Fred LaSor: Grading ourselves

In training for overseas assignments where we would represent the United States, my colleagues and I in Foreign Service spent weeks reading about and discussing the history, economy and culture of the lands where we would serve. Many of us had previous experience: some as Peace Corps Volunteers, others as graduate students who had studied abroad, and a few as first generation Americans with foreign-born parents. And many of us were fluent in the language. Still we went through strenuous “area studies”.

We had no tests at the end of our studies, but the grade was how we operated in our country of assignment. And since most of us were high achievers we were our greatest critics. We either succeeded very well or we kicked ourselves for not having studied harder. We understood we were to interact with people outside the borders of the United States. We also were to execute the nation’s foreign policy and needed to know how those people thought, what motivated them, and to speak to them in their own language.

Contrast that with the manner in which our current administration fails in dealing with people who have shown time after time that they are willing to kill whoever stands in the way of their design to impose sharia law on America and the world. President Obama believed when he came into office that apologies and remorse would win over foreign enemies and change the dynamics of international relations around the globe, but he did not understand the people he was dealing with.

The President may be forgiven for believing that his youth in a Muslim country gave him some special insight into that religion and an uncommon ability to communicate with allies and enemies alike in the Arab world, people with whom we have had troubled relations since at least 1983 when Muslim terrorists bombed a Marine barracks in Beirut. But the terrorists attacking us are from the Middle East, not Indonesia, where the President lived as a youngster. The religion is the same; the culture clearly is not.

Invoking his affection for the muezzins’ call to morning prayer, (something I learned to appreciate in 1956 when I lived for a year in Beirut), our President led us to believe his words could calm the angry young men who dreamed of killing non-believers. Five months into his first term Obama flew to Egypt to speak at Cairo University. CNN reported that the address was “billed as a fence-mending mission between the United States and Islam.” and said the President was “offering a hand of friendship” to the Muslim world. Not to Egypt or even the Arab Middle East, but to Islam. The same Islam whose name he will not speak after each successive terrorist attack.

Almost six years have passed since that historic trip, six years during which America and the west have repeatedly been attacked by Islamist terrorists who have vowed to impose sharia law on an ever-expanding portion of the Arab world and Africa, Europe and America. No objective observer can believe this administration’s policies have achieved their goal. We have not gained friends and peace, rather the people who attack us think we are weak and without principles.

It is regrettable no one around the President has the same self-grading mentality my colleagues and I carried with us into our foreign assignments. If they did they would be the first to admit the policy we have been pursuing is wrong and it is failing. It deserves an ‘F.’

Fred LaSor retired from the U.S. Foreign Service after 28 years in nine different countries. He lives in the Carson Valley.


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