The official administration reaction (cf. Jay Carney or Susan Rice) to these upheavals in the Middle East — that an obscure video that has been available on public media for weeks just happened to set off thousands of rioters on the anniversary of 9/11 in an area otherwise largely pro-American and not at all angry with the U.S., the White House, or American foreign policy or energized by a sense of American diffidence and decline — is becoming absurd. Do they grasp that in the upcoming days, no one — here or abroad — is going to believe their self-serving narrative of a sudden spontaneous reaction to a video by coincidence on 9/11?
And the media’s reaction — that the real story is Mitt Romney’s supposedly wrong and opportunistic effort to point out that this chaos is due to disengagement and a lack of U.S. leadership — is even worse. Obviously, when a U.S. president serially trashes the policies of his predecessor in the Middle East, promises that his own person will reinvent Arab-American relations, damns but then embraces and expands the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism policies, announces defense cuts and a pivot away from the Middle East while spiking the ball about the death of bin Laden, the cyberwar with Iran, and the Predator targeted assassinations, weaves mythologies about Islam’s greatness while embracing the Muslim Brotherhood and seeking reset with the Iranian theocracy — all that invites a classical set-up for radical Islamists to readjust the political landscape of the Middle East at American expense, adding insult to our injury. Indeed, to reread the Cairo speech now is painful — the falsities, the naiveté, and the arrogance of it all.
As for the media’s feigned outrage over political opportunism during national struggles, I seem to remember that they were largely quiet when in the midst of the critical surge in Iraq, the present secretary of state and then–presidential candidate essentially alleged on national television that General Petraeus was lying (“the reports that you provide to us really require a willing suspension of disbelief”), as the New York Times ran (at a discount) an ad hominem (contrary to their stated policy) “General Betray Us” hit ad from Moveon.org. So at least please spare us the sanctimonious sermonizing about the need for closing ranks in times of Middle East conflict.