Embassy Attacks

U.S. Foreign Policy Not to Blame for Anything!, Plus: Alleged Innocence of Muslims Filmmaker Nakoula Voluntarily Accepts Ride from Police

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That's probably Nakoula Basseley Nakoula to the right, the man who says he served as "logistics manager" behind The Innocence of Muslims, the short trailer/movie/whatever that some folks still believe is the reason that various American citizens, soliders, diplomats, embassies, and consulates have been attacked throughout the Middle East over the past week.

[Go here to watch the 13 minute video, which most recently served up an anti-Mitt Romney ad for me before running!]

He's being helped into a car by Los Angeles Country sheriffs. This is from early Saturday morning when, as the Los Angeles Times writes, he was "taken in for a voluntary interview with probation officials and has not been arrested or detained." And there's this:

On Friday, U.S. courts spokeswoman Karen Redmond said the Office of Probation in the Central District of California was reviewing whether Nakoula [a.k.a. Sam Bacile], who has been convicted on bank fraud charges, violated terms of his probation in relation to the video and its uploading onto the Internet.

He had been ordered not to own or use devices with access to the Internet without approval from his probation officer -– and any approved computers were to be used for work only. "Defendant shall not access a computer for any other purpose," the terms read.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit writes that this arrest is

WHY BARACK OBAMA SHOULD RESIGN. Just for the record, this is what it looked like for a man who made a film that made the Obama Administration uncomfortable.

When taking office, the President does not swear to create jobs. He does not swear to "grow the economy." He does not swear to institute "fairness." The only oath the President takes is this one:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

By sending — literally — brownshirted enforcers to engage in — literally — a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the President of the United States and his administration, President Obama violated that oath. You can try to pretty this up (It's just about possible probation violations! Sure.), or make excuses or draw distinctions, but that's what's happened. It is a betrayal of his duties as President, and a disgrace.

Reynolds doesn't seriously think Obama will resign, of course, but he argues that "Obama's behavior — and that of his enablers in the press — has laid down a marker for those who are paying attention." Which is to say, the focus on the film and the larger notion of free expression as the real problem is pretty goddman godawful.

Recall, for instance, Obama's spokesman Jay Carney's assertion that the recent deadly attacks on American people and property throughout the Muslim world are a

response not to United States policy, not to, obviously, the Administration, not the to the American people. It is in response to a video, a film, that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.

And the administration also leaned on Google, owner of YouTube, to pull the video (Google has thankfully and rightly declined to do so, although it has reportedly blocked it in Egypt and other countries). Mitt Romney, whose fumbled response to the attacks in Egypt and Libya last week bizarrely became a bigger story than the attacks themselves, has also castigated the film.

As Matt Welch has noted, it shouldn't be difficult for the president of the United States—and the press more generally—to conjure up a specifically American response to situations like this: "In the United States, we are not in the business of approving these messages."

As important—maybe more important, really—there is dwindling reason to think that The Innocence of Muslims movie or trailer or whatever it is should be accorded any major role in the recent attacks. As Kevin Drum of Mother Jones summarizes things, extremist Arabs and Muslims can always conjure up a pretext for whatever they want to do and there are strong indications that the attacks in Egypt and Libya were planned long before this film ever drifted into view.

My colleague Tim Cavanaugh is right, I think, when he focuses not on the putative cause of actions, but their essential function: "The purpose of the attacks in Egypt and Libya was for the Sunni leadership to show it can unleash mob attacks against American diplomatic assets. (There may be some historical exceptions, but it's more or less axiomatic than mob attacks cannot happen without government approval.) That point has been received by everybody except U.S. State Department employees."

There are really two large points in all of this which should be kept front and center.

First is the one related to free expression. As I suggested during the Mohammed cartoon controversy—another outrage that was completely ginned up by religious fanatics who counterfeited drawings and toured the Muslim world stoking outrage that simply did not exist—"No one should be beaten or killed or imprisoned simply for speaking their mind or praying to one god as opposed to the other or none at all or getting on with the small business of living their life in peaceful fashion. If we cannot or will not defend that principle with a full throat, then we deserve to choke on whatever jihadists of all stripes can force down our throats."

Second: U.S. foreign policy is part of our problem with the wider world. It's not the whole problem and it doesn't sanction anything done by al Qaeda or the PLO or Iran or the despotic Syrian government or anything else (even as it might help explain and predict where, why, and how those actions take place). But when idiots like Jay Carney and large chunks of Congress and the president and his main rival for office and so many others continue to insist that the way the U.S. has acted over the past five, 10, and 50 years has no bearing on foreign attitudes toward America, its people, and its interests, you've just got to wonder how these people tie their shoes in the morning. Are they really that stupid or are they just totally convincing as actors?

At least since the end of the Cold War, the United States has drifted along without anything resembling a coherent or sustained conversation about foreign policy, much less working to hash out a consensus position that reflects our body politic. In the 1990s, we witnessed Bill Clinton lurching from action to action. He ordered 25 major troop deployments over eight years, twice as many as Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush entered office promising a "humble" foreign policy that repudiated "nation building" and then embraced a disastrous "region building" approach from which we have yet to extricate ourselves. Barack Obama tripled troops in Afghanistan without bothering to clarify our mission there and unilaterally decided to drop bombs in Libya. Congress has acted the role of helpless bystander in foreign policy for going on the last 20 years at least (for god's sake, far more members supported the second invasion of Iraq than the first!).

The predictable result is a foreign policy that is completely unpredictable and unprincipled. There are simply no clear rules governing when and how America will act militarily, what we stand for, and what we stand against. Or, as Obama's bizarre phrasing of our relationship with non-enemy Egypt (which receives billions of dollars in aid from us), even who are allies are.

And we wonder why things aren't going our way around the world?