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August 29, 2008

Does Sarah Palin know what a Sunni is?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Wow, Sarah Palin? Really? We just got a big break. If the Democrats respond to this the right way, McCain is in deep trouble. Just picture it for a second now: in the VP debate, the moderator asks Biden about Iraq policy (maybe some curveball about provincial elections), then asks Palin to respond. It doesn't even seem fair. What is Palin going to say?

It's not really an issue of Palin's zero foreign policy experience (my little brother has no foreign policy experience either but at least he got the most major foreign policy decision of the last __ years right, when 80% of Washington got it wrong... I think it might of went something like this: "Shadi, wtf are we in Iraq?"). The real question is if Palin, before today, has ever spoke at length publicly about any major foreign policy issue. I imagine the answer is no. When the Iraq war started, and when Obama had the courage to oppose it, Palin was the mayor of some random city that has, like, um, 9000 people. In Egypt, a 50-ft. radius practically has more than that.

An award should go to the first person who asks Palin the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'ite. Has Palin actually ever said the word "Sunni" before? I'm not sure, and I'm too lazy to find out, but I suspect I know the answer. Perhaps more importantly, does she know what happened in Iran in 1953? She should know this because she spent a whole sentence today trying to sound hawkish on Iran. I don't want anyone in the oval office or any other office making Iran policy if they don't understand the importance of 1953

Or how about an easier one - who's Morocco's head of state? Even if she doesn't know the answer, she could probably guess. The nice thing about the Arab world is that if you forget someone's name, you can always recover by asking the person, Ahmad/ Mohammad/ Mahmoud/ Mustafa, and then add the word sahh (right) + question mark? This because literally 1 out of every 2 Arabs has one of these four names. Your best bet, however, is Mohammad, which just this past year became the number of one baby name in Britain (oh dear, the Muslims are invading!).

Enough suspense - the King of Morocco (yes, this is the part of the world that still has kings who actually rule, reign, govern, and just about everything else) is named Mohammad. There you go, King Mohammad. Was that too hard?


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Well, I just Googled "Sarah Palin" + Sunni, and got 23,000 hits. The first was your post. All the rest seem to assume that I misspelled the word "sunny."

While l support Sen. Obama, I'm just a bit offended by your post. Exactly why do you think Gov. Palin doesn't know the different between Sunni and Shiite? And the King of Morocco? A lot of foreign policy experts won't have known that, republican or democrat.

Posters at Democracy Arsenal, including you, has worked hard to build up the site's reputation. This post, however,doesn't live up to the norm. Why not at least call the governor's office and ask for copies of anything she has written or presented that addresses foreign policy or security? You may be right that there is nothing there, but why not go to the source to find out?

I've already seen Gov. Palin attacked simply because of her appearance. I hope you will keep at a higher level by keeping the attacks here on issues of substance.

I agree with Caitlyn's criticism of the tone of your post (can you say snark?) but second your feelings about Palin's foreign policy inexperience. I also really question John McCain's judgment in choosing such a VP nominee. Does he think he's going to carry his campaign's foreign policy mantle alone--especially given his own misunderstanding of what has become the central plank of his foreign policy agenda: the surge and, with that, the Sunni Awakening? He never understood that the awakening happened well before the surge ever took real effect. I'm afraid Biden is going to walk all over Palin in their debate.

Andrew Sullivan gives us a little glimpse of what we can expect with Palin on foreign policy:

One would think that after eight years in the wilderness Democrats would have acquired some degree of hard-won political education. So it is profoundly depressing to see so many Democrats all over the blogosphere today, like Shadi, falling all over themselves to leap headlong into John McCain's trap, and respond with such utter political cluelessness, and such predictable kneejerk snobbery and elitism, to this announcement.

Has it ever occurred to you Shadi, that most Americans probably like, and have more respect for, a working mom from Alaska with five kids, who has worked her way up from the PTA to the governorship of a large, amle-dominated US state, than they do for all the elitist brats in Washington who can make fine distinctions among the different varieties of Muslims?

Now you may think that just sucks, or is perverse, or is detrimental to good government. But that's the way it is. So could you please try to deal with those political realities as we find them, and be constructive? Are you and your cohort trying to undo a week of great work by the Obama campaign all in one day?

If you think Sarah Palin has deficiencies in her life experiences and preparation that make her unsuitable for the vice presidency, it is possible to point those out politely and respectfully.

than they do for all the elitist brats in Washington who can make fine distinctions among the different varieties of Muslims?
Exactly, why bother to learn the distinction when you can just bomb anybody you feel like? No, I don't think people who support wars of aggression and can't even be bothered to learn basic facts about the people they are killing deserve any slack, be they voters, potted plants, or a newly-discovered species of amphibious primate. Acting like they deserved some special consideration for their ignorance would do an injustice to the gravity of... war.

I agree with your point that a post like this calls for some more evidence on the extent of Palin's knowledge about the rest of the world. But I also think Democrats and their sympathizers, bloggers or otherwise, could do worse than calling a spade a spade.

Shadi, I'll go with Caitlyn and Dan. You climb the heights (as on your previous piece) and then you plumb the depths. It's probably fair to say that your knowledge of Sarah Palin is, roughly speaking, as limited as her knowledge of the Sunnis, wouldn't you say? And yet you can predict that she will whiff in a VP debate. Remarkable.

Shadi, polls tell us that eighty percent of Americans think we're heading in the wrong direction, and I doubt that you would disagree with that. Who's taking us in that direction? The foreign policy "experts" that, as we used to say in the army, couldn't find their way to the latrine without help. People who know the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite. Guys like stumble-bum Biden, if you want a VP contrast. Is it possible that Palin will clean Biden's clock in a debate? I'd suggest that we keep an open mind and stay tuned.

WOW ... What a great pick!!! America should elect
McCain & Palin for the Whitehouse in November,
for a return to wholesome American values.
An experienced Governor for V.P. vs. a
community organizer for President ... I pick Palin.
No Wright, no Farrakahn, no Ayers, no Rezko,
no mean Michelle, NOBAMA

But are people that are whatever kind expert Biden is actually running our foreign policy right now? Mind you, I'd say our foreign policy at least twds the Middle East has been on a wrong track long before Bush, but I don't think it's the fault of our experts, I think the problem is more that the public has abdicated its influence on foreign policy by not knowing Sunnis from Shi'is, by listening to those voices that tell them knowing basic facts about other countries is only for elitist brats. I'd be very surprised Sarah Palin belongs to a more qualified class of expert on Middle East policy than Biden. I'd love to be proven wrong, but the mere fact that she'll be on a McCain ticket I think makes this utterly improbable.

Kudos...! WOW! You know the name of the king or Morocco! Good for you buddy.

It's probably the only thing you know about this country. Just because you know this bit piece of trivia, does not give you the right to mock a whole nation, religion and centuries of traditions just to make a point about internal American politics. I am sure you'd find plenty of things to joke about Pallin's skills to be VP without offending millions of other people.

Democracy is our birthright all, but one needs to use smartly. Just a friendly reminder.

Yahoo, what exactly did you find so offensive? I'm a bit confused. Among other things, I'm trying to make the point that American policymakers and officials should know more about the Middle East then they currently do.

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