Mideast, Getting Colder
A tale of two damaging American presidents.


Winter is “fast approaching” in the Arab world, Ruthie Blum warns.

One U.S. president “enabled the rise of and spread of a pernicious form of radicalism that threatens the globe to this day.” That president was Jimmy Carter, who “opened the door to this radicalism in Iran three decades ago.” But it is our current president, she contends, whose “policies are laying out the welcome mat for it to flourish in the rest of the Middle East today.” Blum talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about her new book  To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the “Arab Spring” — and about the Mideast’s past, present, and future.


: Was the presidential election in the United States a disappointment for Israel?

RUTHIE BLUM: It was certainly a disappointment for all those in Israel — including, no doubt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who understand how bad President Barack Obama has been for the West as a whole. Since Israel is on the front lines of the global war against the West, all Jews and Israelis should have been disappointed by the results of the American election. But this is not the case. In fact, most American Jews supported Obama, as did the Israeli Left. Nor is “disappointment” the issue here. I am convinced that the U.S. presidential-election results are bad for Israel and for America.

: We do seem to be standing by Israel for the moment?

BLUM: It is true that the Obama administration did not throw Israel under the proverbial bus during the recent Gaza operation. It was, indeed, a pleasant surprise. Less surprising is its having elevated Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi to ill-deserved international respectability. Even worse, by brokering a cease-fire between Israel and a terrorist organization, the United States placed the two sides of the imbalanced conflict on a par. So I don’t really see America as standing by Israel at the moment any more than I see it standing by itself.

: What was the recent flare-up in Gaza about? Will the cease-fire hold?

BLUM: The flare-up was the result of Israel’s finally having had enough of the Iran-backed missile fire from Gaza, and Israel’s targeted assassination of one key terror master. It is highly unlikely that the cease-fire will hold, since Hamas has no compunction about making deals and breaking them. Furthermore, Hamas’s aims are neither local nor based on territorial issues with Israel. No temporary truce for media or State Department consumption will put a dent in the terrorists’ ultimate goal of global jihad.

: You saw Morsi’s power grab coming, didn’t you?

BLUM: As much as I love being right, in this case, it doesn’t make me happy, since I consider it dangerous. Morsi is a Muslim Brotherhood honcho. His election following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak was the manifestation of what the so-called Arab Spring is all about — the radical Islamization of the entire Middle East. As for Morsi’s additional power grab following the cease-fire: Well, what can you expect? The United States of America gave him a major stamp of approval, in addition to a commitment to provide him with massive amounts of money. That his response to this was to clamp down on the Egyptian judiciary, to make it impossible for the legal system to overrule his decisions, makes perfect sense in the radical-Muslim mind-frame.

: What does Egypt’s future look like?

BLUM: There is speculation that the renewal of demonstrations in Tahrir Square — this time against Morsi for stealing even more power than he already had — will bring about his ouster. I highly doubt it. Nor are the crowds protesting his latest moves a gathering of democracy-seekers. In fact, while all these ostensible Facebook users were out in the streets of Cairo this week, they managed to get in a lot of molestation of women — something that happens every time there is a rally in Egypt. Freedom is not what they’re after; it is, rather, a continual struggle over which group gets to become the robbers of the freedoms of other groups.

LOPEZ: Where did “leading from behind” come from, and could it ever work?

BLUM: This is something that Obama bragged about, when he let NATO do the work of helping the rebels in Libya to topple Moammar Qaddafi. It is appalling that the leader of the Free World should boast about taking a backseat to other nations. But then, this is the president who told the world that America is not special and that each country considers itself special in its own way. In any case, we have already seen the abysmal consequences of such an attitude. Qaddafi was sodomized to death by mobs who relied on NATO. And now the U.S. administration is involved in a major cover-up surrounding the slaughter of the American ambassador and others in Benghazi.