The reaction to the ‘film’ (collection of bizarre video and offensive dubbing, apparently) “The Innocence of Muslims”, which ostensibly included the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, is a tragedy brought about by ignorance by multiple parties, and we would foolish not to learn from it.
Of course the Weekly Standard thinks that the answer is for Obama to be more aggressive. They reveal a profound misunderstanding of diplomacy. Statements issued by the State Department about the misguided and destructive nature of the film in question are not aimed at the films makers, no matter how they may be phrased. Terry Jones and his ilk are sociopaths and cowards, taking pleasure from causing the deaths of other humans while hiding behind the laws and constitution of the very nation whose soldiers, diplomats, and overall security they are flagrantly putting at risk. There’s no sense talking to them – the best the State Department can do is distance the US and it’s policies from the most crude and offensive examples of our citizenry. That has been precisely their approach.
It’s not that the statements put out by government about these attacks are totally accurate. There is more behind this than an offensive bit of film – there are decades of ill will built up throughout the Muslim world that are the result of US policies. But it is certainly not a question of those policies being too weak-willed; rather, of those policies being stubborn, ethnocentric, imperialistic, cruel, or all of the above (see “Operation Iraqi Freedom”). Insisting that the people of Palestine have no interest in peace, or that Obama’s foreign policy problem is being too ‘weak’ in Syria or Iran, is not going to solve that problem. American foreign policy is not ‘weak’, though it is frequently foolish. Unfortunately, the best the conservative ‘pundits’ can offer is the policy equivalent of a circle of adolescent boys chanting ‘fight! fight! fight!’. If the Bush years taught us anything, it is that conservative politicians, regardless of what they say on the campaign trail, are profoundly influenced by the same ideas that inform publications like the Weekly Standard – ideas suggesting that the US needs to be more pigheaded, more aggressive, to think less about their foreign policy, not more. That’s most assuredly a policy we can’t afford.