Why Arabs hate Obama

The most powerful president of the world ignored the massacres that took the lives of Arab and Muslim children

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Published: Updated:

President Obama’s relations with Arabs and Muslims started on a good note, then witnessed betrayal and ended up with hatred. The most powerful president of the world ignored the massacres that took the lives of Arab and Muslim children. He continued to remain silent despite terrorist Sunni and Shiite militias targeting towns and villages. He even entered into a deal with their biggest enemy.

But who is guilty – us or him? May be both. In fact, we did not understand his approach and policies properly. We had high expectations and insisted on seeing him as an exceptional president who will change the face of the world, even before he entered the White House.

In just two weeks, Obama will leave office and it is not difficult to analyze his legacy. He has been neither great nor miserable. He is neither extraordinary – as we expected – nor bad. He seemed to be a technocrat steeped in local issues without a global vision as president of the most powerful nation in the world should have.

The first mistake we made was in reading and understanding his Cairo University speech, which he delivered in 2009. We were moved by the emotional fervor that accompanied the victory of an African-American whose father’s name was Hussein and who was of Muslim origin. His father was in fact an atheist. We ignored the message that he had sent, which clearly stated that he wanted to withdraw from the Middle East as soon as possible.

His speech was entitled “The New Beginning” but those who carefully listened to it knew that its real title should have been more like “goodbye.” He used Arabic words in his speech and talked about his memories in Indonesia as a child. He touched the Arabs and Muslims by mentioning the glories of their ancient civilization.

All this psychological manipulation was to calm them down following the wave of anger toward America especially after the era of President George W. Bush. He then distanced himself from our region and this is what literally happened after that.

Understanding foreign policy

The second mistake was in understanding his foreign policy. On an intellectual level, Obama did not believe that diluting the monopoly over global affairs, which was constantly echoed by his predecessors, would devalue the “greatness of America”. Those who were close to him had the same vision. During his tenure, he changed three defense ministers: Bob Gates, Leon Panetta, and Chuck Hagel, because they did not have the same approach like him.

The only moment that Obama expressed a strong desire to intervene in foreign affairs was a mere emotional outburst that ended right after stepping into the White House. That was the famous threat of taking Assad down; which is now infamously known as the “red line”.

Obama’s critics were asking things from him that he did not have. Those who begged, out of humanitarian and moral duties, for the US use of force that is capable of blowing up the planet to save the children from explosive barrels, forgot that he decided from the beginning to be a spectator. He demonstrated more interest in US internal issues, such as health reforms and raising wages.

On an intellectual level, Obama did not believe that diluting the monopoly over global affairs, which was constantly echoed by his predecessors, would devalue the “greatness of America”

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

He appeared stubborn and lacked compassion toward the terrible events that shook the world, like for instance the images of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian child who was found drowned and Omran Daqneesh. His disdain for what happens outside his country’s borders was clear as he used to receive terrible news of tragedies in Syria committed by the Assad regime. Yet he reacted; he was always busy on his BlackBerry.

The only argument that he used to resort to repeatedly was that the United States intervened in Iraq and the results were negative. One of the journalists once responded by saying: “But the world does not end in Iraq!”

He did not even take into consideration the American intellectual and politicians’ criticism. It was not a matter of morality, but rather a matter of maintaining international order, interests and influence toward a “world that the US had created” as stated in the title of a book written by one of his critics.

Approach to terrorism

Moreover, we did not understand Obama’s approach toward terrorism. It was perplexing to see ISIS, one of the most evil organizations, expanding during his tenure and committing dreadful massacres that no one had imagined in the 21st century. The US President believes that terrorism is the Muslim problem and should be dealt with away from the American shores.

He thinks that he defeated terrorism when the US took down Osama bin Laden and confirmed that the intensity of terrorism has decreased. He insisted on his position, although everybody believed that it was not true; he also limited himself to unmanned drones. Obama expressed his interest in global warming issues and, in The Atlantic magazine interview, considered it more important than all of our issues today.

The main reason behind all this was Obama’s orientation toward politics. He probably considered himself smarter and more educated than those in his government. Hence he used to think, decide and dictate without taking into consideration the advice of others, such as Hillary Clinton, whom he marginalized when she was secretary of state. The same happened to Richard Holbrook who died without getting the chance to convince him to change his tactic in Afghanistan.

Obama was not able to become friends with other leaders. He distanced himself and remained secluded. He only became friends with Dmitry Medvedev and that was due to both being lawyers. It is said that he preferred to have dinner with his wife and two daughters rather than going to cocktail parties and meeting members of the Congress to strengthen his friendship and get their approval on his projects.

The social media generation

He currently does not have Republican friends or allies; therefore, his Obamacare program might be under threat of revocation by Trump. Obama believes that he belongs to the Facebook and Twitter generation yet he does not need to shoot short clips to communicate with his supporters and admirers. He does not either believe that he should be sitting with political figures who are opposed to his vision.

Obama is not a president who failed domestically. He has contributed to economic reforms and saving the automobile industry. He also endorsed an important health project even though it had several weaknesses.

He is a good orator and his book “Dreams from My Father” is one of the best biographies. However, the US president is the head of the world and “an indispensable nation,” as Bill Clinton rightly said. The US has eradicated evil regimes such as Nazism and fascism, weakened barbaric groups like al-Qaeda and maintained a liberal order, in which we are living today after the decline of the European powers.

Obama is the first US president to be hated by so many Arabs, whether they were conservatives, liberals, intellectuals, artists, traders, taxi drivers or carpenters. Strangely this time, they are right!

This article is available in Arabic at Al-Arabiya.net
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.