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Dying to Be Popular By: Michael Radu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 19, 2007


It seems increasingly clear that America is more and more unpopular in the world – at least if criticism for each and every action of Washington, and for many cases of inaction as well, is an indication. At home, from former Administration official Richard Clarke to Sen. Kennedy, passing through Gen. Wesley Clark, not to mention the “newspaper of record,” we hear daily expressions of regret at this country’s isolation, alienation from the “international community” and “unilateralism.” Abroad more and more of our European “allies” – or at least their elites – seem to have made up their minds when having to chose between terrorism and American policies – and they prefer the former. All of which raises the interesting question whether those bemoaning Bush’s isolation also agree with its critics abroad, such as the following:

  • When at the end of last year Ethiopia intervened in Somalia at the request of that country’s internationally recognized but weak government, the London Guardian – The New York Times’ trans-Atlantic twin – published a piece by a certain Cameron Duodu on Jan. 5, 2007, who called Ethiopia: “America's new puppet. By its ill-judged invasion of Somalia, Ethiopia has become an accomplice in Bush's war on terror.” Never mind that the Islamists in Mogadishu have declared jihad against Ethiopia; just by agreeing with Washington, Africa’s oldest state has become a “puppet.” And this is not just the opinion of a Ghanaian radical ensconced and, probably, educated in the United Kingdom.
  • Indeed, writing in the generally more rational Times on Jan. 8, 2007, Martin Fletcher believes that “The Islamists were the one hope for Somalia.” Why? Because “for six months they achieved the near-impossible feat of restoring order to a country that appeared ungovernable… The [Islamic] courts were less repressive than our Saudi Arabian friends. They publicly executed two murderers (a fraction of the 24 executions in Texas last year), and discouraged Western dancing, music and films, but at least people could walk the streets without being robbed or killed. That trumps most other considerations. Ask any Iraqi.” Translation – Somali Talibans are morally superior to Texas
  • From such attitudes, it only follows that when U.S. forces bombed a Somali Islamist redoubt and apparently killed a certain Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, responsible for the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings of 1998 (over 200 dead, mostly African civilians), the “international community” was upset – for many reasons, none serious or honest. Thus, Jonathan Clayton, writing what pretended to be an “analysis,” claimed that “The danger is that the high loss of life reported and the likelihood that many non-al Qaeda sympathizers have been killed, including more moderate leaders of the defeated Union of Islamic Courts, could see the operation backfire spectacularly and unite Somalis against its new US-supported government.” Analysis: [US air strikes could backfire, Times Online, January 09, 2007]. Where the “moderate” UIC have hidden until now, we are not told; nor do we know why an air strike would make Somalis more violent than before – or more anti-American.
  • Such matters of simple logic did not prevent the French government to express its  "preoccupation" with US strikes, claiming that they “complicate the situation in Somalia. They could increase tensions already strong in that country”( L'intervention américaine en Somalie critiquée, LEMONDE.FR avec AFP | 10.01.07 ). Why Paris believes that the situation in Somalia is not already “complicated” is a well kept secret – unless we consider Paris’ customary need to oppose anything “Anglo Saxon” – from McDonalds to free trade.
  • Nevertheless, and contrary to the usual French delusions, this time Paris did reflect the “international community’s” views.  Thus, the normally conservative Madrid daily ABC  wrote that the U.S. continues to bomb Somalia despite international criticisms, such as that of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said to be, like the French, “preoccupied” that the air strikes could lead to a “renewal of the conflict” and thus affect the entire Horn of Africa region.” [EE.UU. continúa bombardeando por tercer día consecutivo Somalia a pesar de las críticas internacionales, EFE/Mogadiscio, ABC January 10, 2007.]
  • And then there is the African Union, an organization whose impotence is only matched by its empty rhetoric. Thus, AU President Oumar Konaré, true to custom, “invited all parties involved to refrain from all actions susceptible to complicate the situation and compromise the chances of success of the efforts made by the international community” while repeating calls for a “concerted action” by the members of the above mentioned “community” [quoted in L'intervention américaine]. Presumably Mr. Konaré is referring to such “concerted actions” that led to satisfactory solutions in Darfur, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and indeed Somalia ever since 1991.
  • If there is one thing the “international community” or its self-appointed spokesmen in Europe cannot refrain from, it is self-righteousness and dubious standards disguised as “morality.” When a huge, and growing majority of European elites believes, like The Guardian’s George Monbiot, that “Routine and systematic torture is at the heart of America's war on terror,” [The Guardian, December 12, 2006] and the defense of the terrorists at Guantanamo has been the cause celebre among bien pensants for years, there should be no surprise that the air strikes in Somalia are also condemned because “civilians” may have been killed. Who the “civilians” hidden in the lawless, Islamist infested Ras Kamboni swamps of southern Somalia are, if any, nobody knows, or could know – but that did not stop Reuters and AP from giving numbers (even that “newly weds” were among the victims), based on “local witnesses” – perhaps the Islamist themselves or their upset cousins, whose livelihood (smuggling of arms and narcotics) have been rudely disrupted?
  • But let us believe, contrary to some of their past record (in Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, etc), that AP and Reuters’ “local witnesses” exist and are honest – why would the risk to their safety trump the chance of killing the known mass murderers of hundreds of Africans in Kenya and Tanzania? Perhaps because such a view contradicts the established pattern of “human rights” groups in Europe that put the “rights” of known, often tried and sentenced Islamist terrorists ahead of the security of peaceful European citizens. Or, this is precisely what those groups do as a matter of principle by preventing their deportation to their countries of origin, where their “rights” may be violated.

Are these the kind of opinions Washington should share? Should the U.S. try to “improve” its image among the Europeans, AU, UN, and other reputable members of the “international community” based on these opinions? Clearly there are parts of American culture already joined at the hip with the Monbiots, Duodus and Amnesty – but most Americans, at least those who are informed, probably prefer “unilateralism” if that involves serious punishment for terrorism – rather than the 15 years maximum sentence common in Europe.

The U.S. should reject such strange logic. If the “international community,” as defined above, does hold such views perhaps it is not good for our posterity to agree with them.

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Michael Radu is Senior Fellow and Co - Chair, Center on Terrorism and Counterterrorism, at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.


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