President Obama’s apologies keep getting more outrageous and more destructive.
They started in the summer of 2008, before he was even elected president. Then-Senator Obama travelled to Berlin to introduce himself as “a citizen of the world,” and said, “I know my country has not perfected itself…We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.”
Next came the Apology Tour of 2009, when President Obama travelled to France to apologize for our “failure to appreciate Europe‘s leading role in the world,” saying “America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” (It’s hard to know where to begin with that one.)
He told the Turkish Parliament that “the United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history.”
He apologized to Central and South America for the United States having “at times been disengaged and…having sought to dictate on our terms.”
In Cairo, he explained American actions after the Sept. 11 Attacks by saying, “The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals,” and said tensions between the U.S. and Muslim world were due in part to “a cold war in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”
An illegally leaked diplomatic cable from Japan to the U.S. even seems to suggest President Obama wanted to visit Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II, until Japan nixed the idea.
For all this apologizing the president was rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize, but his actions weakened the United States diplomatically and made America less secure.
As damaging as President Obama’s compulsion to apologize has been, however, it was not until last week that we saw its true potential to put American lives and military objectives at risk. By apologizing unnecessarily to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the inadvertent burning by U.S. forces of Korans which had been confiscated from imprisoned extremists, the president made the situation in Afghanistan even worse.
Apparently the prisoners were writing in the books—and the books were inadvertently burned with the military’s trash outside Bagram Air Base, where they were spotted during the incineration process by local Afghans.
The violence that has erupted in Afghanistan in response to this mishap has been completely disproportionate. Riots and protests across the country have resulted in more than 30 people killed and hundreds injured. At least four Americans have died in targeted attacks since the crisis began. In one incident, an Afghan official apparently murdered his counterparts in the U.S. military, inside a base.
Instead of the United States treating this issue as it was—an accident, not reflective of any American policy or attitude—our leaders behaved as though the protests were based on a legitimate grievance. Afghanistan received apologies from “Afghanistan commander Gen. John Allen, the White House, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and other Pentagon officials,” as Fox News reported.
The United States apologized for this accidental disposal even though the military intentionally burned a significant number of Bibles in 2009 that had been sent unsolicited from an American church, on the fear that “if they did get out, it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslim.” Clearly there’s no endemic lack of sensitivity in the military leadership.
Yet finally, on Thursday, President Obama apparently could resist no longer. He wrote President Karzai a letter in which he expressed his “deep regret,” offered his “sincere apologies,” and promised to “take appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.”
Tens of thousands of American men and women are in Afghanistan fighting to maintain security and prop up President Karzai’s government. Thousands of American and coalition troops have died. Four have been killed as a result of the protests. And President Obama is promising to “hold accountable those responsible” for the unintentional burning of a few books prisoners were themselves desecrating to pass messages.
The president’s letter is outrageous, and he first owes an apology to the men and women in uniform for his failure as commander-in-chief to defend their honor. What’s worse, he may have made their jobs even more dangerous. By apologizing he inflamed the sense that Afghans had been wronged and gave anti-American forces there the message that their violent, senseless protests were achieving something. It might come as a surprise to the president, but not all of his apologies win people over. Most of the time, they just make America look weak.
There’s no doubt that President Obama has a lot to apologize for. But before he continues diminishing the United States on the world stage, he should start by apologizing to the American people.