Obama Offends 1.5 Billion Muslims

Writing at the San Francisco Chronicle, George Bisharat charges that Barack Obama unnecessarily offended the world’s Muslims by pandering to the Israel lobby.

On his first day as the presumptive Democratic candidate for president earlier this month, Barack Obama committed a serious foreign policy blunder. Reciting a litany of pro-Israeli positions at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he avowed: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

In promising U.S. support of Israel’s claims to all of Jerusalem, Obama couldn’t have picked a better way to offend the world’s 325 million Arabs and 1.5 billion Muslims.

What follows is a rather standard discourse on the Palestinian case, the need to be seen as an honest broker in the region, and so on. Given that there’s not much light between Obama and his Republican opponent, John McCain, on this one, it’s a purely academic exercise.

For the record, I’m sympathetic to Bisharat’s argument, as applied to American foreign policy in general more so than to Obama’s remarks in particular, but think the focus is misplaced. The issue is how best to advance U.S. interests, not how to make others happy. But taking the Likudist stance on Jerusalem as a starting point strikes me as decidedly unhelpful in that regard.

Also amusing: Bisharat is quoted, without comment, at little green footballs under the headline “Barack Obama Has Offended Billions of Muslims.” I was under the impression that offending Muslims was a good thing in LGF-land? Sure enough, it took until the 21st comment to get: “If there ever was a religion that needed offending it’s Islam.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John Burgess says:

    I noted with some bemusement the 180° turnabout of Arab media following that speech. Before it, the Arab media had seen Obama as the ‘not-Bush’, a qualification adequate to earn their support. Post-speech, he was seen as more of the same.

    Wishful thinking gets beaten up by reality most of the time. The reality here is that US foreign policy is continuous, across administrations, with occasion shifts in direction (like Nixon in China). It’s never revolutionary because the thinking that leads to policies is generally based on facts. Facts do not have party affiliation.

  2. arky says:

    Also amusing: Bisharat is quoted, without comment, at little green footballs under the headline “Barack Obama Has Offended Billions of Muslims.” I was under the impression that offending Muslims was a good thing in LGF-land? Sure enough, it took until the 21st comment to get: “If there ever was a religion that needed offending it’s Islam.”

    I never go into the comments of LGF. The site is actually quite good that way. Why go looking for offensive stuff in uncontrolled content?

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Barrack’s support of Israel is based on what? The speeches he gave to AIPAC? Certainly not on the historical record. All of his close associates are notedly not friends of Israel. I am beginning to believe people like James are taking Obama at his word and he is a politican seeking office. I know Obama is not a Muslim, inspite of his being born one, by their law.

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    I think this all speaks more to Obama’s inexperience than any serious policy position by Obama. In short, he was choosing his words out of ignorance, not out of conviction.

    But that does raise a question for those who get a thrill from the fresh breeze of the Obama candidacy. Given Obama’s continued display of a basic understanding of US diplomatic history (e.g. his defense of talking to enemies based on FDR and Kennedy), what happens if he is elected and starts making these sorts of gaffes as leader of the free world.

    I can think of at least two conflicts (Korea and first gulf war) that a very plausible argument can be made were started by diplomatic misspeak. How much more could Obama do with an untrained mind guiding his tongue.

  5. anjin-san says:

    How much more could Obama do with an untrained mind guiding his tongue.

    As opposed to McCain’s singing about bombing Iran?

    That did not offend a few Muslims?

  6. yetanotherjohn says:

    Anjin-san,

    I’m not talking about the diplomatic gaffe that offends people. I’m talking about the diplomatic gaffe that kills people.

    Obama cited Kennedy’s meeting with Kruschev as defense of “I’ll talk to anyone without preconditions”. What Obama misses is that that talk was a major contributor to the cuban missle crisis (arguably the closest the world ever got to an all out nuclear exchange). Korea and Gulf War 1 were started because the words used, when processed through the diplomatic filters, were interpreted as an invitation to attack a neighbor without US reprisal. Obama is showing repeatedly that he doesn’t have the experience to know where the verbal minefields are and doesn’t have enough self discipline to keep silent when he is speaking from ignorance.

    The most dangerous thing is not the hawk president who know what war is, but the dove president who is clueless and causes us to stumble into the war.

  7. anjin-san says:

    John…

    I see what you are saying. So let’s go beyond McCain’s singing career.

    As president, he would have to deal with the war in Iraq that Bush bumbled into. McCain does not seem to know the difference between Shia & Sunni. He needs Lieberman to whisper the Cliff’s Notes into his ear when discussing the situation in the middle east. He equates walking through a market in Iraq wearing Kevlar, surrounded by Marines with attack helicopters covering him from above with strolling down a street in Indiana.

    You don’t think that level of ignorance might get someone killed?

  8. Beldar says:

    There’s not much “light between” McCain and where Obama ended up. Indeed, where Obama ended up, after having to retract his comments at AIPC on the following day, is exactly the George W. Bush position on Jerusalem.

    The significance of the entire episode isn’t that it has permanently offended 1.5 billion Muslims, or pandered to some millions of Jews in the U.S. and abroad. It’s that Obama is a smug but incompetent neophyte on foreign policy matters who can’t manage to avoid a major diplomatic gaffe, even when he’s reading from a prepared text that presumably was vetted in advance by his foreign policy experts.