In one historic speech, President Barack Obama managed to destabilize America's relationship with Israel, fan the flames of tension with Iran and alienate his own countrymen.
Speaking at Cairo University yesterday, Obama apologized for American transgressions around the world, yet was unwilling to even ask Muslim states to hold their "extremists" (we call them "terrorists" here in America) accountable for their unconscionable actions around the world. He mentioned 9/11, but only as an explanation for the American responses it provoked. Meanwhile, the president emphasized how America has acted "contrary to our ideals" in the past, yet failed to acknowledge the steep level of American generosity and its long history of military success around the world.
Obama quoted the Koran three times and placed the onus for peace in the Middle East on Israel, overlooking the repeated attacks against the Jewish state by Muslim hate-groups like Hamas (Obama's new buddies) and Hezbollah. Jewish groups were particularly incensed by Obama's casual equation of the holocaust to the Muslim -- and Christian -- pursuit of a homeland.
The president then compounded their anger by calling on Israel to stop settlements in the Gaza strip without calling for equally important strides toward peace from Palestinian groups.
One of the more uncomfortable parts of his speech for conservatives was his discussion of Iran's nuclear program. In one breath, the president said it is difficult to overcome years of mistrust, he neglects to mention that the foundation for this mistrust doesn't rest solely on America's shoulders. Iran has charted a devious course on many occasions. Obama's is exhibiting profound -- even reckless -- na´vetÚ if he believes Iran is simply trying to pursue an energy program. Worse, before a worldwide audience, the president is making the case for a nation that consistently failed to report its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency. This kind of deception sows distrust.
The president once again announced plans to shut down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, despite increasing reticence on the part of a majority of Americans. He also once again touted his decision to stop enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding on the grounds that they constitute torture. While these are no doubt popular pronouncements for Muslims in the Middle East, Obama made no mention of the actual torture Muslim extremists have used on American forces for nearly two decades. These include stuffing sand simultaneously in the mouth, bone-breaking, fingernail-pulling, and, of course, electrocutions. The president's call for an end to American "torture" practices without requesting a corresponding end to the long-standing policies of state-sponsored torture throughout the Middle East is a hollow gesture, designed only to appease.
More troubling than the content of the speech is the statement it makes about the new direction of American foreign policy -- especially as it relates to Israel. In the hours after Obama's speech, Israel was silent. Finally, several hours later, the country's leaders issued a statement expressing support for Obama's call for an end to Palestinian violence.
Like many Americans, Israel has to be wondering if Obama's comments about the Israel/Palestine conflict is representative of a policy shift that will focus less on ending Palestinian violence and more on eliciting concessions from Israel.
The president concluded his speech by lauding Islam's "proud tradition" of religious tolerance, which rang highly ironic when al Queda leader Osama bin Laden later warned fellow Muslims to "not take Jews and Christians as allies." In case the message of religious intolerance was lost in that statement, he added, "If a Muslim became an ally of the infidels and backed them against Muslims his faith would be annulled and he would become an apostate infidel."
Obama's willingness to extend an olive branch to the world's Muslim population is laudable, but his methods are suspect. Liberals may be happy with the conciliatory tone struck by the president, but conservatives are wary of the broad range of responses it may invite.
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