Saturday, June 6, 2009

Obama's Middle East Endgame: Prolouge -The Cario Speech: Nice Hat - Awaiting the Arival of Cattle

Unlike his misguided appointment of Judge Sotomayor, President Obama's Cairo speech was a good early step towards moving America's policies in a positive direction. Frankly, it's times like this that I'm glad I voted for the guy, there is simply no other American politician who could go to Egypt and approach this topic with such earnestness:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I'm grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

President Bush often made the statement that America was not at war with Islam per Se, but he was never able to articulate the point so eloquently and holistically, acknowledging a complex history while calling for a brighter future.
Was it long on rhetoric and short on specifics? Yep. Sometimes that's OK, however, because words do matter. So long as this is an early step and not the whole plan its a very good start.

Perhaps his most controversial (at least in the mainstream media) statement was directed at a country that is, at least ostensibly, an ally:

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.


There was quit a bit of State Department boilerplate, of course. For example, Obama continued his silliness on nukes, calling for nuclear free world, telling Iran to halt production of nukes, etc. Nonsense really, but it's ok as long he really doesn't take it that sort of thing too seriously.

All and all the speech was a good begining.

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