PRESIDENT OBAMA SEEMS TO BE TAKING SIDES
IN A DISPUTE THAT GOES BACK TO EARLY ISLAM
Trolling the lesser known streams of Internet punditry — home waters to me, since I’m pretty lesser known myself — one occasionally comes upon some question of great clarity and relevance. I found one such on an obscure website called Political Outcast. Permit me to share it…
“Why is the U.S. risking war in the Middle East to save Muslims but not Christians?”
Good question, inasmuch as Christianity is rapidly being eradicated in some of its most historic territories, the eastern shore lands of the Mediterranean (what used to be called the Levant) as well as Turkey, Iraq and North Africa — lands that were under the cross for centuries before the appearance of Islam.
Interesting as it is, the question pretty much answers itself. This present Administration will risk nothing for the sake of Christians, since it is the spawn of a social/political/intellectual movement that is fundamentally hostile to religion and particularly annoyed at the historical dominance of Judeo-Christian culture.
A more pertinent question would be:
Why has President Obama committed himself to the support of Sunni radicalism?
It is clear that’s what he’s done. In Libya, in Egypt, and now in Syria, the United States government has aided and encouraged forces that are allied with, or dominated by, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and other Sunni jihadist groups.
We tend to think of Islam as a monolithic institution, but it is not. Like Christianity, it’s a complex tapestry of religious thoughts and traditions, with two main branches from which numerous shoots have sprouted.
The two principal Muslim entities are Shia Islam and Sunni Islam. Shiites and Sunnis parted ways early on over a dispute about who should succeed Muhammad as leader of the new faith. In the centuries since, each group has developed a sophisticated body of beliefs and customs that are somewhat at variance from the other’s, and each claims that its doctrines more accurately reflect true Islamic teaching.
What we are witnessing today in the Middle East is essentially a clash between these two great schools of Muslim thought, complicated by other factors, including:
- Baathism (or Pan-Arab Socialism), the last-standing representative of which is Syria’s Bashar al-Assad;
- ethnic division, such as the distinction between Arabs and ethnic Persians (Iranians), and between Turks and Kurds, as well as a multiplicity of tribal identities;
- the map, with its national boundaries drawn somewhat arbitrarily by the European colonial powers when they ran things in the Middle East;
- and oil, with a lot of simmering resentments over who has most of it.
Of course, there’s also the presence of Israel, a Jewish state sitting on land that was once part of the Ottoman Empire and which many Muslims believe still should be.
The United States has inserted itself into this tumultuous mix on several occasions, most notably in the Gulf War, when we kicked Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and the Iraq War, when we kicked him out altogether. We have generally (though not always successfully) attempted to tread a fairly careful path between all these factons, especially the Shiite-Sunni split.
President Obama seems to have taken a different course, however. And the question is: Why?
Here we can speculate wildly.
Is there an emotional affinity lingering from his years in Indonesia, the majority of whose population is Sunni? While the President stoutly maintains his attachment to Christianity (albeit of a somewhat idiosyncratic type — i.e. 20 years under the ministrations of a very angry Rev. Jeremiah Wright), he has waxed poetic about childhood memories of Muslim life, particularly the melodic lure of the call to prayer.
Or perhaps there’s a sense of gratitude for assistance with law school expenses which appears to have come from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal? (As reported by Newsmax, among other media, back during the 2008 presidential campaign, this help was arranged through connections involving former Manhattan Borough president Percy Sutton.) Saudi Arabia, of course, is not only the spiritual center of the Muslim world, it is the heartland of Wahhabism, Sunni Islam’s most fervent manifestation.
A third possibility is that the President sees in his youthful exposure to Sunni Islam and current support for Sunni ambitions a strategic advantage that can counter the machinations of Iran’s ruling Shiite cabal.
Whatever his experiences and inclinations, Barack Obama is now the President of the United States. And it’s not unreasonable to ask if this apparent Sunni skew serves U.S. interests in the Middle East.
We do have interests in the Middle East. Vital interests. And it looks like we’re going to be in a shooting war, of whatever scope, to assert them.
Will it work? Now there’s a really big question.
Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post isn’t hopeful. An American who emigrated to Israel, Glick is a brilliant analyst of international relations, especially as they play themselves out in her rather violent part of the world. Her take is that President Obama’s erratic and hesitant approach to the Syria crisis amounts to little more than “political theater,” primarily for domestic consumption, and has reduced to pretty much zero the odds of U.S. military force having any meaningful impact — especially as regards Iran…
“Iran achieved a strategic achievement by exposing the US as a paper tiger in Syria. With this accomplishment in hand, the Iranians will feel free to call Obama’s bluff on their nuclear weapons project. Obama’s ‘shot across the bow’ response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons in a mass casualty attack signaled the Iranians that the US will not stop them from developing and deploying a nuclear arsenal.
“Policy-makers and commentators who have insisted that we can trust Obama to keep his pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons have based their view on an argument that now lies in tatters. They insisted that by pledging to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Obama staked his reputation on acting competently to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. To avoid losing face, they said, Obama will keep his pledge.
“Obama’s behavior on Syria has rendered this position indefensible. Obama is perfectly content with shooting a couple of pot shots at empty government installations. As far as he is concerned, the conduct of air strikes in Syria is not about Syria, or Iran. They are not the target audience of the strikes. The target audience for US air strikes in Syria is the disengaged, uninformed American public.”
Glick’s view is definitely not encouraging.
The Egyptian military is in the process of undoing the damage wrought by our support of Sunni radicals in toppling Hosni Mubarak — one consequence of which has been a massive persecution of the Coptic Christians, some 15 percent of the Egyptian population. If we make a similar blunder in Syria, strengthening the hand of an Al Qaeda-dominated insurgency and/or encouraging Iranian nuclear mischief, who will undo that?
And there’s an ironic reflection by Daniel Greenfield on how the current liberal cadre finds itself supporting the Obama position on Syria by raising arguments first proposed on Iraq by their nemesis, George W. Bush. What goes around comes around…