Presidential elections don’t turn on what’s happening abroad. Barack Obama could be grateful for that much.
Gallup finds that a tiny “kill bump” rewarded the president after the capture and slaying of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, but good news from the Islamic world, which hasn’t yet felt the dawn of the 9th century, always comes with a catch. The desert tyrant can be expected to stay dead, but Libya’s oppressed masses won’t be much better off than they were. Another tyrant is always on the way.
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who as the chairman of the National Transitional Council is the de-facto president of the country, promised Sunday that Shariah, the Islamic legal system that imposes order with misery and dread, will be the “basic source” of Libyan law.
This is not good news for anybody. Mr. Abdul-Jalil announced quickly that interest on loans would be prohibited, according to Shariah law. “Interest creates disease and hatred among people,” he said. Anyone who has ever taken out a bank loan might be tempted to cheer. But that’s only the beginning. It’s the rest of Shariah, which makes abusing women a national sport, that offends the centuries between 9 and 21.
The “good news” from the Middle East was supposed to offset fresh bad news for Mr. Obama at home, where “good news” continues to range between bad and awful. Democratic congressmen, reports Politico, the Capitol Hill daily, are treating him as if he has a contagious disease for which there is no cure. In his recent campaign trips though Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania - all Obama states in 2008 - the usual congressional escorts who usually paste themselves to visiting presidents with super glue were conspicuously missing.
Only Sen. Kay Hagan, who isn’t up for re-election until 2014, and a congressman who represents a majority-black district, showed up for the traditional photograph with the president in North Carolina. “Obama may end up being the Walter Mondale of 1984,” a Raleigh Democratic strategist tells Politico. Only the state agriculture commissioner could be recruited to appear with the Democratic nominee in that year. Similar stories are reported in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“You’ve got 15 members from Michigan and everyone has a different reason [for not being there],” says Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving Democrat in Congress. “My reason was, I had different things to do.”
Mr. Obama’s “kill bump” for his part in the reluctant campaign to depose Gadhafi is not likely to be any longer-lasting than earlier “kill bumps” in the wake of the earlier dispatches of tyrants. The Arab spring that so seduced the easily impressed in the West is turning out to be mostly the usual wishes and dreams. The imposition of Shariah law is par for the course, surprising only those who imagine that Islam wants to be reformed.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, who owes his existence to American arms, told a Pakistani interviewer on Sunday that if disputes between the United States and Pakistan should ever escalate into violence and war, Afghanistan would stand with Pakistan. “If ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan,” he said.
No one expects such a war. Indeed, some of our best wars are unexpected, and Mr. Karzai’s blunt expression of ingratitude takes breath only of someone already breathless. Besides, if there’s no crying in baseball, there’s certainly no such thing as “gratitude” among nations. Mr. Karzai is merely hedging his bets in anticipation of the day when Barack Obama withdraws American soldiers from Afghanistan, as he says he will do by the end of the year in Iraq.
If he has an appetite for more wars in the Islamic world, he could get another “kill bump” if he could arrange the dispatch of President Bashar Assad of Syria. Only yesterday, Robert Ford, the American ambassador in Damascus, who has supported the Syrians who are trying to replicate uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, had to flee to Washington after mobs attacked the embassy. The State Department said he would return and demanded the Syrian government do what civilized governments do elsewhere, provide protection and put a stopper in a “smear campaign of malicious and deceitful propaganda” against him.
Washington is concerned that “all kinds of falsehoods” are being spread about the ambassador, “whether by citizens or whether by thugs of one kind or another.” In the Middle East, it’s usually impossible to tell the difference.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.