First of all, I think it is fair to say that no-one who wants to be taken seriously should use the words “Arab Spring” without heavy irony.
The fact is that the First Amendment, no matter how embattled, protects a range of expression unthinkable even in Western Europe. Because of that unique position, and because the U.S. seems doomed to play an outsized diplomatic and military role in the tumultuous Muslim world, it behooves the State Department to constantly explain the vast differences between state-sanctioned and legally protected speech in the so-called Land of the Free. If the U.S. government really was in the business of “firmly reject[ing]” private free-speech acts that “hurt the religious beliefs of others” there would be no time left over for doing anything else.
Matt Welch, stating what is alas not obvious to officials at the US State Department.
Meanwhile, I note – as have others – that the killing of the US ambassador in Libya only made it on page 4 of the New York Times. All the news that’s fit, to, er, print. Okay, I understand the limitations of print journalism, but something tells me that a journalist and editors goofed. A US ambassador got murdered, FFS.
The US elections got a lot more interesting, alas, for horrible reasons. The ghost of Jimmy Carter hangs over it.
Some wise comments, I think, from Walter Russell Mead. He is even-handed in how he regards the options for Obama and his opponent:
The order and competence dimension of a presidential election should not be underestimated. Voters generally don’t want presidents who drive the U.S. government like it was a Ferrari. They want a comfortable, safe ride; their kids are in the back seat of the car. Yesterday’s events damage President Obama because they call into question the story the campaign wants to tell—that President Obama is a calm and laid-back, though ultimately decisive person who brings order to a dangerous world and can be trusted with the car keys. But if Republicans respond by looking wild eyed and excitable (remember John McCain’s response to the financial crisis in 2008?), bad times will actually rally people to stick with the devil they know.
Yesterday rocked President Obama’s world and gave Governor Romney’s campaign some new openings. But one day in a long campaign is just one day. We still don’t know how these events will reverberate across the Middle East or how the U.S. response will develop. In some ways, trouble overseas distracts attention from the White House’s current domestic problems—the Woodward book and the Chicago strike. And the President can thank his stars that the German Constitutional Court decided not to plunge the world economy into crisis this morning and allowed the German government to complete the ratification of the most recent European bailout agreements.
As he says, we are living through a period where there is a lot of what finance geeks and others call “event risk”. There is a lot of it about.
I am off to Turkey tomorrow. Gulp.