Anti-American protests have continued to spread across the globe, though the fires of passion are predictably burning out. People do have jobs to go to, children to feed, lives to lead. Even violence-prone jihadists can't always be breaching embassies or murdering diplomats.
Note: This is a slightly improved version of my latest Daily Mail column. Apart from a minor clarification or two, the column was left untouched, but about the time it was being put up, I was making a few additions.
The official American line on all this is to blame the makers of a childish film called The Innocence of Muslims. Anyone who has seen this little masterpiece can understand why Muslims might get angry with the US government for tolerating such a travesty of film-making, but it is impossible, seriously, to believe that these violent protests around the world are a spontaneous response to a movie that few have seen.
Such naïveté would seem to be predicated on a contempt for Muslims that in any other context would be condemned as racism, but that is the position taken by Secretary of State Clinton. Every time she comments on the protests, Clinton lays all the blame on the movie. Calling the video "disgusting and reprehensible," Mme. Clinton went on to observe: "It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."
If I were a Muslim, Clinton's remarks would provoke far more rage in me than the film. Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif described the notion as "preposterous," and he and other Libyan officials insist that the attack was a planned assault by foreigners, possibly connected to Al Qaeda.
Naturally, our Libyan ally, whom the US and its allies put into power, would wish to minimize the involvement of Libyans in the murder of the US ambassador. Nonetheless, his opinion is confirmed by reporters who have interviewed protestors. Many of them have not seen or even heard of the movie, and they say they are motivated primarily by hatred of the US and Israel.
What else did President Obama and his Secretary of State expect? When Arab Spring erupted, wiser heads than the administration apparently has in its employ predicted the outcome: the overthrow of pragmatic dictators who had learned to be grateful the US--or at least to fear it--and a triumph for Islamist forces. If we can believe Hilary Clinton, she expected an upsurge of democracy and women's rights. What she faces now is a dramatic rise in Islamic anti-Americanism. Of course, Clinton cannot admit the truth, because it would be an admission that her own foreign policy has been a disaster for US security.
When will the Clintons and Albrights, the Condaleeza Rices and Dick Cheneys grow up and realize they live in a dangerous world they cannot control? When will they quit sending people like Ambassador Chris Stevens to meddle in revolution, as he did? When Stevens arrived in Libya in April 2011, the Washington Post headline was explicit: US envoy Chris Stevens arrives in Libya to help opposition fighters. The story quotes a State Department spokesman who said that Stevens' mission was to "explore ways to open the funding spigots for an opposition movement that is desperately short of cash and supplies.
Senator John McCain was equally enthusiastic when he visited Libyaduring the revolution: "I have met with these brave fighters, and they are not Al-Qaeda. To the contrary: They are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation." Apparently neither Senator McCain nor the man who defeated him in the presidential race failed to understand theh character of some of the Libyan rebels. To this day, the provisional government has not taken steps to punish the man who filmed himself sexually assaulting the unarmed Libyan dictator before murdering him. (I am still waiting for an official American condemnation of this savagery.)
The Obama administration, following McCain's lead, is trying to deny or minimize foreign elements in the Benghazi attack that cost Chris Stevens his life. Benghazi has symbolic importance: it is the place where the Libyan Revolution began. But as early as last November, the Al Quaeda flag was raised, along with the flag of the Libyan rebels, over a Benghazi courthouse.
There are insane Muslims, as there are insane Christians and insane Jews, but the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have temporarily abandoned their daily lives to show their hatred of the United States are neither insane nor disgruntled film critics. They may not all watch CNN or read a newspaper, but they know that the US government has been regularly killing Muslim civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It's different when we do it, of course, because we believe in democracy, human rights, and the liberation of women, but in the eyes of these poor benighted Muslims, a dead child is a dead child.
This is not to make light of Islamic traditions that justify violence and terrorism. Much of what The Innocence of Muslims depicted, in its clownish and degrading way, has history on its side. The Christian (and now post-Christian) West has been at war, on and off, with Islam for over a millennium, and so long as there are believing Muslims, the struggle will continue. That is why the Americans pin their hopes on the degrading effects of the consumerism that has destroyed our own civilization. They refuse to understand that Muslims like Mohammed Atta can spend the night eating junk food and watching pornography and then go out the next day and kill hundreds of people. They cannot understand the religious motivation of Muslim men and women, because they have no religion of their own.
Whatever we decide to do about the Kulturkampf in Europe and the United States, it is none of our business to disturb the peace of Islamic countries, by light-heartedly setting out to change regimes or by going to war over imaginary weapons of mass destruction. We never had any justification for attacking Iraq and no hope of ever effectively controlling Afghanistan. If a war is unwinnable--as our two current wars have been from the day we killed the first Iraqi and the first Afghan--it should not be started. Leave these poor people in peace.
Here in America, we are coming to the end of the presidential election season. The two parties differ on many points, some of them important, but both are committed to the same foreign policy which can best be described as Global Democratic Jihad. We refuse to control our own border, but we think we can, as President John Quincy Adams complained, go about the world looking for dragons to slay.
We have done our best to sow the wind, and now, whether we like it or not, we are reaping the whirlwind.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.