Our Modern-Day Cassandra

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was a seer whose prophesies always came true — but never in the way the audience expected. One king sought her counsel over whether to go to war, and she told him that if he did, a great empire would fall. He did, and one did — his. It’s a recurring motif in Greek mythology — one cannot escape one’s fate, and the harder one tried, the surer it would come to pass.

 

We have our own modern-day Cassandras, people who make dire predictions — and then inadvertently help them come true in their struggles to avoid letting them come to pass.

 

On Sunday, I made a point of avoiding a lot of the 9/11 coverage. That meant that I had a second reason to ignore Andrew Sullivan, the first being… well, he’s Andrew Sullivan. But later, I stumbled upon a roundup by Ron Radosh that featured a rather interesting quote from The World’s Greatest Expert On Sarah Palin’s Uterus:

 

The bait was meant to entice the United States into ruinous, polarizing religious warfare against the Muslim world, so that the Islamist fringe could seize power in failing Muslim and Arab dictatorships. The 9/11 attacks were conceived as a way to radicalize a young Muslim population through a ginned-up war of civilization against the Great Satan on the Islamist home turf of Afghanistan and, then, Iraq. It looks obvious now. It wasn’t then. We were seized with righteous rage, every ounce of which was justified. But the victim of a rape is not the best person to initiate the strategy to bring the rapist to justice. And we, alas, were all we had. Our president, meaning well, did his best, and it was more than good, at the beginning. But in retrospect, he never mastered the fear or the moment either. Instead of calming the populace over the coming months, he further terrified us with drastic measures that only seemed to confirm the unprecedented gravity of the threat.

 

It occurred to me that this “grand plan” is actually coming to fruition. In two nations, dictatorships have been overthrown by radical Muslim extremists.  So Sullivan was right.

 

Well, actually, he wasn’t. Because there is  far, far simpler causal relationship to be drawn than Sullivan’s. He would have you believe that Bush so outraged and inflamed the Muslim world, that they waited nearly ten years and long after he left power to respond to his outrageous provocations.

 

Egypt and Libya both had long-serving dictators who were overthrown by popular uprisings just in the past few months. Both dictators were allies of the US — not friends, definitely, but certainly allies — Mubarak and K-Daffy both had come to realize that being on the US’ good side was definitely more beneficial to their political and personal survival than being on our shit list. (Mubarak always held that belief; it took the example of Saddam Hussein to persuade K-Daffy.) And both men were essentially abandoned by the US after President Bush left office — and President Obama took power.

 

Those are the facts. Those are indisputable. Egypt and Libya, for whatever reason, were quite helpful to us in our War on Terror while Mubarak and K-Daffy held power. And I am under no illusions that they did so out of the good of their hearts; it was purely because they saw it in their best interests to do so. And likewise it was in our best interests to keep them on our side.

 

But those relationships were re-evaluated by the Obama administration. In Egypt’s case, it’s certainly debatable how much they could have done — the rebellion was a populist movement, aimed at Mubarak’s domestic policies. He was probably pretty much a goner from day one. But in Libya, we were decisive — it’s fairly clear that the Libyan rebels would have been crushed had not Obama, swayed by France and Italy, who saw definite financial gains should K-Daffy go, ordered an UnWar to help topple him.

 

And now we see the fruits of those actions. In Egypt, the militant Muslims Sullivan warned us about are starting to flex their muscles, threatening the decades-old peace with Israel. Just this last week Egyptian “rioters” stormed and trashed the Israeli embassy — which some of you might recall is considered sovereign Israeli territory and therefore an act of war. And in Egypt, we’re also getting signs that the Muslim Brotherhood — the “father” of the radical Islamic movement, which is affiliated with or spun off the most troublesome Islamic terrorist groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinians’ Hamas — is having significant influence.

 

If Sullivan wasn’t so thoroughly deranged, he might draw a different conclusion — that it wasn’t Bush’s aggression, but Obama’s passivity that is fueling (at least in part) this move to overthrow American allies. Other nations have undergone similar turmoil. In Syria, the populist uprisings are being suppressed far more brutally, with far less complaints. In Iran, the would-be “Green Revolution” was crushed after Obama specifically and deliberately chose to not even comment. And in Lebanon, we stood by quietly while Syria and their puppet Hezbollah crushed their freedom movement — and now Hezbollah is pretty much the de facto government in that nation.

 

Of all people, Osama Bin Laden foresaw this. In the 1990′s, he stated that in the Muslim world, if given a choice between backing a “strong horse” or a “weak horse,” the masses would inevitably choose the strong horse.

 

Say what you want about Bush, in the Muslim world he was seen as a “strong horse.” In very brief order after 9/11, Bush ordered the toppling of two Muslim regimes — and both fell very quickly. The wisdom of both moves are debatable (I still think both were correct, but this is not overly relevant for this point), but they reminded the world that should the US choose to get rid of any regime, that regime was history — and very quickly, with little fuss and not that much effort on our part.

 

But with Obama, American power is seen as… well, not diminished, but far more restrained. Obama has virtually made a key point of his foreign policy to diminish America’s military might. Even in the cases he has flexed our muscles, he’s made a point of showing restraint. The killing of the Somali pirates and the raid on Bin Laden were done by a select group of Special Forces and were closer to assassinations than military attacks. (I am not making moral judgments here; indeed, I approved of both actions. But they were not demonstrations of America’s military power.) And in Libya, Obama made a point of declaring that we were simply following the lead of our allies (while still doing the majority of the work ourselves) and strictly limited our involvement.

 

In an ideal world, Obama’s principles would win us respect and admiration. But it’s not an ideal world — it’s a most uncouth world. The phrase “nasty, brutish, and short” sums it up quite nicely. And in such a world, it’s far safer to be respected than to be admired. (This is an adaptation of the dictator’s aphorism about it being better to be feared than loved.) I’m not quite certain what Obama’s goal is, but it certainly isn’t about maintaining the respect for America’s power that President Bush emphasized.

 

When Bush was in office, I got the impression that his idea of foreign policy was an application of the United States Marine Corps’ aphorism — “no better friend, no worse enemy.” Under Obama, the most coherent policy seems to be “we’re sorry we’re so strong; please like us anyway.” Whether this is an improvement over the previous “whatever Bush did, we’ll do the opposite” policy remains to be seen.

 

I’m not optimistic.

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Posted by on September 13, 2011.
Filed under 9/11, Attention Whores, Bloggers, War On Terror.


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  • Anonymous

    I keep seeing this grand scheme of Osama Bin Laden meme popping up where it was OBL intention to draw the US into wars in the Muslim world.  The only problem is that this is not prophecy coming true, it is more like a Pee Wee Hermanesque “I meant to do that” after the fact construction.

    Can anyone find any evidence that before September 2001 or even before the end of Bush’s first term that Al Queda meant the attacks to result in a US counter attack.  They did pour resources into Iraq, but that was reactionary and not a proactive strategy.

    This whole thing stinks of a history re-write to support Obama’s lets pull our soldiers out now win lose or draw reelection strategy. 

  • Anonymous

    Calling Qadaffi an “American ally” is a bit much.

    Other than that, you win a prize for packing in every neocon cliche about the Middle East into your post.

    • Anonymous

      K-Daffy gave up his WMD program, paid restitution for his past terrorist acts, and supplied information on terrorists. He also apparently did a bit more that is still classified. As I said, “ally,” not friend — kind of like the Soviet Union during World War II.

      So, what’s my prize?

      J.

    • Anonymous

      Qadaffi would have tortured people for us just for the fun of it, so I wouldn’t think he was much of an ally.

      Also, he was shaking down the western oil companies to pay for the “compensation” for terrorism, so he would not have to pay.

      Here’s your prize:

      http://i1216.photobucket.com/albums/dd364/Obi__/risitasgif.gif

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

        So we could not have considered the Shah, Sadat, Mubarak, or Musharraf allies, then?

        You’re an idiot.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

        So we could not have considered the Shah, Sadat, Mubarak, or Musharraf allies, then?

        You’re an idiot.

      • Anonymous

        Um, did any of those “allies” bomb a PanAm 747 and a German disco with U.S. soldiers in it?

        Not to mention supporting the IRA with weapons and causing lots of other trouble.

        But he tortured people for the USA, so I guess all is forgiven in your book and Qadaffi was an “ally.”

        Dolt.

      • Anonymous

        Um, did any of those “allies” bomb a PanAm 747 and a German disco with U.S. soldiers in it?

        Not to mention supporting the IRA with weapons and causing lots of other trouble.

        But he tortured people for the USA, so I guess all is forgiven in your book and Qadaffi was an “ally.”

        Dolt.

  • Anonymous

    That was a well reasoned response, but it was your cheek in inquiring as to your prize that earned you the “up.”   UOG

  • Anonymous

    In Greek mythology, Cassandra was a seer whose prophesies always came
    true — but never in the way the audience expected. One king sought her
    counsel over whether to go to war, and she told him that if he did, a
    great empire would fall. He did, and one did — his.

    This is a mistake. It was the Oracle at Delphi whose prophesy came true in this way when King Croesus asked if he should go to war with Persia. The answer was that if you go to war with Persia an empire will fall. One did, that of King Croesus.

    Cassandra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassandra) had been granted the gift of prophecy by Apollo, but was cursed never to be believed when she refused to “spend the night” with him. She was in Troy during the war and attempted to warn the Trojans not to bring the wooden horse inside the walls, but the curse caused her not to be believed.

  • herddog505

    Our president, meaning well, did his best, and it was more than good, at the beginning. But in retrospect, he never mastered the fear or the moment either. Instead of calming the populace over the coming months, he further terrified us with drastic measures that only seemed to confirm the unprecedented gravity of the threat. [emphasis mine - hd505]

    I suppose that I should be happy that Sullivan gave Bush at least some credit.  However, the highlighted portion is ridiculous.  In case anybody has forgotten, those f*cking a**holes flew jumbo jets into the Pentagon and the WTC, killing 3000 Americans.  That’s pretty friggin’ unprecedented.  I think I may also be excused for considering the threat to be significant: does anybody doubt that bin Fishfood would have used WMD had he had access to them?  Incidentally, I didn’t feel “terrified” at the US response to 9-11. If anything, I was (at the time) disappointed by the restraint we showed.  To borrow a phrase I’ve read, I wanted Arabs under glass.

    The rape analogy is strangely apt: we were violated in a perverse, disgusting, and gratuitous manner.  Unlike the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, bin Fishfood deliberately set out to murder as many civilians as he could in a gruesome manner.  So, yeah, it was like the US was raped on 9-11.  And, yeah, like a rape victim, we had some pretty righteous anger.  And, frankly, I don’t have a problem with that.  This bizarre implication that we should have done something different (what?) is… well… bizarre.  3000 Americans dead, and we were supposed to be restrained?  Thoughtful?  Instead, we were “suckered” because we went after the c*cksuckers who did it?  What’s next?  We shouldn’t have killed bin Fishfood?  We should have just ignored the whole thing?

  • Anonymous

    We have our own modern-day Cassandras, people who make dire predictions —
    and then inadvertently help them come true in their struggles to avoid
    letting them come to pass.

    This is incorrect. You are thinking about the legend of Oedepus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oedipus). His father Laertes, king of Thebes, was told by the Oracle at Delphi that he would have a son who would kill him and marry his mother Jocasta. Laertes attempted to avoid the prophesy by giving the infant to a servant to “expose” (murder by leaving on a mountainside). The servant gave the child to a shepherd to adopt and the child grew up not knowing anything of his background. He was eventually adopted by the king and queen of of Corinth and named Oedipus for his swollen ankles (edema).

    After he grew up, he was told that he was adopted but his parents denied it. He consulted the Oracle and was given the same prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. He immediately left home so that it would not happen. As he traveled he got into a fight with a king and killed him in self defense. That king was his birth father Laertes.

    Eventually, he got to Thebes, saved it from the Sphynx, and married the queen (Jocasta) as a reward.

    • http://www.rustedsky.net Anonymous

      And for a more entertaining version of that, I’d recommend the musical “Oedipus Tex” by P.D.Q. Bach. 

      “The gods are ticked off and someone must pay – oy vey!”

    • http://www.rustedsky.net Anonymous

      And for a more entertaining version of that, I’d recommend the musical “Oedipus Tex” by P.D.Q. Bach. 

      “The gods are ticked off and someone must pay – oy vey!”

  • jim_m

    Greek mythology aside, the reason we are seeing this sweeping change in the middle east is not a result of Bush’s policies.  The middle east has been simmering discontent for years.  We saw the Cedar Revolution back in 2005 that had a decidedly different character than what we are seeing today.

    The difference is that in 2005 we had a President that had cowed the radical islamists.  They didn’t dare show their faces for fear of being targeted.  Today with obama they know that the US will not do anything.  The US under obama has proven an unreliable and untrustworthy ally.  obama has telegraphed to the world his unwillingness to pursue the war on terror. 

    Because obama has such a weak kneed foreign policy we see the muslim brotherhood taking control of Egypt and probably Libya.  obama wants to let the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan because it is too much of a bother to him to keep them suppressed.  The middle east is turning back to radical islam because obama is showing that the US will no longer take a strong stand against it.  Even his reaction to 9/11 commemorations sends the message that he is unwilling to acknowledge the offense of the slaughter of our people and he wants to do everything he can to ignore it. 

    obama is the President that Osama Bin Laden thought Bush would be.  He is the weak President that won’t react to provocation.  The worst you will get from him is a speech

    • Bob Armstrong

      bin Laden’s dead.

      Obama got him.

      Bush didn’t.

      • jim_m

        No the Navy SEALS got him. 

        obama spent 16 hours trying to make up his mind whether or not to let them do their job.  I knoiw that if you listen to obama tell the story you’d think that he personally flew to Abbottabad and put a bullet in Bin Laden’s head, but that’s just not the way it really happened.

        Just like a lefty to spend the majority of his time reviling everything about the military and then taking credit for what they do.

        • Anonymous

          Bush spends a few minutes reading a book to children, to keep them from freaking out and to let the Secret Service check security = indecisive and stupid.

          Obama spends sixteen hours trying to make a decision that every other adult in America had made almost ten years earlier = decisive and brilliant.

    • Anonymous

      We saw the Cedar Revolution back in 2005 that had a decidedly different character than what we are seeing today.

      Yeah, Hezbollah took over the country.

  • Anonymous

    ….  In Egypt’s case … the “rebellion” was a populist movement, aimed at Mubarak’s domestic policies …. 

    Rubbish.

    Egypt’s “rebellion” was a military coup, the results of which – most certainly among the lower ranks, many of whom are “Muslim Brotherhood-ists” – the military is losing control.

    Witness the attacks upon Israel’s Sovereign Border — and upon its sovereign embassy.

    Just for starters.