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Lockerbie—Another Profile in Conflict Avoidance

The outrage continues over the return of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi on “humanitarian grounds.” (Marty Peretz cracks: ” This, I suppose, is a new human right, perhaps soon to be certified by Mary Robinson, who now wears the honor of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”)

The Wall Street Journal notes the growing storm in Britain:

The more we learn about the British government’s negotiations over the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Megrahi, the more it appears we aren’t getting the whole story from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his cabinet. This weekend came revelations that as far back as 2007 British Justice Secretary Jack Straw was in detailed communication with his Scottish counterpart Kenny MacAskill about Libya’s demands that Megrahi be released.

And then there is the matter of the U.S. government’s reaction. While his advisers followed with stronger denunciations, Obama’s own reaction was the all-too-familiar understated and unimpressive expression of disappointment: “We thought it was a mistake.” Well, that’s telling ‘em. (The White House hastened to add that it “deeply regrets” the decision.)

The Obama administration’s blasé attitude has raised speculation that we were in on the “deal” or that we share suspicions long held by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and others that maybe the wrong terrorist was convicted. But I think the explanation is simplier. Obama never gets very outraged about outrageous things, because that would require he do something.  And, yes, there is a double standard about who gets the tongue-lashings. (Peretz again: “It is not as if Obama is usually shy with emotional oratory, although he is rather shy in admonishing Muslims, a difficulty he seems not to have with the Israelis.”)

If we were full-throated in our condemnation of Iranian show trials, or the continued Syrian facilitation of terrorists who kill our troops in Iraq, or human rights in China (or anywhere), Obama might be expected to address the source of the outrage and confront the miscreants. This he does not do. So he looks down, shuffles his feet, offers only the most tepid words, and moves on. But others, primarily our adversaries, are watching. They see an irresolute and unconcerned American president. And they will act accordingly.



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