terrorists. They will understand it because the good people are the ones being attacked as well. People tend to forget Muslim on Muslim terrorism.

    Btw Cicero you should register for an account. I use the Intense Debate one.

  28. loroferoz

    No need to remind anyone… that normal people do not get up in the morning and then becomes outraged with a Youtube video over breakfast and then calls their friends with assault rifles and RPGs to attack a Consulate. It sounds idiotic because it's idiotic, to have to remind this is a sign of how insane the situation is.

    As for "protesters", rather rioters: Hooligans that thrash a downtown and burn cars are out to do exactly that. Football or whatever else is just an excuse. It's not casual that they have all that's needed to cause damage handy.

    Which means this is not the Arab "street". This is a concerted Islamic movement with a very violent agenda. Period. Anyone taking part in assaulting embassies should be read the Riot Act, or a local version thereof. A government not reading the Riot Act to them should be cut off diplomatic and trade relationships.

    Sam Bacile and co. are guilty of being assholes. That's their right. It's also the right of other persons, Muslims included, not to like the film, and to say exactly what they think of it and their makers, and to tell them what they will die, or what they wished others would do to them, and what kinda of hell awaits them. In this I fully support them.

    For the sake of decent people, included most Muslims who will do nothing more violent than express themselves freely, the above mentioned murderers and hooligans should be given a proper treatment for murderers and hooligans, and absolutely no excuses.

    It's quite deplorable that there are people out to make hate pieces. But it's natural! There's enough people and enough time and Youtube too! It's naturally inevitable that some shall be assholes, or shall do something insulting to someone else. And that it will be seen by everyone, particularly if there's this kind of reaction. Sorry, idiots happen, go on with your life.

    Who would have known the very name of a backwoods Danish-language newspaper outside of Denmark, much less that it depicted Mohammed in 12 cartoons, if not for the hooligans burning embassies? Or about this crappy film and its maker? That's for Muslims to ponder, if they are seriously concerned about these kinds of things.

  29. Cicero

    To be fair, I'm increasingly a fan of the traditional British follow-through for when a crowd, having been read the Riot Act, did not disperse.

    One thing that I am led to understand is that there is serious bad blood between the Egyptian Coptic Christians and the Muslims there, which seems to be from whence this film came from. Not to address any sort of justification, but this shot doesn't seem to have come from the complete and utter blue.

  30. loroferoz

    "There is serious bad blood between the Egyptian Coptic Christians and the Muslims there".

    Add to the existence of enough people and to their having enough time (and money) their own resentments and fears driving them to do things, some are intentionally assholes, and some don't (and cannot humanly) know that they might offend someone. It's going to happen, that simple. If it's not an Evangelical Christian, it's a Copt.

    The real problem is the existence of fanatics willing to riot and murder over offense, real or imagined. And that somehow they are allowed to organize for that.

  31. Jake_Ackers

    True. The bad few give the rest a bad name. But there is genuine concern over this event. The President won't even call it a terrorist attack or even admit it was planned. The Libyan President those though. What a joke. They technically do have the right to protest… now. Try that under their old regimes. Yah wouldn't of happened, pro or anti-American. Either way the line was crossed when they attacked an embassy. All gloves should be off in dealing with terrorists, which I label the moment they become violent toward an embassy.

  32. Drew

    "What’s becoming increasingly obvious, in short, is that the tension between Jihad and McWorld is greater than mere cultural misunderstandings mixed with legitimate grudges, it’s actually rooted in a very dark and deep ignorance in which the Islamic world simply lacks some of the pragmatic, practical knowledge necessary for peaceful cohabitation of a complicated, contentious planet. "

    We occupy their lands. We bomb their cities. We steal their resources. We kill their children. We racially profile their men. We prop up their tyrants.

    But THEY lack some of the pragmatic, practical knowledge necessary for peaceful cohabitation of a complicated, contentious planet?

  33. KKoro


    Funny, isn't it, how two wrongs don't make a right.

  34. Drew

    Then my answer is this:

    Us first.

  35. Taylor

    Just as we talk about "Muslims" in this sense, or talk about "Russia's" prosecution of Pussy Riot, or about "Canadians" being anti-American, we oversimplify nationalities and ethnicities just to grasp at what we can.

    Doesn't excuse any violence. It's just an inevitable part of international perception.

  36. Trenacker

    All right, I'll bite. The ideal would certainly have been for the President to simply reject the idea that anybody has a right to violence in defense of religious dignity, and to remind critics that to make a request of the filmmaker would be an abridgement of his freedom of speech. Jon put it eloquently: "t may seem trite because the public at large were not caused any restrictions, but by the mere suggestion that this video be taken down, free speech was attacked by the very highest level of authority in the USA. The President should never be making such domestic "requests" in a free society to try to appease foreign interests, let alone terrorists. The proper response would be for the US government to totally ignore this at home, and allow spokesmen in foreign countries, such as ambassadors (assuming they're able to of course) to explain how this isn't representative of our nation."

    Yet because that didn't happen, and because Obama issued a request for the filmmaker to self-censor, should I conclude that Obama is a poor leader? No. First of all, in all fairness, I need to ask why Obama chose the tactics that he did. My sense is that he saw the violence resulting and wanted to do all he could to clamp down. That's a noble goal, even if there were better avenues by which to pursue it. I'm not inclined to dock him points for intent. Secondly, there's the alternative. And the fact of the matter is that my alternative, moving forward, is potentially Mitt Romney, whom I do not believe would have offered an eloquent riposte. The Republican candidates were ham-handed at best during the primary debates, and all are prone to Manichean articulations of the world hardly conducive to Realist thinking or action. Washington has dispatched FBI experts. Libya has reacted with a security crackdown. What else is there? Bombing a government we actually endorse? One that tried to prevent this?

    What didn't Obama do correctly? If the embassy was under-protected, I'm doubtful that that owes to any presidential directive. Nor do I reasonably expect the White House to evaluate the security situation at a particular consulate. That is the responsibility of decision-makers inside the State Department or the Department of Defense. The literature is full of many compelling examples in which democratization has been followed by violence, both civil and interstate. In fact, democratizing countries are actually more likely to make war on their neighbors than long-standing dictatorships. Democratizing societies lack the all-important stays on aggressive behavior by unscrupulous powerbrokers: a free and responsible press, transparency of government, amity between neighbors, confidence in transitions of power, and a tradition of military subordination to civil authority. This is precisely the kind of behavior we ought to expect in countries like these.

    The trouble here is that the third world isn't going to change without time and a great deal of effort that, to most Western observers, would smack as an over-involved transfer of wealth and, to most other observers would seem to be latter-day colonialism. How do you "engineer" a Western society where you are unwelcome, except at bayonet-point? It didn't work very well in Iraq when many Americans expected our troops to be hailed as liberators. The mere presence of foreigners in their country incenses many Iraqis and Afghanis. I presume that it would equally incense Americans, and for good reason.
    How do you educate people who are not free? How do you give them good government? How do you provide them with work, especially at a time when unemployment is at high levels in your own country? A major factor in mob violence is the presence of large numbers of despondent young people who have no other occupation. And let's not forget that if the proximate cause is a supposed insult to Islam, the distal cause is actually dissatisfaction with local governments that benefit from Western tolerance and largesse. People in Libya aren't only protesting the fact that they think Americans are spitting on them; they're protesting the perception that Americans endorse ill treatment of people like themselves in Palestine; that Americans believe others like Israelis and Maronite Christians and Kurds have potentially valid claims on their land; that Americans dictate terms to their leadership; & etc. Many of them most likely ascribe to America responsibility for deeds that you or I would find ludicrous, considering the appetite of uneducated populations for what can only be called conspiracy theories.

  37. Jake_Ackers

    After the Libyan attack, Al Qaeda said the attacks would continue. He didn't secure the embassies and there are some that still aren't. He was warned ahead of time, and they have been briefings on the situation in the Middle East before it happened. He did nothing before and did little more after Libya. He won't even admit the attacks were planned ahead of time. Even though everyone knows it was. His failure is that he has had an anemic response.

    I have already address what should have happened but here it is again.

    1) Give a speech like the Pope gave without saying sorry and educate the Middle East on how the US works.
    2) Admit this was a terrorist attack. And that it was planned. Demand the murders be brought to justice.
    3) Arm every embassy at risk with non-lethal and live ammo.
    4) Repel attackers with non-lethal before they get to the embassies. If they are on the walls and getting in. Shoot them. Protestors don't invade embassies. Terrorists do.
    5) Cut aid to countries who refused to put the aid we gave them to proper use.

    And again this was PLANNED. Is there mob mentality? Yes. But that stops at the embassy wall. Once you literally go over that, that becomes part of the planned attack. The were "mobsters" who joined the terrorists. There were "mobsters" who simply kept protesting. There is a line. And the wall is the line At the very least.

    And the rest is an argument for another day like getting rid of the empire of bases, reinforce all embassies, stop being the world's police, stop trying to force "American democracy." But that is all part of actually having a foreign policy which isn't so much Obama's fault as it is Washington in general for never having a coherent (as in clearly defined) foreign policy since Reagan.

    And I don't buy this argument of people saying they don't think Romney would of done better. Well we know Obama didn't do better so we can't give someone else a chance at it? If something doesn't work, fix it until it does. Obama failed because he didn't react. It's not that the reaction was wrong, which it was, but that he simply didn't. His strategic defense is completely anemic. And I refer back to my previous points. It should of been done right after Libya but he still only has one hand at the wheel.

  38. Guest

    Hello – 'repel attackers with non-lethal BEFORE they get to the embassies'.
    Do you mean carry out assaults on foreign nationals on foreign soil? Because this is what it sounds like. They aren't attackers until they attack, they are protesters excercising their rights.
    As for protesters scaling embassy walls – now that's another story, but lethal force should remain the absolute last resort.

  39. Jake_Ackers

    Actually I should of been more clear on that. Many embassies have a space between the gates and the building. By embassy I meant the building. Once they break into the actual embassy all bets are off. Gates/Border then Space then Embassy's Walls and Doors. Use nonlethal when they get onto the gates/border, when they are in, try to push them back but once they are right on the building wall then you can use lethal. I suppose even on the space or gates technically since its already in the embassy zone.

    But you did make my point. Protestors are one thing. Once they become attackers, then its terrorism.

  40. robota rozum

    "What’s becoming increasingly obvious, in short, is that the tension between Jihad and McWorld is greater than mere cultural misunderstandings mixed with legitimate grudges, it’s actually rooted in a very dark and deep ignorance in which the Islamic world simply lacks some of the pragmatic, practical knowledge necessary for peaceful cohabitation of a complicated, contentious planet."

    The Islamic world has had many examples of peaceful cohabitation in very complicated, foreign situations: the early Islamic empire and everybody, the Fatimid Caliphate and Jews/Christians, all the way through the Moghul Empire and Hindus/Sikh (albeit intermittently), the Ottoman Empire and everybody. How can we reconcile this historical data with what you call obvious? Do we posit that the Islamic world suddenly and quite recently forgot how to get along with different people after ~1300 years of coexistence? Doesn't that just sound nuts?

  41. Virgil

    Are you sure?

    Early Islamic Empire: instituted dhimnitude. Fatimid Caliphate I am admittedly less familiar with. The Ottoman Empire however began as a jihad against Constantinople, made it its capital, kidnapped the children of religious minorities and forced them to both convert and join the military as slaves (Janissaries), instituted a centuries long tradition of taking slaves from Europe via piracy in the Barbary States that was only ended after American and French intervention, and massacred the Christian Armenians throughout World War I.

    Honestly, I don't think you can find an Islamic regime where full rights were granted to non-Muslims. The early Caliphate however does look really good compared to the other religious regimes of its day.

  42. robota rozum

    If your definition of religious intolerance is levying taxes while permitting unfettered religious expression, I am afraid I must leave you to it. By that definition the United States is abhorrently intolerant.

    The Ottomans, like every other state that has ever existed, did many terrible things. None of the things you listed are examples of religious intolerance, however.

    -Certainly they conquered Byzantium. Again, if we describe every conqueror as religiously intolerant than no one anywhere has ever been religiously tolerant.

    -The Janissaries were no more slaves than every American serviceman prior to 1973 were. Conscripted, certainly. Subjected to harsh training regimen, absolutely. Crucially, each were paid and given the possibility of societal advancement, which was arguably that much more important in a pre-modern civilization than our land of opportunity. Eventually they even dominated the government – slaves, indeed! Even if they were, does that in any way prevent people from being Christian? Were Christians executed, imprisoned, tortured, etc.?

    -The Armenian Genocide was a horrible crime, and the denial of it by the Turkish government continues to be awful. However, again we have to ask whether the horrific war crimes of 3 years in some way impugn the peace enjoyed for 600. Did the Ottomans suddenly realize that they ruled over millions of Christians? Did they suddenly open to a page of the Quran that demands their murder? Isn't it more reasonable to conclude what suddenly happened is they became aware of their empire being quite literally dismantled by the colonial powers before their eyes, and in a knee-jerk, reactionary, horrible way took it out on anyone they could reach? Nothing whatsoever to do with religion or race, everything to do with political disintegration and subjugation. The same to be said for the Moghuls: as their Islamic empire declined they at times became quite awful to Hindus and Sikhs. How can we say the active ingredient is "Islamic" rather than "declined" when the same Islamic empires were quite cordial at their peak?

  43. Virgil

    I fear you are misinformed. Every aspect of discrimination mentioned had an explicitly religious rationale, in the same way that segregation in the United States had an explicitly racial rationale. Devsirme was explicitly a form of kidnapping of children of religious minorities. I humbly submit that this is a form of religious intolerance. Conscripted? Yes. No Muslim family ever had a Jannisary conscripted from their family.

    Your opening comment regarding religious intolerance is a perplexing argument. The United States does not practice dhimnitude. To my knowledge, the United States does not let the religious majority live tax free, nor do we, to the best of my knowledge, keep religious minorities from holding public office. Perhaps someone will extend the bad news to Senator Liberman? I am in fact fairly certain that the first amendment prevents any tax on the basis of religion as existed in the early Islamic Empire.

    We then have the Armenians, and the peace for "600 years". Well, according to (granted not totally reliable Wikipedia)
    this life meant this:

    "In addition to other legal limitations, Christians were not considered equals to Muslims: testimony against Muslims by Christians and Jews was inadmissible in courts of law; they were forbidden to carry weapons or ride atop horses; their houses could not overlook those of Muslims; and their religious practices were severely circumscribed (e.g., the ringing of church bells was strictly forbidden).Violation of these statutes could result in punishments ranging from the levying of exorbitant fines to execution."

    Don't get me wrong. History is not kind to minorities in any land, and the Islamic empires were far from being the worst. I am well aware that life was better than in most of the West for many centuries for religious minorities. However, to state that there was no religious component to a system where the equivalent of caste was based upon religion is nonsense. To state that this historical system has no bearing upon current events is blind.

  44. Jake_Ackers

    Well there have been problems just not as large. Radical Islam in this scale is something new not because it has more people supporting it but because of the internet, the weapons, the new tech, globalization. The advent of new technology has been the tipping point. The Middle East isn't bad. They have made great contributions to society. But the bad few give the place and its people a bad name.

  45. Guest

    I like your point Robota. For a fair chunk of history the Islamic world were not just examples of tolerant cohabitation, they were world leaders in many fields of art and science.
    How did such and advanced people become so backward?

  46. robota rozum


    In a bit of cosmic irony, a Muslim named Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun proposed a theory of history in 1377 based on the concept of asabiyyah, or roughly "group solidarity". You start out with a pre- (or, crucially, post-) civilized people who have no real power: over their neighbors, over the cruel whims of nature, etc. This people has to be strongly devoted to each other or they die out, period. If this devotion is unique, for instance if they are surrounded by peoples further behind (or further ahead) in the asabiyyah cycle, they rise to prominence in the world: conquering their neighbors, as you mentioned advancing in art and science… but complacency sets in, they lose their solidarity, and they are vanquished by the next people.

    ibn Khaldun wrote at the time of the Mongol invasions, with the perspective of the initial and astonishing success of the Islamic empire. To the current point, he was also aware of the rise of fundamentalism as the initial empire had declined and fragmented, finally leaving it vulnerable to the fresh solidarity of the Mongols. The Sharia which had originated as a dynamic revolutionary force became stagnant and unchangeable. Reformers wanted to do away with all medieval accretions and go back to the fundamentals of Muhammad and the early Islamic community. This sense of going back, of purification, is often inseparable from xenophobia, excessive conservatism, and inevitably violence.

    Here is a parallel: consider the American Tea Party. They want *the Constitution* which had originated as a dynamic revolutionary force to become stagnant. They want to do away with all the intervening accretions and go back to the fundamentals of Washington and the early American government. It is not a coincidence that the Tea Party suddenly came into existence and power during the first tremblings of America as *the* dominant force in the world. Congressman Dr. Paul, for instance, has been shrieking about reduced government for decades, no one ever made a party for him.

    We in America have enjoyed a literally unprecedented era of peace in the world and an astonishing era of civility at home. It is therefore very tempting to think we are somehow immune to the same cycle everyone else in the history of the world has gone through, to reject all cyclical theories in favor of a Hegelian infinite progress. And it is easy to argue that the world has fundamentally changed, that the old cycles were due to agrarian economies, or refusing to separate capital-r Religion from government, or lack of true democracy, or whatever. At the same time, however, it's hard to outright reject that this is all the arrogant myopia of the present, that we too will someday be reduced to such "backwards" status, looking up in resentment at China, or India, or Sweden, or whomever, and that our fringe elements will engage in desperate, spiteful violence the civilized world sneers at (…again).

  47. Colin Minich

    I guess when I boil this down, while I understand there is culture to respect, there are many aspects of this particular culture that I cannot and will not respect. This thin-skinned and ignorant attitude toward the notion that people have the ability to say/do these things in lands that permit them to do so and to now carry out such wanton aggression toward anyone and anything the way those black bloc anarchist losers do is something that people should condemn and try to work on. Truthfully, no other religion goes this bonkers with its sensitivity and to make an exception of all this starts to become a slippery slope that smarter Muslim leaders and terrorist leaders will take advantage of to poke the hornet nest. It becomes a point where the meaning of Islam, "submission," truly means submission to superstition, ignorance, and hypersensitivity. This "submission" is the same that puts Pakistani Christian girls on trial for stoning or worse simply for existing under a different notion of mindset. It's creating ultra-paranoid delusions that somehow past European incidents is excusing this behavior when it doesn't and that Israel is also behind this. There is no good excuse for this that puts blame on the West, because the West is simply exercising its internal freedom.

    This was a butthurt Egyptian Coptic who creates a crappy-ass film. This was not a governmental policy statement or a worldwide broadcast of a cartoon like The Simpsons. This reaction to this minor a detail is absolutely absurd of the Muslim world and will again accidentally validate the likes of Geert Wilders and Anders Brievik where their notions of Muslims "poisoning rational European Western values" will be not so heavily hated by crowds. While this film is tasteless and should be condemned for its awful nature this doesn't give these people the right to go bonkers, not even this superstitious and contemptible notion that the US is always out to get them. No, we're not, despite what you may think, because while we love oil, many other nations love your oil too and would invade if given the opportunities with far worse results.

    In short, the Middle East rioters will have to grow up eventually. We shouldn't have to accept this hypersensitivity. We should be able to question Islam and Mohammed in good academic taste, but we should not have to stomach their hypersensitivity within our own lands.

  48. Jake_Ackers

    Quality post. I think all the rumblings that the West is intolerant boils down to this: Radical Muslim on Muslim terrorism. Simple as that. They can argue that Christians represent the West or w/e but they cannot argue that other moderate/mainstream Muslims do. Radical Muslims attack everyone and anyone even their own for w/e reason.

  49. JonasB

    The Daily Show did a segment on this issue and Stewart made two good points that I hadn't thought of: there's a movie based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that was released in Egypt (released, as in, not just a trailer) and then there's the Life of Brian monty python movie mocking the story of Jesus (and there was also a guy who made crucifix popsicles with sacrament wine) and no one's embassies got bombed over that.

  50. Guest

    Right Jonas.
    In fact, if you look at the most popular NY Broadway musical right now you will find another easy parallel.
    'The Book of Mormon' sells to packed audiences, wins Tony after Tony, has been seen by celebrities, government officials and various other luminaries. It gets discussed in coffee houses and workplaces – yet is quite clearly and deliberately poking fun of Mormons and their religious ideas and symbols.
    And the Mormons' reaction – dignified and quiet.
    To condemn a very weak short video and yet laud a full-scale ongoing musical shows not merely hypocrisy from the US Government but a failure to grasp the notion of some basic freedoms.

  51. JonasB

    Unfortunately I can't really understand what the remedy could be. I think part of the reasons Christians/Mormons don't have similar reactions is because those first two religions are heavily grounded in America/Europe, countries which fostered this freedom of speech/expression. Closest possible solution for the Muslim thin-skin I can think of is to try and encourage freedom of expression within the middle eastern countries, so they can eventually grow to realize that stuff like Innocence of Muslims is annoying but not worth rioting over. This isn't going to happen anytime soon (soon in this case being the next generation) which isn't a pleasant thought.

  52. Virgil

    Well historically what happens is that the insults come so quickly that there isn't time to respond to them all and people slowly grow immune to them. This seems to have been what happened with Voltaire in France, for example.

  53. Guest

    See, I actually think Virgil is on to something.
    The current crisis is more likely to be solved by MORE antagonism rather than less.
    Not even the most radical islamist can be offended and riotous over repeated slurs from various sources over a long period of time. Eventually you have to save your powder for the bigger battles.
    So, the latest Muhammad cartoons should be followed by more and more insults until eventually Islam realises that insults are part of life, you can't spend your entire life screaming 'death to infidels' and 'behead those who offend the prophet' and just get on with things.

  54. Trenacker

    Obama inherited a "World Police" role the same way Bush and Clinton did: as a legacy of a still-muscular America looking for a reason to stay involved in shaping the world after 1991. And specific military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan were not Obama's fault. There's something utterly disingenuous about the conservatives who line up to blast Obama for failing to double down when it is more than clear that neither Congress nor the American people are willing to underwrite the costs of nation building.

    The specific security situation at a specific embassy is not a problem for the President. The decisions that led to inadequate security were taken at another level. Besides: the consular staff had consciously decided to remain in Benghazi despite the danger.

    The real problem here is that, although these societies matter quite a lot to us, they are several hundred years behind. And that's not peculiar to Islam. Look at how ethnic and religious relations broke down in the Balkans. Only a few decades ago, white Americans lynched black Americans for whistling at white women. Violence isn't a special feature of Islam.

    Also, you need to understand that this outrage is crafted, and that the participants resemble the Cancouver rioters: the grievance is as much boredom and a general outrage over authority anywhere.