Embarrassed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice insisted that these assaults were just reactions to an insensitive video circulating on the Internet that disparaged Islam. As embassies burned, we were assured that there was no animosity directed at America in general, or at this administration and its foreign policy in particular.
That is hogwash. The weeks-old video was a mere pretext, in the manner of the Danish cartoons that Islamists use to stir up mobs in their war against the West. The street rioting was long ago synchronized across the Middle East to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Apparently, the administration was left stunned and without a clue about the latest Middle East madness.
President Obama chose not to support nearly a million Iranian dissidents in 2009. Two years later, he belatedly offered encouragement to the revolutionaries who overthrew Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Yet those snubbed in Iran were far more likely to oppose radical Islam than the protestors who later put the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Cairo.
Who, exactly, were we "leading from behind" in Libya? Muammar Gadhafi was a monster, but also one in a sort of rehab who was seeking better relations with the West.
As for Syria, the Obama administration has called dictator Bashar al-Assad a reformer. Then he became a mass murderer who had to step down. Then we called in Kofi Annan and the U.N. to practice soft-power diplomacy. Then we threatened to intervene. Now we have backed off.
As a candidate and as president, Obama assumed that his own multicultural politics, his familiarity with Islam, his novel transracial personal story and his repudiation of George W. Bush would all combine to win over the Middle East. Supposedly, Middle Eastern dislike of America had little to do with longstanding existential differences that did not start with Bush and won't end with Obama.
Obama's al Arabiya interview, Cairo speech and loud reset diplomacy sent mixed messages. He gave the impression that Middle East anger was largely either America's fault or due to misunderstandings that the sensitive Obama alone could mitigate -- as he distanced himself from the supposed pathologies of prior American policy in the region.