Iraq The Opinionsphere

Can We Blame the Shoe-Thrower?

John Dickerson seems about a day too late in offering the conventional wisdom about the American reaction to the show-throwing incident:

At the very least, I suspect a spark of patriotism will kick in when some Americans watch the tape or see al-Zaidi heralded in the streets as a hero. Hey, you can’t throw shoes at our president, they might say. Only we can throw shoes at our president.

That was my first reaction certainly – but most other people seem to have either looked on the Iraqi journalist with sympathy or merely commenting on Bush’s dodging ability as was evident in the day after the show-throw. And in the case of Iraq – and Bush’s insouciant, “So, what?” in response to Iraq’s lack of weapons of mass destruction – it’s hard to blame one an Iraqi for wanting to grievously insult our president.

Can we really be outraged that the man threw a shoe in anger when Bush invaded his country under untrue pretenses and so botched the aftermath of the war? I can’t.

5 replies on “Can We Blame the Shoe-Thrower?”

My first reaction, and I’m certainly not the only person to think so, was that once again Bush shows us he’s good at dodging. I just hope the rumors of that fellows mistreatment, quite possibly at the hands of Americans, are untrue. Sadly, I have to wait until we know more before I will reject the reject rumors. Sad. Sad. Sad.

You just can’t throw shoes at the duly elected leader of the free world. You just can’t. And no this isn’t a healthy sign of a budding democracy.

The thing that really burns me about this is how many idiots (not in Iraq, but in So Cal, or London, or Paris) watch this on YouTube and then post little rants about it. They even have a facebook page where you can become a “fan” of the “guy who threw shoes at Bush.” Talk about a mob mentality.

These people get on the internet and create their own little social worlds where they can spend the afternoon Bush-bashing. But wouldn’t I be willing to bet that in the wake of a disaster, terrorist or otherwise, they’d be the first to run and hide under the protection that Bush and others have provided them these past eight years.

I think the allure of this for the idiots who are still ranting about it on the internet boils down to this: For all of Bush’s faults, he’s still the leader of the free world. The idiots are, and always will be, inconsequential. For a brief moment, some inconsequential idiot throwing a shoe created a symbol for other inconsequential idiots everywhere.

I’m not sure that Bush – or Obama, or any president – can be called the “duly elected leader of the free world.” They have been duly elected President, a position which has historically been called “leader of the free world” – but you would think that the free world would have a say in who their leader is. Since the end of the Cold War, I’m not sure that most members of the free world have seen the President of the United States as “leader of the free world” – although George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama all commanded significant respect and admiration that leads a significant number of people in the democracies look to them for leadership. I would argue that Tony Blair and Nicholas Sarkozy have functioned as “leaders of the free world” during much of Bush’s tenure – and the democracies tend to look to them rather than Bush for leadership. During the Russian-Georgian crisis it was Sarkozy who was in the middle – not Bush; it was Blair trying to sell the Iraq war to the UN and Europe – not Bush. But the burgeoning democracies of India and Brazil seem to look less to any Western figures for leadership today than they did when they were less powerful during the Cold War.

Overall point – if the free world has anything to say about it, Bush can’t be considered their leader.

And even if he was – can you blame an Iraqi for disrespecting Bush? It’s understandable that they blame Bush for the awful past 5 years of war. People have died because of Bush’s insouciance – which is one of the dangers of anyone having significant power. (Though I would argue that Bush’s abuse of and lack of respect for the power he held made matters much worse.) Isn’t it understandable that people find it cathartic to see Bush insulted – especially those whose lives have been decimated by his decisions?

Well I don’t think the free world does have anything to say about it. It’s just a result of America being (for now) the global hegemon. We can debate the merits of that – whether power should be conceded to other nations or whether the stability of the current setup makes the world relatively peaceful.

But I also don’t think the majority of the Iraqi people would find it cathartic to throw shoes at Bush. Maybe they found it cathartic to tear down the bronze statue of Saddam in Baghdad. I think the majority of the Iraqi people realize that their nation is better off moving forward than it was 7 years ago. I’m not saying I’d be in favor of going in (from our perspective) if we could do it again, but in the long term the end may make the world forgive and forget about the means.

Although I haven’t seen any polls done on the reaction of most Iraqis to the show-throwing, there seems to be a great deal of support for him. Many members of the Iraqi parliament were supportive of him – and even more of the sentiment he was showing. Thousands marched in support of him. His television station ran photos of him with patriotic music in the background for days after the show-throw.;_ylt=AluZiHXjYNrh6ljXIb68PK7Zn414

And although we removed Iraq’s tyrant, violence reached catastrophic levels in the aftermath and still is at an exceptionally high rate, although down from the highs of 2006 – which Iraqis surely blame us for. At the same time, Baghdad still doesn’t have consistent clean water and electricity – which it did before Saddam was removed from power.

Why don’t you think most Iraqis would find it cathartic to throw shoes at Bush? The evidence seems to suggest the opposite.

Being the global hegemon does not make our leader the “Leader of the Free World”, but the Leader of the World. The world that is free has not looked to us for leadership since the push for the Iraq war.

As for the leadership of the free world, I don’t think our position is as strong as you suggest. We are – and are likely to remain – the single most powerful nation in the world for some time. But the power of other nations is growing – and we are no longer as dominant. While our influence is significant in all parts of the world, we cannot impose our will on all parts – or even many parts of the world at once. The toll the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking on us demonstrate this.

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