Attacks on US embassies in Muslim countries continue to feature "Yes,but" arguments from American officials. Yes, the anti-Muslim movie is deplorable, but that does not excuse killing innocent people and destroying property. This is a weak argument in any similar situation and feeds, rather than starves, protest demonstrations and riots. Der Spiegel in Germany sees "Obama's Foreign Policy in Ruins." Hussain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US writing in the Wall Street Journal ("Manipulated Outrage and Misplaced Fury"), tries to explain that the West's apologies play into the hands of Islamists, who will always be able to find some insult to play up as an excuse for anti-Americanism.
There are limited consequences to the riots, anyhow. Let's get some perspective. To his credit, Richard Engel, correspondent of NBC, reporting from Cairo last night, had his camera show that the rioters occupy only a relatively small section of space, while nearby traffic flows as usual around Tahrir Square in the center of town, and that business and shopping go on pretty much as usual. In other words, a demonstration in Cairo, even if violent, is not a whole lot more significant than a demonstration in an American city. It simply seems bigger than it is because of a media coverage.
The events in the Middle East and the Administration's (and media's) reactions, do however reveal a deep flaw in American liberal thinking. If someone with a supposed grudge like Anders Breivik in Norway walks into a summer camp and starts shooting, do we rush first to see whether the man's grudge is something we should take seriously? Do we try to placate the marauder? Or do we condemn it in the strongest terms and demand justice for those attacked? You know the answer. Why then do we suddenly start acting like insecure, slightly guilty parties when our diplomats and other innocents are attacked?
Standing up to terrorism carries a cost. But not as big a cost as trying to temporize with terrorism. The Obama "soft power" approach really has revealed itself as a failure.