Quick Decisions, Quirky Statements
By: Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq.
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 22, 2009
No informed person would deny that President Barack H. Obama is very bright and very well formally educated. Whether those attributes are sufficient to justify a rash of quick, and often major, decisions, or a rash of public statements, both at home and abroad, at best is debatable. No President of the United States has traveled so extensively worldwide, much less so soon after taking office - and particularly not in Moslem lands.
Victor Davis Hanson, Ph.D. (classics, Stanford University), is versatile: scholar, pedagogue, historian, newspaper columnist, Stanford University Hoover Institution classicist and historian, and a 2008 recipient of one of the prestigious Bradley Foundation Prizes. Hence, Dr. Hanson’s recent Washington Times column, “Obama’s history is off,” is entitled to great weight. Indeed, the Hanson critique is so basic that even such as this columnist, with a mere B.A. in history, readily recognizes the Hanson accuracy and correlating Obama inaccuracy.
For a self-styled “student of history” surely the President could more accurately reflect history. Better yet, he arguably could spend less time expounding from foreign shores. He is, after all, merely, if mightily, President of the United States, not of the world.
The details are irrelevant and herein even more summarized than in the excellent Hanson column, these limited to the President’s recent very public speech in Cairo - Egypt, not Illinois. Among other examples Hanson so acutely cites are the following:
Contemporary Middle Eastern tensions do not arise from the legacy of European colonialism, the Cold War or either, as the President erroneously asserted. Rather, they arise predominantly from centuries of Ottoman dominance and 20th Century Ba’athism, Pan-Arabism, Nasserism and the like. Further, one might wonder about the President’s motive in blaming Europeans.
The Obama historical restatement erroneously confers upon Islam “. . . the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment . . . .” Elementary familiarity with history reminds us that Moslem influence did not introduce Greek and Latin culture into Europe as manifested in the Renaissance. Rather, it was introduced by Byzantines speaking Greek and escaping the Islamic Turks; and by European scholars, lay and clerical, researching and promoting the classics. Only “Arabic” mathematics, in lieu of Roman numerals, and far away from the Chaldean unit of 12, are attributable to what might be termed an Islamic influence.
The Obama misstatement about the “Islam[ic] . . . proud tradition of tolerance . . .” citing the Inquisitional “ . . . history of Andalusia and Cordoba . . .” is so mistakenly attributed as almost to be a morbid joke. The Spanish Inquisition began in 1478; in 1492 the few Moslems remaining in Spain were expelled. Long before 1478, Christians had reconquered Cordoba. However one views the Inquisition, it had nothing to do with an Islamic “proud tradition of tolerance.”
One other example may suffice or perhaps already be surfeit in this Obama chronology of historical error. As though it were helpful for American relations abroad to rehash the tragic travail of American slavery, the Obama version excludes violence as the cause of rectification. What about the Civil War, that tragedy of some 600,000 American deaths, mostly Caucasian not Negroid, to achieve a result which humanity and economics should have accomplished with nobody killed. The President evidently forget about that.
Congratulations to Victor Davis Hanson for his exposé. The President might consider foregoing the revising of history and, better yet, avoiding somewhat “pontifical” tours of Islamic and other foreign lands.
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