In the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris, much of the world has responded with one voice, saying “Je Suis Charlie” in support of those journalists who were murdered by radicalized Muslim terrorists. Nearly four million people walked with leaders from around the world in a unity march. Those leaders included British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, EU President Donald Tusk, and Jordan's King Abdullah II. Noticeably absent from the list? Any high-ranking official from the Obama administration.
While no official word has come from the White House about exactly why the president, the vice president or a cabinet level official was present, pundits have speculated that it was because of concerns over security. And while keeping our leaders safe is clearly a priority, the whole point of the event was to show that the leaders of the world are unafraid and standing as one against the terrorists. Think about it: if the leaders of Israel and Palestine can be appropriately secured for this event, I have to believe that Vice President Biden could have showed up. By not having a presence at the rally the United States has sent an emboldening message to terrorists: we are afraid.
More than anything else, the U.S. absence has put us on a different message than the rest of the world. At this writing about half of the top media stories are about who was there and what the rally represents and the other half are focused on why there was no U.S. representation. We’re simply off-message and out of touch with the rest of our team. You know how after a Red Sox win, the player with the standout performance gets interviewed on the field and usually says things like, “it was a real team win” and “players up and down the line up contributed” or “our pitching staff really came through.” Today the U.S. is that player who says, “We would have won by 3 if our shortstop could hit.” While the rest of the world is saying, “PEACE,” the message coming out of the U.S. government right now is “stop complaining that we weren’t there, we did make a phone call.”
In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, shell-shocked Americans got back to their work and their lives by saying “if we don’t return to normal, then the terrorists will win.” It’s been more than decade for us, but we should do our best to remember how hard it was to be “normal” in those post 9/11 days and do a better job to support our allies in Europe. I am hoping the administration can make this right and that this is the only point the terrorists will score.