by NORMAN SIMMS:
Ruthie Blum’s essential book “To Hell in a Handbasket- Carter, Obama and the Arab Spring” offers irrefutable evidence that misguided foreign policy with respect to popular uprisings against tyrants often creates worse problems than those it seeks to alleviate.
While most commentators and pundits stress the present crisis with a nuclear Iran, they fail to see the overthrow of Iran’s Shah and the subsequent hostage crisis of 1979 as prologue and lesson for today.
Blum revisits that event and succinctly states in the opening pages: “It is the story of how a short sighted leader of the Free World, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with-rather than defeat- the forces that would see him and it destroyed, enabled the rise and spread of a pernicious form of radicalism that threatens the globe to this day.” That leader was Jimmy Carter but the words could easily apply to the present occupant of the White House, whose obsequiousness to the Moslem world and feeble responses to direct aggression against the United States encourage our enemies and discourage our allies.
“To Hell in a Handbasket-Carter, Obama and the Arab Spring”is an original, fast paced, meticulously researched book that catalogues the series of missteps that continue to be repeated as we confront our abject failures in Middle East policy, and the unraveling of the so-called “Arab Spring.”
Read it before November 6th, 2012. You won’t be able to put it down.
Ruthie Blum has graciously consented to an interview:
RK: You remember that when the so-called “Arab Spring” assumed a new reality with the demonstrations in Egypt, Americans were inclined to celebrate, announcing that democracy was now taking hold in the Middle East. This was, of course, foolish, to put it mildly. But how would you account for it?
RB:Liberal Americans tend to view fondly and with nostalgia the sight of young people storming the streets and screaming against their government. You know, like the “good old days” during the Vietnam War, when the so-called “best and brightest” were proudly stomping on their country’s flag, denouncing their parents’ generation, and evading the draft – all the while getting praised for it. These darlings of the 1960s are now occupying the White House or cheering it on from the sidelines.
The demonstrations in Egypt caused these liberals to empathize, without having a clue about the players in the Middle East. This has not prevented them from adopting the knee-jerk assumption that Israeli settlements are the region’s real problem.
The Conservatives initially lauded the developments for a very different reason. They believed that the revolutions spreading across the Middle East indicated that George W. Bush’s policies and views on democratization were now bearing fruit.
RK: How do you think, as you suggest in your book, that Jimmy Carter’s response to the taking of American hostages in 1979 contributed this, related to this, if at all?
RB:Carter had been supportive of the ouster of the Shah of Iran and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Though the Shah had been a true American ally, he was an autocrat with expensive tastes. Carter believed that Khomeini was a good soul – a harmless, modest religious leader who would serve as a spiritual guide to a new, more egalitarian government. When the student radicals (among them Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) took the US Embassy staff hostage on November 4, 1979, Carter thought that the best way to handle it would be to let the “host government” take charge. After all, the same embassy had been stormed six months earlier, and the “host government” did intervene – after a Marine was murdered, that is.
But, as days turned into weeks and then into months, Carter figured his best policy would be to negotiate with the powers-that-be in Iran. Of course, he didn’t really know who they were, but that’s a different discussion.
Finally, when he did give a green light to a rescue operation several months into the crisis, it was too little, too late. Then, when the mission failed, Khomeini and the hostage-takers saw it as a sign from Allah that the “Great Satan” was being defeated.
Carter’s attitude that America was largely responsible for the hatred of others towards it – as was Israel – did nothing but embolden enemies across the globe. Obama has the very same attitude today.
RK:Jimmy Carter was a failed, one-term president who left office more than 30 years ago. Why bother rehashing what he did back then?
RB: Carter may have lost the election to Ronald Reagan, but his legacy has lived on in the Democratic Party. In fact, it seems to have gotten stronger as the years go by. It is necessary to observe what he did, because there is an almost exact parallel going on today – both at home and abroad. It is crucial for Americans to see the connection between a weakened America and emboldened enemies. These are enemies who oppose freedom of any kind, and who make no bones about their intentions to spread their rule beyond all borders.
RK:The Arab Spring revolution, like the Islamic Revolution in 1978-9, erupted as a result of autocratic regimes that the people wanted to oust. Is the United States supposed to back rulers like the shah and Mubarak? What should Carter have done then – and what should Obama have done in response to the current uprisings?
RB: Carter should – first and foremost - have looked into the Ayatollah Khomeini and his teachings. He should not have decimated the CIA. He could have continued to pressure the Shah into instituting reforms. This is exactly what Obama should have done in relation to other autocrats and their opposition in the rest of the Muslim world. As Carter did with Khomeini, Obama was prepared to view the Muslim Brotherhood as a “moderate” organization, rather than educate himself on the forces that were actually taking over all the demonstrations across the Middle East. The only protests that Obama did not back were the anti-Islamist ones that took place in Iran in June 2009 surrounding the elections.
In other words, it is the job of the United States to support movements that most strive for Western values, while remaining steadfast against those that want to destroy the West. One could say that, in fairness to Carter, there had been no precedent for the rise of radical/political Islam when he became president; whereas Obama has had the benefit of decades of hindsight to know about this phenomenon. It is this fact that leads many to conclude that Obama actually sides with those radical forces.
RK:Events are still unfolding in the Middle East, and many experts assert that these kinds of revolutions take time – especially in cultures and countries that have no tradition of democracy. Why do you assume that they are not moving in this direction?
RB:All evidence points to the opposite. The demonstrations and “free election” results are pro-Islamist. Country-by-country, one can see the spread of Shariah law and the decrease in the rights of women and minorities, with a severe increase in the abuse of Christians. Some optimists have compared this to the French Revolution, asserting that there will be a lot of bloodshed for 100 years, and then there will be democracy. I don’t consider this “moving in the right direction” while Iran is about to obtain nuclear weapons – something that, if allowed to happen, will cause the rest of the region to follow suit.
RK: Thank you Ruthie Blum for your book, your insight and your answers.
Read more at Family Security Matters
- To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the “Arab Spring” (frontpagemag.com)
- Carter and Obama: The deluded messiahs (wnd.com)
- Islam and Iran: Why Obama doesn’t get it (wnd.com)