Dangerous naivete: Obama's policies allow radicals to rise in the Middle East

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His election would spread democracy and respect for the United States throughout the Middle East, President Barack Obama believed.

It hasn't worked out that way. Since 2009, the percentages of Middle Easterners who have a favorable opinion of America, and of President Obama, have declined by 40 percent and 37 percent, respectively, according to Pew's annual poll.

The "Arab Spring" has produced new breeding grounds for terrorists, said the head of MI5, Britain's counterintelligence service.

• Last Sunday, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood won in what was the first -- and may be the last -- democratic presidential election in Egyptian history. The Muslim Brotherhood are Islamists, many of whom advocate the worldwide imposition of Islamic law.

"Amid the euphoria of the Tahrir Square revolution last year," there were two sets of pessimists, wrote Richard Spencer, a Cairo-based correspondent for the London Telegraph. "The first said the Muslim world was unsuited to democracy, and some form of dictatorship would reassert itself. The second said that democracy would sweep in the Islamists. I don't suppose even the worst pessimists thought Egypt would end up with both, but that, on the face of it, is what we have now," Mr. Spencer wrote.

• NATO waged war last year in Libya to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The result, according to StrategyPage, is chaos.

"The situation in the country gets worse by the day," wrote Con Coughlin, foreign editor of the London Telegraph. "A return to democracy and the return of law [is] nothing but a distant dream."

• Nearly 15,000 have been killed in a brutal civil war in Syria that pits forces loyal to dictator Bashir Assad against at least 20 rebel groups.

The war is going badly for Mr. Assad. There have been mass defections from the Syrian army -- including at least one general -- the London Daily Mail reported last Sunday.

Since Syria is Iran's foremost ally, this should be good news for the United States But Islamists dominate among the rebels, who can be as cruel as Mr. Assad.

Often, the only choices we have in the Muslim world are between bad and worse. Gadhafi was, and Mr. Assad is, a supporter of terrorism. But they're secular dictators who accepted limits ignored by ardent jihadists.

The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was a reformer whose "entourage of close advisers is composed of moderate, progressive individuals," Princeton Prof. Richard Falk wrote in The New York Times in 1979. President Jimmy Carter believed that, too, so he helped push the Shah of Iran off the Peacock Throne.

Once he consolidated power, Khomeini took off his mask. Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's president-elect, is still wearing his. He will protect the rights of Christians, he promised. That was prudent, because he hasn't assumed office yet. But it almost certainly isn't true. During the campaign, Mr. Morsi told supporters: "Jihad is our path, and death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration."

The Muslim Brotherhood was mentored by Adolf Hitler, who knew it was easier to mount a coup from inside. The Nazis got inside the German government via the ballot box. But Hitler believed in one man, one vote -- one time.

"The Muslim Brotherhood has not changed; only Western opinion of it has," Middle East expert Raymond Ibrahim believes.

President Carter learned the hard way that Islamists lie to nonbelievers. There is, alas, little indication that Mr. Obama has learned anything from the events of the last three years. The utter failure to date of his outreach efforts hasn't shaken Mr. Obama's confidence that the force of his personality will convert Islamists into democrats.

"The time has come for the United States to give up on the notion of democracy in the Middle East," wrote Robert Merry in the National Interest. "The country is starting to look silly with so many of its intellectuals clinging to a notion that has no basis in reality."

If our feckless leaders keep facilitating the spread of radical Islam, "looking silly" will be the least of the consequences.

"If trends continue, we may see an arc of Islamic 'republics' from Turkey all the way through the Middle East to the Atlantic Ocean, all brought to power through the toppling of corrupt authoritarians, followed by 'free elections,' followed by subversion of the revolution, Iranian-style," worries historian Victor Davis Hanson.

jackkelly

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1476). First Published July 1, 2012 12:00 AM


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