The world came to a halt on Monday as it was reported 16 people were arrested in France for their alleged connection with the robbery of Kim Kardashian back in October 2016. In stark contrast to the grave concern and cheers for justice by many on social media as a result of the arrests, not nearly as much attention was paid to the two-year anniversary of the horrific Charlie Hebdo attack on January 7.
To understand why it is so concerning that one event was so widely remembered and the other was not, merits some context. Reality star Kim Kardashian was robbed of $10.5 million worth of jewelry at gunpoint in Paris. No one doubts that the experience was traumatic for her and her family and that no one should have to go through such a terrible ordeal. But is it too much to ask that American voters should care just as much, if not even more so, about acts of terrorism that affect the United States’ oldest ally?
Two gunmen in the name of radical Islam, specifically affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, stormed the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris and murdered 12 people on January 7, 2015. Among those murdered in the assault on Charlie Hebdo’s office was a Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabet, who heroically died while trying to stop the attackers. At the time of his death, Merabet was due to soon cease fieldwork because of a recent promotion to detective. The subsequent day, a third gunman who pledged his loyalty to ISIS, murdered a young police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe. Philippe was just days away from officially graduating from the police academy. The same gunman who murdered Jean-Philippe went on to take a kosher supermarket hostage on January 9 and murder four of its customers: Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen, François-Michel Saada, and Philippe Braham.
In response to the three-day-long terrorist attack, world leaders gathered in Paris to show solidarity with the French people, but President Obama was not one of them.
The French were there for us in our time of need.
When the United States faced its gravest hour thus far in the 21st century, on the morning of September 12, 2001, the French newspaper Le Monde did not hesitate in lending its moral support to the American people. An editorial prominently displayed on the front page, above the fold, of the French newspaper declared, “Nous sommes tous Américains,” meaning, “We are all Americans.”
Is it really all that surprising then that if President Obama was not willing to join his fellow world leaders in Paris after the January 2015 attacks, that radical Islamic terrorism continues to prevail in France; but also that more people seem interested in the Kardashian robbery? The foreign policy of the past eight years has willingly indulged in celebrity culture and made longtime allies of the United States feel most alone when American moral leadership is most needed.
Even before becoming president, the 2008 Obama campaign openly attempted to gain attention through large political rallies abroad that were heavy in uplifting imagery but light on substantive policy promises as effectively demonstrated in a McCain campaign attack ad.
This sort of a communication strategy has continued even to this day with the White House YouTube page publishing a video days ago, titled “Yes We Can: People Share Their Most Memorable Moments from the Obama Presidency.” As the title states, the video contains the fond memories of the Obama presidency of everyday Americans as well as several celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Jerry Seinfeld, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
There is nothing new about presidents befriending celebrities as was previously most prominently displayed by President Ronald Reagan and will continue to be the case with President-Elect Donald Trump. Nevertheless, President Reagan always ensured that there would be no daylight between the United States and its closest allies at the peak of the Cold War.
Similarly, President-Elect Trump must repair relationships with several allied nations as the United States needs the support of the global community to win the War on Terror and ensure that the American people are engaged and understand the stakes involved. It would be quite the ironic twist of fate if a former reality television star is the president who does away with the excesses of celebrity culture that the White House has become known for in recent years.