Commentary Magazine


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So Much for “the World”

Remember how Barack Obama’s election to the U.S. Presidency was meant to stem the tide of anti-Americanism in the world? Well, he is not president yet, but Europe’s leftist commentariat is already losing patience with him. In today’s Guardian, Simon Tisdall has a silly article, warning Obama that he is already losing the battle of perceptions in the Muslim world by not taking a stance on the Gaza conflict:   “As the Gaza casualty headcount goes up and Obama keeps his head down, those sentiments are beginning to sound a little hollow. The danger is that when he finally peers over the parapet on January 21, the battle of perceptions may already be half-lost.”

Now there may be much to criticize in Barack Obama’s selectively applied “there is only one president at a time” silence.   But  what Simon Tisdall is saying goes beyond tactics and timing:

To maintain the hardline US posture of placing the blame for all current troubles squarely on Hamas, to the extent of repeatedly blocking limited UN security council ceasefire moves, would be to end all realistic hopes of winning back Arab opinion – and could have negative, knock-on consequences for US interests in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf. Yet if Obama were to take a tougher (some would say more balanced) line with Israel, for example by demanding a permanent end to its blockade of Gaza, or by opening a path to talks with Hamas, he risks provoking a rightwing backlash in Israel, giving encouragement to Israel’s enemies, and losing support at home for little political advantage.

Translated into common English, it means: if the U.S. continues to be manipulated by the evil Israel Lobby and Barack Obama does not operationalize the enlightened conclusions of the book named after said lobby, all decent Muslims in the world will turn their back on America, and that includes key regional allies. If he does, he’ll help Likud win Israel’s upcoming elections and lose support from the Jews in the U.S. (see above: THE LOBBY).

I am not sure how many American voters really bought into the campaign argument according to which Barack Obama’s election would improve America’s standing in the world. Those who did might wish to read Simon Tisdall’s piece as a warning: America can only win the world’s favor by ceasing to be America and embracing policies that do not serve its own national interests – an steep price tag, even for meeting the complex PR challenge of winning globalhearts and minds.