In an era of high education and specialty degrees—from psychology to political science—perhaps it was inevitable for simple common sense to fall by the wayside. The embassy attacks across the Muslim world, especially the most savage in Egypt and Libya, are a testimony to this: U.S. policy towards these countries fundamentally exacerbated their wild reactions. To understand all this, one need only turn to the classic "schoolyard bully" paradigm, that any child can understand.
Not especially large or strong, the schoolyard bully—generally a prickly, nasty fellow—picks on two groups: 1) those who are obviously weaker than him and 2) those who, while larger or stronger than him, willingly give in to him—willingly appease. Bullying the first group, the weak, is an easy matter for the bully. As for the second group, whose capacities and responses are unclear, these he must first determine through a few bully trial-runs—to see whether they will fight back, or whether they will give in. He begins small—a shove and harsh word here and there—and takes it from there, always seeing how far he can go.
The bully will receive one of two responses from the second group, those not smaller or weaker than him: either appeasement and giving in, or a punch to the nose. If he receives the former, he continually ups the bullying to see how much more he can get away with: harsh words and shoves become demands for lunch money and stolen jackets. His work becomes complete with the absolute subordination of his victim.
As for the one who does not put up with his bullying—who gives him a swift punch to the nose—not only does the bully leave him be, he even begins to respect if not befriend him.
For centuries, people from all walks of life knew this—from experience if not common sense. Children knew it.
Now consider how the schoolyard bully paradigm helps explain America's relationship to the Muslim world, especially in the last four years, culminating with the U.S. embassy debacles in the Muslim world.
To set the stage, here are the main characters: the Muslim world represents the bully and the international arena is the schoolyard where his shoves and demands are made; the Muslim world's religious minorities, Christian and otherwise, represent the weak—they who are bullied incessantly because there is nothing they can do about it, and whose plight is a testimony to the bullying mentality of the Muslim world; the U.S. represents the ostensibly strong figure in the international-schoolyard, whose response to the bully is not wholly known and needs to be tested.
Soon after taking office, Barrack Obama made it clear in numerous ways that he was intent on appeasing the Muslim world—whether by bowing to the Wahabbi King, commanding NASA to make Muslims feel better about themselves, censoring security language deemed insulting to Muslims, or giving terrorist Osama bin Laden an Islamic funeral. No American president has been more appeasing to the Muslim world than Barrack Obama.
Of course, much of this may not be naïve appeasement; it may be something much worse. But the Muslim masses interpret it as appeasement.
Obama's most recent concessions were unprecedented: he betrayed America's longtime secular allies—whose existence was fundamental to U.S. interests, not to mention the interests of the secular and non-Muslim segments of their societies—to appease the Islamists of the world, those groups that share the same ideology, if not always tactics, of the terrorists who struck the U.S. on 9/11; those groups that are fundamentally hostile to the U.S.; those groups renowned for bullying the weak in their midst.
Of all Middle East nations, it was his policies in Egypt and Libya that were especially appeasing to the Islamists. In Egypt, he threw Hosni Mubarak—a staunch 30-year-ally of the U.S.—under the bus and helped empower the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis; in Libya, he provided military aid to the al-Qaeda-affiliated "rebels" who overthrew Gaddafi.
And what thanks did America receive from Egypt and Libya? More bullying, more demands. Like the proverbial schoolyard bully used to getting what he wants, during the embassy riots and protests across the Muslim world, it was the Islamists of Egypt and Libya—precisely those two groups which Obama did so much for, the al-Qaeda affiliated rebels in Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis—who went on the most violent sprees, made bolder demands (including the release of the Blind Sheikh or else), stormed and terrorized embassies, burned American flags, and murdered and raped American diplomats.
Thus, as all the talking heads analyze how and why the embassy attacks occurred, the greater lesson is obvious for those with common sense: nothing short of a punch to the nose—or at this very late date, when the image of an appeasing America is so ingrained, several punches—will ever cease the bullying and earn some respect for the United States.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.