President Obama has a much-publicized upcoming talk in Cairo that is rather pretentiously packaged as an address to the “Muslim world.” It is likely that, unlike the Bush speeches about the shared innate desire for freedom, and hope that the Arab autocracies would liberalize, this address will be a little more PC-ish, no doubt evoking his own fides of having a Muslim father, growing up for a bit in Indonesia, being other than a conventional president (you know the rest, fill in the blanks.) — as if he can separate himself from U.S. policy, as he not long ago outlined in his initial al-Arabiya interview.
Two or three considerations: First, the initial apology tour did not harvest any results — the Euros did not and will not send more troops in Afghanistan. They were not sympathetic about the financial meltdown or the need for massive trans-Atlantic stimulus. Neither Ortega, Castro, nor Chávez has shown any sign of moderation or greater tolerance of dissidents. Putin & Co. seem singularly unimpressed as they call for the end of the U.S. dollar’s primacy. No need to mention North Korea and Iran; their recent behavior speaks for itself.
Hopefully, Obama realizes that apologies in place A, have repercussions in place B, and new adventurism by North Korea or Iran may be predicated on perceptions that the U.S. — guilt-ridden and eager to join the world in condemning Bush’s old America — is now somewhat understanding of the brave new multilateral world when nations seek to flex their muscles.
Second, Obama should remember that the U.S. has given well over $70 billion in aggregate aid to the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Egyptians. We have tried to save the Afghans from Russian communism and again are pouring money into the country. Kuwait now exists thanks to the U.S. We alone chided the Russians on its flattening of Grozny, and bombed a Christian European country to save Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia when others could not or would not. We tried to save starving Muslims in Somalia, and the record goes on — including the sacrifice made on behalf of Iraqi democracy — and is sterling in comparison to the very unapologetic way China, India, or Russia has dealt with Muslims at home and abroad. No need, then, for yet another apology or “I was only three months old” distancing — or so we hope.
Between the upcoming June Cairo speech and the past mea culpas, there has been a new muscularity abroad of those ill-intended to the conventional interests of the United States, and Obama might consider that there is just possibly a connection — and that a president’s apology for the sins of his country apart from his own is already now a well-worn trope.
So let us hope that we hear something new-new, rather than the now-old-new. Otherwise, in about six months or so, we are going to see a frantic Jimmy-Carter-circa-1979 scramble to restore deterrence after Afghanistan, Iran, Central America, etc., that followed three years of moralistic, ego-driven, and self-righteous global sermonizing.