Another Perspective

Taking It to the Next Level

The Obama Administration will have to do better than simply apologize.

By 9.19.12

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The failures of American foreign policy may be seen in the ashes of the Benghazi mission, and the question that remains is how we may repair the damage. Manifestly, what we've done up to now has been inadequate, and it's time to confess our failures. We have sought to make the world love us and we have failed. Our president has demonstrated his moral superiority to his predecessors and shockingly this has gone unrecognized.

What then is the next step?

I suggest we begin with a formal apology for all the wrongs America has committed, and sincerely ask for forgiveness. We've not yet done that. Mitt Romney has described Obama as an apology-monkey, and for this has properly been taken to task by the fact-checkers. Four pinocchios from the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, Mr. Romney!

Kessler is correct to point out that Obama has not used the word "apology." In his 2008 urbi et orbi speech in Berlin, the presidential candidate said, "We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions," but it would be churlish to regard this as an apology. Then there was his June 2009 Cairo speech. "Events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible." Do you see the word apology there? Or "Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals." No apology there!

For the benefit of the fact-checkers, let's ask the Oxford Dictionary for the definition of "apology." It's "a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure." So Obama has done everything except use the A-word itself. But this didn't do the trick. We've obviously not done enough and more is needed. Sure, bowing to foreign leaders is a good start, but what we should now consider is a formal apology.

Is there some reason to shrink from this? Might it be thought not a little humiliating to beg forgiveness? Not at all. We've let 9-11 be turned into "Torch the American Embassy Day," and it's a little late to pretend to a concern about national honor.

Consider our reaction to the attack on the Cairo embassy. Egyptian president Morsi didn't apologize. He had a sense of honor. Instead, he asked the U.S. to take tough measures against the video-maker, whom we dutifully brought into a police station. The Secretary of State announced, with a note of regret, that "our country does have a long tradition of free expression which is enshrined in our constitution and our law. And we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be." My bad.

I fear, however, that a formal apology will prove insufficient. At $1.5 billion a year, Egypt is the second largest recipient of American foreign aid. They want more, and we are expected to give them more. Sure, it's tribute, but the good news is that we can afford it if we downsize the U.S. military. Then there's the "Blind Sheik," Omar Abdel-Rahman, whom Morsi has vowed to free from an American prison. Abdel-Rahman was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the 1993 World Trade bombing, but releasing him would make sense if, like Morsi, you think that 9-11 was an inside job. The Blaze now reports that the State Department is considering releasing Abdel-Rahman to Egypt, and would that be a great symbol of U.S.-Egyptian relations!

There's just one more think we might consider: a surrender. We left Iraq before we had to and have formally announced when we'll leave Afghanistan. We've implicitly recognized Russian hegemony over Syria and, bowing to Putin, have cancelled a planned missile shield for Poland. We're not taking sides over the Falkland Islands. We don't really care if Iran has nuclear weapons, and we'll negotiate with North Korea however many missiles they launch. We're treating Israel pretty much the same way Britain treated Czechoslovakia in 1938. Having done all that, what would we have to lose if we simply announced that we surrender? 

 

 

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About the Author

F.H. Buckley is Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law and author of The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America.