Reason #25:  The Cultural Confusion of Barack Obama

Categories:   Malignant arrogance, debilitating narcissism, no foreign policy experience or understanding, inability/unwillingness to recognize or accept reality.

Mr. Obama’s tendency toward runaway self-reference is well known, but a recent article by Terence P. Jeffrey may well raise the bar: 

Speaking in Sandusky, Ohio on July 5, President Barack Obama used the first-person pronouns ‘I’ and ‘me’ a combined 117 times in a speech that lasted about 25 minutes and 32 seconds.

Obama used ‘I’ 98 times and ‘me’ 19 times, according to a transcript of the speech posted by the White House. A videotape of the speech posted on YouTube shows that Obama spoke for about 25-and-a-half minutes.

During this speech, Obama used ‘I’ or ‘me’ approximately once every 13.09 seconds.

To be scrupulously fair, the article noted that in a recent speech by Mitt Romney:

Romney used ‘I’ 47 times and ‘me’ 8 times. During the just over 18 minutes that Romney spoke at Salem, he used ‘I’ or ‘me’ approximately once every 19.87 seconds.

All politicians tend to be more self-referential than the average citizen, but Mr. Obama has clearly descended to new depths of self-interest and self-love.  But this character flaw speaks to a much more serious problem: Mr. Obama’s preoccupation with himself and his unwillingness, perhaps even inability, to understand and act upon the reality of other cultures to the benefit of American and her allies.

Americans in general tend to view the cultures of others through a distinctly American, democratic lens.  We seem to think that because peoples of others nations wear blue jeans, listen to rock and roll, watch American movies and host the occasional McDonald’s, they are essentially slightly different looking Americans with odd languages and quaint customs.

For most of us, such skewed perceptions cause no real difficulty.  However, when those making such common mistakes are diplomats—or the President of the United States—things are rather more serious.  In fact, they can be deadly.

In an article entitled “Resigning to Iran,” at the March 1, 2012 edition of National Review Online, Robert Joseph, a former undersecretary for arms control and international security (2005-2007) observed:

After more than ten years of diplomacy and duplicity, we are at an endgame with Iran. Only days after the second failed visit by IAEA inspectors in a month, the latest Agency report records substantial progress in Iran’s nuclear-enrichment program. This includes the start of operations at the new, and well-defended, Fordow site, which is producing 20-percent-enriched uranium, allowing a clear path to breakout. Most significant, the alarming questions raised about weaponization in the November report have not been answered. Instead, Tehran has continued to stonewall, denying access to the people, facilities, and documentation necessary to address the inspectors’ concerns.

In many respects, Joseph has an uncommonly clear grasp of Iranian intentions:

Time is not on our side, no matter how hard we may try to convince ourselves otherwise. Sanctions are taking an increasingly heavy toll on Iran’s government and economy, but there is no evidence that they are having any effect on the nuclear program.

Joseph suggests several primary reasons why sanctions are having no apparent effect—if the goal is preventing Iran from going nuclear:

Perhaps even more important, these leaders may well have concluded that they do not intend to share Qaddafi’s fate. The logic is simple: Qaddafi gave up his nuclear-weapons program; the West intervened in Libya; and he was hunted down and killed by his own people. The lesson: Possession of nuclear weapons will allow the regime to pursue its aggressive agenda in the region and repress its own people without threat of outside intervention. Supreme Leader Khamenei underlined this point by stating that, unlike Libya, Iran will not give in to Western pressure but will increase its nuclear capabilities ‘against the wish of the enemy.’

But isn’t it worth it to try negotiating one last (last, last, last…) time?  Again, Joseph demonstrates remarkably clear thinking:

It is in this context that Tehran has recently renewed calls for negotiations, an old but effective tactic. Iran has repeatedly dangled the prospect of negotiations before the United States and others whenever it appeared useful to buy time or divide opposing coalitions. But negotiation has always meant negotiating about the negotiations; Iran has never been willing to deal in good faith over its nuclear program. Why would this time be different from the ten, eleven, or twelve previous times?

Why indeed?  Yet Mr. Obama seems immune to common sense.  Joseph writes:

Despite many high-profile statements about not allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons, the administration appears to have adopted the message put out by Iran’s leaders, that the cost of a military strike would be prohibitively high. While the administration will seek to impose additional sanctions, it now seems willing to live with the failure of its policy and rely on the belief that a nuclear-armed Iran can be deterred and contained. It is this core belief that defines the difference between U.S. and Israeli perspectives and policies. For Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat; Israel cannot exist in such a world. Our president seems already resigned to it.

It is possible that Barack Hussein Obama, a man who has repeatedly claimed special prescience in international affairs, and particularly the affairs of Muslims, because he lived in Indonesia as a child (though he was never a Muslim, no sir, despite being born to a Muslim father and despite being named for a Muslim holy martyr), also falls prey to our common American cultural misperceptions?  Could he believe that the Iranian leadership actually cares about the well-being of the Iranian people—the same people the regime imprisons, tortures and murders every day–and nation, and like the leaders of the defunct Soviet Union, can be deterred by the credible threat of our nuclear arsenal?  Could he actually believe that the Iranians respect or fear him?  Can he possibly believe that when Mahmoud Amadinejad threatens to destroy Israel and America that he is only engaging in hyperbolic rhetoric and that “death to America” really means something closer to “we’re ready to deal?”

While Mr. Obama and various members of his cabinet have openly longed for the kinds of dictatorial powers enjoyed by the Chinese communists, even Mr. Obama recognizes some minor restraints on his power.  Despite admiring and reflexively siding with despots, could Mr. Obama make the fundamental mistake of believing they too have restraints on their powers?  Could he actually believe that because the Iranians hold elections, there are elements of democracy at work with its checks and balances?  And above all, could he actually believe his all-carrot and no stick approach has any hope of creating peace?  Consider this report from July 7, 2012: 

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran will block the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the passageway through which a fifth of the world’s oil flows, if its interests are seriously threatened, a senior Iranian military commander said Saturday.

‘We do have a plan to close the Strait of Hormuz,’ state media quoted Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi as saying Saturday. ‘A Shiite nation [Iran] acts reasonably and would not approve interruption of a waterway … unless our interests are seriously threatened,’ Press TV quoted him as saying.

Consider too, this report from July 9, 2012: 

DUBAI – Iran said on Tuesday it had successfully tested medium-range missiles capable of hitting Israel in response to threats of military action against the country, Iranian media reported.

Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to force it to halt its disputed nuclear energy program. The United States also has military force as a possible option but US officials have repeatedly encouraged the Israelis to be patient while new economic sanctions are implemented

The Islamic Republic announced the ‘Great Prophet 7’ missile exercise on Sunday after a European embargo against Iranian crude oil purchases took full effect following another fruitless round of big power talks with Tehran.

Iran’s official English-language Press TV said the Shahab 3 missile with a range of 1,300 km (800 miles) – able to reach Israel – was tested along with the shorter-range Shahab 1 and 2 and other missile classes.

‘The main aim of this drill is to demonstrate the Iranian nation’s political resolve to defend vital values and national interests,’ Revolutionary Guards Deputy Commander Hossein Salami was quoted by Press TV as saying.

But what of Mr. Obama’s religion?  How does that inform his actions?  He claims to be Christian, yet was clearly born a Muslim.  I explored this topic in some detail in a February 8 article, which concludes:

There is substantial evidence to believe that Mr. Obama’s assertion of a conventionally Christian motivation for what are clearly socialist, arguably unconstitutional, political policies is nothing more than the rhetoric convenient to the moment and Mr. Obama’s purposes rather than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  This would surely be consistent for a man whose most profound beliefs change to suit the occasion and who arguably recognizes none greater than Barack Hussein Obama.

Christianity is a matter of the transformation of the individual heart and soul and their journey beyond this Earthly existence.  Mr. Obama’s expression of faith would seem far more a matter of temporal—and temporary—political advantage.  This is for us to judge. The rest is between Mr. Obama and the Lord.

It is entirely possible that despite his affinity for Islam and those who destroy in its name, Mr. Obama’s perspective on faith has far more to do with aggrandizing himself.  Faith, like all else in this world, revolves around Barack Hussein Obama, and must be subordinated to his benefit.  He may well be utterly unable to comprehend the messianic beliefs of the Iranian leadership, no matter how frequently, fervently and clearly they state them, because he cannot conceive of anyone’s actions actually being motivated and directed by religious belief.  After all, faith is what the rubes in flyover country cling to, and for Mr. Obama, just another occasionally useful political tool.

And what are those messianic beliefs Mr. Obama may be incapable of understanding? Con Coughlin, writing in The Telegraph, explained: 

Not since the prime minister of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada presented an address claiming that UFOs posed a mortal threat to the future of mankind has the United Nations been treated to such a bizarre spectacle.

Many people believe the greatest threat to world peace concerns Iran’s nuclear programme, so there was understandably great interest at this week’s general assembly in New York when the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, took the platform.

But instead of seeking to reassure delegates that Iran’s nuclear intentions were purely benign, Mr Ahmadinejad took advantage of his official visit to a country deemed – in the lexicon of the Iranian Revolution – “the Great Satan” to embark on a discourse about the wonders of the 12th Imam.

For those unacquainted with the more obscure tenets of Islamic theology, the 12th Imam is held by devout Shi’ite Muslims to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed who went into “occlusion” in the ninth century at the age of five and hasn’t been seen since.

The Hidden Imam, as he is also known by his followers, will only return after a period of cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed – what Christians call the Apocalypse – and then lead the world into an era of universal peace.

Rumours abound of Mr Ahmadinejad’s devotion to the 12th Imam, and last year it was reported that he had persuaded his cabinet to sign a “contract” pledging themselves to work for his return…

For many of the hundreds of delegates who attended Mr Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN this week, his discourse on the merits of the 12th Imam finally brought home the reality of the danger his regime poses to world peace.

Rather than allaying concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Mr Ahmadinejad spoke at length about how a Muslim saviour would relieve the world’s suffering.

The era of Western predominance was drawing to a close, he said, and would soon be replaced by a ‘bright future’ ushered in by the 12th Imam’s return. ‘Without any doubt, the Promised One, who is the ultimate Saviour, will come. The pleasing aroma of justice will permeate the whole world.’

Coughlin’s article was first published in 2007.  Iranian thinking and rhetoric have not changed since.  To put it bluntly, the Iranian leadership—absolutely unaccountable to the Iranian people and caring nothing for their welfare—is actively working to bring about Armageddon, which they have no doubt will cause the return of the 12th Imam.  When they have nuclear weapons, they will use them.

Many Americans make the mistake of assuming that because they desire peace, all human beings desire peace.  Because they would not risk the deaths of millions of their countrymen, the leaders of other nations share the same concerns for their countrymen.  Mr. Obama apparently believes that he alone is capable of transforming the world, that his extraordinary being and rhetoric transcend reason and faith, even to the extent that Iranian fanatics will discard their belief in the 12th Imam.

Consider the words of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani in 2001: 

The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would destroy Israel completely, while [a nuclear attack] against the Islamic countries would only cause damage.

It would appear that Mr. Rafsanjani is far more pragmatic and rational–in a profoundly disturbing sense–than Mr. Obama is capable of being.  In the same article, Mort Zuckerman wrote:

No wonder the Israelis fear that a theocratic regime that embraces the Shiite culture of martyrdom and responds to the imperatives of jihad would not be deterred by a nuclear balance of terror, in spite of Israel’s secure nuclear response capabilities. In other words, rational deterrent theory or the threat of mutual assured destruction would not apply to Iran.

And so we have Mr. Obama, the Muslim who isn’t a Muslim, the Christian who isn’t a Christian (or is depending on his needs of the moment), a man whose past and present changes to meet the rhetorical needs of the moment, and a man who is unwilling and unable to understand that not only is Iran serious about building nuclear weapons, it is deadly serious about using them against Israel and America.  To Mr. Obama, rhetoric is reality, but reality good only for the moment and imbued only with the meaning he gives it.  To the Iranians, rhetoric reflects unchanging, unchangeable belief which formulates and fuels policy.  Death threats to Israel and America are deadly serious, and Iran lacks only the immediate means to carry them out on a nuclear scale.

And we elected Barack Obama president.