Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

Obama to Islam: We Are Not Your Enemy

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 27, 2009

President Obama (and doesn’t it feel good to read that instead of “President-elect Obama”?) gave an interview to al-Arabiya satellite TV and in the process declared to the Muslim world that the United States is not it’s enemy.

While from our perspective Obama is correct, this will obviously be a tough sell to many in the Islamic nations. The reality is that we must and will be continuing combat operations against or at least within Islamic nations for the foreseeable future– the devolution of Pakistan is going to be one of the major foreign policy story of the next two years along with the fall and Islamification of Mubarak’s Egypt, we are likely going to be seeing a lot more about major coordinated operations in Afghanistan, sooner or later the Special Ops types conducting operations in Indonesia and the Philippines are going to get picked up on by the main stream media, etc.

Is it unreasonable to ask the Islamic people to see us as anything other than an enemy? To put it closer to our own cultural experience, let’s ignore our strategic treaty alliance with the Aussies and suppose that China or India attacked Australia. Even though they wouldn’t be attacking the US, would we feel an enmity towards the Chinese? Does anyone recall a wave of Argentinian sympathy when the Falklands war was going on? Me either. Perhaps even more on point is the reaction of the Russians to the NATO operations against their Slavic brethren in Serbia. There was no compelling strategic linkage between Belgrade and Moscow, but that became the very identifiable pivot upon which the emotions of the Russian people turned on the West, facilitating the emergence of Putin’s dictatorial powers.

As an American, I do not view Islam as an enemy although I do see it as being the facilitator for the emergence of our enemies. It’s a fairly nuanced view and one that I realize many of our countrymen don’t share for a number of reasons, from positions that posit that Islam is indeed the enemy to the neo-Buddhist views of the far left that hold we have no enemy except ourself. In the Islamic nations, especially in the ones that are lacking in affluence and education, it is so much easier to simply hear the Pat Robertsons and Dick Cheneys of our nation who make noises about Islam being the enemy than it is to convey nuance just as in our nation, despite its affluence and education, it is so much easier to simply see binLaden as the face of Islam.

President Obama is making the right choices and broadcasting the right message; I am concerned, however, that any message, no matter how  correct, can not penetrate the cloud of static that has been fostered byt he previous administration. Now more than last month the United States is not the enemy of Islam; the question is if the often mentioned “Muslim Street” is even tuned in anymore.


3 Responses to “Obama to Islam: We Are Not Your Enemy”

  1. B-Fly said

    He’s doing what he said he would – extending an arm to any Muslim leaders willing to unclench their fists. I’m a pro-diplomacy lefty, but I’m no naive Buddhist. This is about realpolitik. If we can convince Muslim leaders (with or without the Muslim ‘street’) that it’s in their short- and/or long-term interest to deal with us, then they will. If we can’t, they won’t. As for the world’s Muslim people, there are a whole lot of us who want to give this brown-skinned, Muslim-descended American president a chance, and by the shows of respect he’s offered in his inaugural as well as in this interview, he’s leaving the non-radicalized hopeful. That gives the leaders of those nations a politically-protected opportunity to decide that it’s better for their security, their stability and their economies to work with the US rather than against it. This is particularly true the further you move from the epicenter of the Arab-Israeli conflict. When Obama speaks before hundreds of thousands if not millions in Jakarta in a few months, which I really think will happen, the Muslim world will really be watching, because that WILL be change. The whole idea is to give Muslim leaders enough political cover to allow them work with us for their own benefits. Obama is uniquely poised to provide that cover.

  2. B-Fly said

    P.S. I wish we could edit our comments. I re-read mine and see that I used “us” rather than “them” in describing “the world’s Muslim people”. LOL. I must really be in an Obama-inspired Kumbaya state of mind.

  3. Bob Kohm said

    I agree that Jakarta, if that’s really where it is, will rival or surpass Berlin (and that the Secret Service will lose at least two senior leaders to stress-related heart failure that day and int he run-up). I also agree that Muslim leaders will do their best to embrace this opening from the United States. What I am not so sure about is that the Muslim leaders have much if any impact on the non-state actors and the pure, independent public perceptions which have captured so much of the attention of the Islamic populace, both the segment you refer to as “radicalized’ and the rank and file of nations such as Pakistan or Indonesia. Can Obama really provide the leadership of Pakistan political cover? Dubai? Sure. Pakistan? I have my doubts. I hope you’re right.



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