Obama's speech in Cairo today was OK...that's about the best grade I can give it. I admire his attempt to reach out to Muslims and try to reach common ground, even if it can seem like an odd marriage of arrogance and naivete to try to do such a thing. Reminding the Muslim world of America's values was a good move, but do enough of the right people care to do anything about it?
Where I found Obama's speech
somewhat maddening was when he got to some of his "issues". For example, the second one on Israeli-Palestinian relations. It was tilted too much to the sympathetic side toward the Palestinians - regardless of Obama's audience. While Obama's sympathy toward Jews is largely based on history (Holocaust), his sympathy for Palestinians is exclusively based on the "occupation" of a land that has never truly belonged solely to Palestinians to begin with. Obama points out Gaza as an example. Does anyone remember what happened when Israel abandoned Gaza? That's right...bombs started heading north. A two-state solution is fine, but who's doing more to prevent this from happening, and what are the Palestinian people doing to change it? Those are fair questions to ask.
From the speech:
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.
Darn it, that Israel won't go away. Amazing. BTW, what's wrong with imposing peace? Just asking.
The next issue -nuclear weapons:
I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
No further comment required.
Next issue - Democracy:
I know — I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Mr. President, you began by stating that no nation should impose a system of government on another. Then you go on to state that people yearn for freedom and democracy and that America should support these rights everywhere. Did I miss something? You can't have it both ways. Either you support human rights (Obama was good in stating that) or you don't. It's that simple.
Next issue - Religion
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility toward any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
What exactly is he talking about here? If anything, it's the opposite that's occurring. When threatened with something so hideous and oppressive as Sharia law, for example, the logical and right thing to do is to impede it. Faith should serve as a unifying force when it serves the common good, not because it sounds politically correct and "noble".
In the end, it was Obama trying to please both sides. Problem is, you can't speak out of both sides of your mouth, ignore certain inconvenient facts about Muslims and Muslim culture and expect problems to go away. Right-minded people know the underpinning issue here: the West versus a significant minority of Muslims that not only do not believe in unity and freedom, but are hell-bent on fighting it to the death, literally. The sooner we realize who we're really fighting here (as opposed to a religion), the sooner we can end this mess. All the best outreach in the world won't accomplish much if people aren't told the truth.
One last thing, Mr. President: it's perfectly OK to refer to "extremists" by their real description: terrorists. Even in Cairo.