No, it's not because he's a secret Muslim. Nobody has ever seen him engage in Islamic rituals since he left Indonesia at age ten.
Significantly, Islam's transracial ethic had no appeal to Obama as a young adult, when his obsession was proving he was "black enough". He was proud of his Kenyan grandfather for converting to Islam—but that was because Obama mistakenly associated orthodox Islam with the black racism of Louis Farrakhan's heretical Nation of Islam, which had long interested him (see pp. 195-204 of Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance).
Obama admired his black grandfather for writing an angry letter to his white grandfather "saying that he didn't want his one son marrying white" (p. 406). Indeed, this (bigamous) marriage between Obama's parents did prove disastrous, leaving its one offspring psychologically scarred for decades. At age 27, Obama was disappointed to discover that his grandfather hadn't been a member of the anti-white Mau-Mau terrorist group—shockingly, he had been a domestic servant for British colonialists.
The Republican fear that Obama is a secret Muslim is silly, but so is the Democratic dream that electing a black President will suddenly make America popular in the Middle East. The sad reality is that Middle Easterners treat their black minorities with contempt. (See Robert F. Worth's New York Times' Feb. 28, 2008 article Languishing at the Bottom of Yemen's Ladder, about the horrific conditions under which the blacks in that Arab country subsist.
No, to understand the reason Obama's Muslim middle name matters, it's necessary to first review America's strategic situation.
The good news: over the next decade at least, America faces few, if any, serious foreign military challenges. The only dangers the next President will have to deal with are those, like 9-11, to which we choose to make ourselves vulnerable because of domestic pandering and political correctness.
A quarter of a century ago, we were faced-off against a military superpower that had a fighting chance to drive its vast tank armada through the Fulda Gap and all the way to the Rhine. And if that didn't work, the Soviets could fall back on their countless nuclear ICBMs.
Now, that was dangerous.
Today, in contrast, the rest of the world is demilitarizing. America's military spending is almost equal to that of all other countries on Earth (47 percent or 49 percent of the world's total, by two different estimates).
But what about the ruthless ambitions of Iran, which John McCain wants to bomb-bomb-bomb? According to the CIA World Factbook, Iran spent only 2.5 percent of its paltry GDP on defense in 2006, compared to America's 4.06 percent. In 2003, Iran ranked 25th in absolute military spending, wedged among such imposing military colossi as Singapore, Argentina, Norway, and Belgium.
This doesn't mean we are safe. We lost 3,000 people in a Muslim raid in 2001.
Yet, our military wasn't overpowered. The twin towers weren't knocked down by jet bombers launched from Islamic aircraft carriers. (In fact, the 44 countries of the Muslim world don't have a single carrier amongst them. We have 12, each one larger than any other country's biggest flattop).
No, we lost 3,000 lives because we let 19 terrorists into our country and let them roam around as they pleased. George W. Bush had campaigned in 2000 against the profiling of Muslims by airport security. His Transportation Department was running a program in 2001 to crack down on the "disparate impact" of security procedures on air travelers with Arab names.
Michael Tuohey was the veteran U.S. Air ticket agent at the Portland, Maine airport who checked in head terrorist Mohammed Atta and his companion Abdulaziz Alomari on the morning of September 11, 2001, on the first leg of their trip that ended with Atta piloting a hijacked jet into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. In 2005, Tuohey recounted:
"'I thought they looked like two Arab terrorists but then I berated myself for the stereotype and did nothing.'"
David Hench of the Portland Press Herald reported:
"It wasn't just Atta's demeanor that caught Tuohey's attention.'When I looked at their tickets, they had first-class, one-way tickets - $2,500 tickets. Very unusual,' he said. 'I guess they're not coming back. Maybe this is the end of their trip.'"[Ticket Agent Haunted by Brush with 9/11 Hijackers, March 6, 2005]
Here's the FBI's list of the names of the 19 terrorists:
"Mohamed Atta, Khalid Al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi, Hani Hanjour, Satam Al Suqami, Waleed M. Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Fayez Ahmed, Ahmed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, Mohald Alshehri, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, and Ziad Jarrahi."
Notice a pattern?
In retaliation for 9/11, America immediately did a sensible thing—overthrow the government of Afghanistan for hosting Al Qaeda. But then, upon further reflection, we did something that made no sense: invade and occupy Iraq, a country that had nothing whatever to do with 9/11.
When the last legless old Iraq War veteran dies early in the 22nd Century and we can finally total up the cost of our Mesopotamian misadventure, it will add up to vast sums—five trillion dollars is the latest guesstimate of Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz. That would be $65,000 per American family of four.
And yet there is a logic of sorts to the Bush-McCain invade-the-world thinking. If we continue to invite-the-world, if we won't defend our legal borders, we'll have to militarily push our effective borders out to the ends of the earth.
But, of course, as we've seen in Iraq, we can't conquer the world (unless we want to slaughter millions, which we don't).
Nevertheless, we've taken few effective steps to secure our borders. The Bush Administration's plan for a "virtual fence" was revealed to be a virtual hoax this week. Similarly, almost exactly five years after 15 young Saudi men helped carry out 9/11, President Bush announced a deal with the King of Saudi Arabia to bring in 15,000 more young Saudi men to study at American colleges— quintupling the number of the compatriots of Atta at American universities.
This disarray in American policy-making shouldn't be too surprising. The fall of the Soviet Union removed the organizing, disciplining principle behind American foreign policy. So it has reverted to the up-for-grabs system of the early 1900s, when various interest groups and crusaders could temporarily hijack it for their own purposes. If the United Fruit Co. was having trouble in a banana republic, send in the Marines. If Teddy Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson wanted a war for large, misty reasons, send in the Army. Similarly, our post-1991 foreign policy has been driven more by small groups of enthusiasts than by any rational conception of the national interest that, say, George Washington or George Kennan would have recognized.
In contrast to Yosemite Sam McCain, Obama doesn't appear to be a natural enthusiast. It's not at all clear that he's a realist, but, like most African-Americans, he doesn't seem hugely interested in abroad. (With one major exception, of course: Africa, where his key advisors Susan E. Rice and Anthony Lake have long been demanding an American military attack upon Sudan over Darfur, an inaccessible wasteland of zero strategic interest to the U.S.)
The bad news: it seems awfully unlikely that Obama will do the simple, practical thing to protect America from terrorism—make it a lot harder for people with names like, oh, say, "Hussein" to come to America.
Of course, John McCain won't do it either. His friends in the media would be shocked. It would be far more pleasant on the Straight Talk Express if he merely launched a war with Iran.
And, theoretically, there's some slight Nixon-to-China chance that a President named "Hussein" would try to make it less easy for foreign Muslims to wander about America at will.
Unfortunately, there's no indication so far that Obama might do this.
Perhaps somebody should ask him about it.
[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]