This morning Fareed Sakaria noted the need to view the words of politicians as being politically motivated and within a political context. When a politician speaks, we need to consider the intended audience and remember the political context. Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, interviewed by CNN’s Candy Crowley, and others observed that this week’s anti-West and anti-U.S. actions, resulting in destruction of U.S. property and the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, three other Americans, and uncounted others in more than 20 countries, was the act of a large group of people, who collectively represented a small minority of the residents of those countries.
The violent acts are troubling, disappointing, even enraging, but to respond against those nations as if the nations have attacked the U.S. would be as misguided, even ignorant, as the apparent inciting of the violence by a rumored anti-Islam film as being representative of and endorsed by the U.S. and the West collectively. The West, and particularly the U.S., needs to respond, but that response must have focus, on the perpetrators and their leaders not the general population. The identity of the perpetrators may be difficult to ascertain.
The Arab Spring phenomenon awakened unrest long nearly dormant because freedoms of speech and expression were historically more constrained than today. The protests somehow connected to this ill-advised film, if it exists, simply would likely not have been possible less than twelve months ago in any of the countries where embassies and consulates have been attacked. Somehow the countries that could suppress expression under previous regimes are no longer capable of providing security to the diplomatic community. That seems likely to be an indication of lack of will onthe part of government officials and community leaders.
Despite the lack of will or ability by leaders in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, and elsewhere, little or no evidence appears to indicate that the people in these countries have animosity toward the United States, the West, our leaders, or our citizens. On the contrary, every current indication is that the perpetrators are not representative of the the general population and at least some of the elected leaders. More to the point, the acts of violence seem to be more likely the result of a fringe element as unhappy with their new leaders as with the West and taking advantage of too many young people with not enough tondo as a result of high unemployment among the young, countries and regions desperate for leadership, and economies in desperate need of sustainable change.