The headline of the week (from the AP): "Some militants respond positively to Obama speech." It is perhaps instructive to take a headline like this and replace today's evildoers with one from the past and see what you come up with: "Some Nazis respond positively to Roosevelt's address." Or, "Some Mongol Warlords have nice things to say about Pope Innocent's bull."
Now read the entire story and one finds the lone example of a positive response to President Obama's Cairo speech comes from some Egyptian named Essam Derbala, a leader of the Islamic militant group al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya Al-Qaida. Derbala is said to have "told an Egyptian newspaper over the weekend that the Taliban should reciprocate by announcing they will no longer target Americans." The obvious problem is the Taliban could care less what some guy in Egypt thinks they should or should not do. Nor are they likely to give American soldiers a free pass when U.S. troops are still trying to kill them.
Meanwhile my local newspaper today reports that "a Canadian soldier and an Afghan boy died in…attacks by the [Taliban] extremist insurgency…" If -- as a result of Obama's speech -- the Taliban are now targeting Canadian rather than American troops, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had better start brushing up on his Koran and get on the first jet to Cairo.
There is nothing in this or any other story I've seen to suggest extremists have had a change of heart toward the U.S. And writing a curious and misleading headline won't make it so.
Of course, if you can't find a militant to say that Americans are now welcome in the Islamic world, you can always find some Yankee Think-Tanker who will put those or similar words in the collective Muslim mouth. "Obama may have managed to 'plant the seed of doubt in some minds' of extremists, said Robert Malley, of the International Crisis Group," according to the AP story. "Seed of doubt" is a lovely metaphor, sort of like "the cloud of unknowing," but it is unclear what doubts extremists had planted in their fertile brains. Are they having doubts whether America is still the Great Satan? So they doubt whether Western culture is still decadent? Or, more likely, are they having doubts about the West's commitment to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda?
Malley continued: "There was enough ... that represented openings for those who wanted openings." Some might say the notion that extremists and terrorists are looking for peace openings is the height of naïveté. If they wanted peace would they be blowing up mosques and Humvees? Pundits sometimes forget that not everyone is as awestruck with Obama and his message as they are. To Islamic militants, Obama is just the latest representative of earthly evil.
ON THE CONTRARY the story suggests that nearly all Islamic militants responded negatively to Obama's speech and did so, not because they weren't swept away on a tide of pro-Western good feelings, but because they feared alienating or irritating their fellow militants. Here's how the AP put it:
Two influential fundamentalist groups, Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood, as well as a Saudi preacher, accused Obama of being deceptive. They said he offered soft words to hide unchanged anti-Muslim positions. But that could indicate their nervousness that Obama's strategy could undercut support for militancy.
You see how it works? When militant leaders say Obama is a liar, they don't really mean that Obama is a liar. They only say Obama is a liar because they are nervous about losing support among their bloodthirsty militant backers. It's a kind of doublespeak that only AP reporters are privy too.
The story would have us believe the Islamic militants' "positive response" is due largely to Obama's doomed Israel Policy. This policy -- destined to go down in history as a corollary to Chamberlain's Munich Agreement -- is to appease extremists by taking a tougher line with Israel. This is a popular notion throughout the Arab punditocracy. "Extremists will only be disarmed when the U.S. takes a more neutral stand on Israel," says Abdel Wahab al-Qasab, a Qatar-based analyst. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, doesn't give a damn about Obama's appeasement policy. Netanyahu ran for the premiership on a platform that included "natural growth" within the Jerusalem municipality, an area that includes Arab East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank captured in a 1967 Middle East war. He intends to hold to that.
The story does get one thing right. The region is growing more militant, not less so. Largely because hatred of the U.S. is the militants' bread and butter. Without that hatred the militants and their big dollar supporters will simply put away their purses and go home to watch Law & Order: Crimes Against the Prophet Unit. Anti-Americanism is the strongest glue known to mankind. It holds the weak European Left together and it binds militant Islam. It is the raison d'être for most of the world's tinpot dictatorships. Selling out Israel will not make the paste any less sticky.