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President Obama’s Cairo Speech: A Worthwhile Effort or an Exercise in Narcissism?

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President Obama delivered an historic — some would say "masterful" — speech in Cairo on 4 June 2009. Some have disparaged it, while others have praised it to the heavens, even going so far as to suggest that President Obama is godlike.

I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God.

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I think the President's speech yesterday was the reason we Americans elected him. It was grand. It was positive. Hopeful…But what I liked about the President's speech in Cairo was that it showed a complete humility…The question now is whether the President we elected and spoke for us so grandly yesterday can carry out the great vision he gave us and to the world.

Hope is generally a good thing, even for obviously terminal cancer patients; change is sometimes a good thing. However, there are times when hope is delusional and change is for the worse. There are also times when delusional hope can lead to disastrous change.

Superficially, President Obama's Cairo speech appears to have been intended to demonstrate to the Islamic World that the United States should no longer be viewed as an enemy of Islam and that Islam is not and should not be an enemy of the United States. So far, so good. His speech may well appeal to some of the Islamic "moderates" who are already in full agreement with the "Islam is the religion of Peace" notion; it will probably appeal to those in the United States and elsewhere who very much want to believe that Islam is, in fact, a religion of peace, and that to avoid future problems it is only necessary that the United States recognize this and act accordingly. However, that's rather like preaching to the choir — not a bad thing to do on occasion, but unlikely to change many minds.

What about those who seem to accept the idea that Islam is a religion of peace only in the sense that true peace is found exclusively in death: those who cheered the obliteration of the World Trade Center in New York City, the attempted obliteration of other places in the United States and the deaths which those actions caused? What about those who send small children off bearing instruments of violent suicide in order to kill their enemies? What about those who hate the United States and the "universal principles" for which she is said to stand — democracy, the rule of law, the rights of all, including minorities and women, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and all that sort of thing? What about those who do not accept the notion that such treasures should be universal, as President Obama had proclaimed earlier and as he reiterated in his 4 June speech? What about those who look forward with glee to the death of Israel and of her citizens? Are their minds likely to be changed? I doubt it. Nor does it seem likely that those who view all Islamists collectively as their sworn enemy will be persuaded to see the error of their ways; that the lion and lamb will henceforth lie down and enjoy a lasting peace with one another.

It was sad that President Obama felt it necessary to point out that the Holocaust actually happened and was evil, that Israel should be accepted as a legitimate state and that nuclear weapons should not proliferate. It was sad because many in his audience reject these notions; it seems unlikely that more than a very few of those who previously rejected these notions changed their views as a result of the Cairo speech.

President Obama went on at some length to promote his "two state solution" for Israel and her rather quarrelsome neighbors as the keystone for peace in the region. He did not mention the previous failures of similar solutions.

It seems to me that Israel is considered by many of her neighbors to be a thorn in their sides, principally because she approaches democracy and the freedoms which are thought to accompany democracy to a far greater extent than does any other collection of people in the region; because she has thereby turned her previously barren lands into fertile and prosperous ones; and because she has thereby become a leader in various areas of military and commercial technology. If this is so, then the "two state" solution embraced by President Obama in his Cairo speech and elsewhere as the policy of the United States will not produce a scintilla of change — at least not for the better. If Israel survives the two state solution, she will presumably continue to have these same pesky attributes, she will continue to be an unwelcome example to her neighbors, her neighbors will continue to lob missiles and suicide bombers at her, and she will have no choice but to try to make them stop. Should the interesting but hardly novel two state experiment fail, as seems quite likely to me, it will not be exclusively at the expense of the United States; it will be at the expense of another sovereign state, Israel, as well. It will also be at the expense of those "universal principles" which President Obama praised in Cairo and elsewhere.

About Dan Miller

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Ah, I love Sherlock Holmes. (And Hercule Poirot too.)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Ruvy,

    Yeah, it does seem present at least three three pipe problems:

    The first is to understand why President Carter apparently came to the defense of the village, and as to that you may have hit the hammer on the head with the nail. The second is whether it will do any good for the village, and the third is whether it should.

    I’ll pass on the second problem, because my crystal ball was made in Venezuela, where quality control has not yet reached the giddy heights of perfection displayed in Chinese products, and pass on to the third.

    If President Carter followed only his Christian religious instincts to arrive at his conclusion, then in the absence of some other basis, I don’t think that his conclusion has a suitable predicate for the U.S. Government to adopt it. Great Zeus! Just think of the plethora of silly notions that the U.S. could adopt on such a basis.

    If the U.S. Government is to involve itself in deciding whether villages should be destroyed or abandoned to the Palestinians, and if so which, shouldn’t the bases of its involvement include the security of Israel, and all of the other points you have previously raised? Will it derail the “peace process” or require Israel to yield something even worse? Somehow, I doubt that those are of great importance to President Carter and that he will pay much attention to them in any discussions he may have with the current powers that be.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Ruvy

    Dan,

    It is hard to truly know the motivation of a man. For example, YitzHaq Rabin, the man assassinated at the behest of Mr. Peres, was a drunkard a good part of his life. But reliable sources had it that he was studying Torah at the end of his life, and actually beginning to change his life a bit. So, we cannot truly know, and it is dangerous to attempt to extrapolate too far. This leads down the road to satire but not necessarily wisdom or understanding.

  • Ruvy

    This is the essence of Netanyahu’s speech up to 20:39 according to Ha’aretz. You need to read it from the bottom up.

    20:39 Netanyahu: With God`s help we will know no more wars, only peace (Haaretz)
    20:37 Netanyahu: We are committed to bringing back Gilad Shalit safe and sound (Haaretz)
    20:37 Netanyahu: Israel will not negotiate with terrorists who wish to destroy it (Haaretz)
    20:36 Netanyahu: Palestinians must choose between the path of peace and that of Hamas (Haaretz)
    20:35 Netanyahu: Settlers aren`t enemies of peace, they are our brothers and sisters (Haaretz)
    20:33 Netanyahu: Future Palestinian state must be dematerialized if peace is to arrive (Haaretz)
    20:32 Netanyahu: We do not want a Palestinian state that can become a terrorist base (Haaretz)
    20:30 Netanyahu: We want the two peoples to live peacefully side by side (Haaretz)
    20:30 Netanyahu: We don`t want to govern Palestinians or force our culture on them (Haaretz)
    20:29 Netanyahu: There wouldn`t have been a Holocaust if Israel had been formed (Haaretz)
    20:27 Netanyahu: Jewish people`s link with Land of Israel has lasted for 3000 years (Haaretz)
    20:26 Netanyahu: Israel assimilated thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab nations (Haaretz)
    20:25 Netanyahu: Palestinian refugees must find solution outside Israel`s borders (Haaretz)
    20:24 Netanyahu: Palestinian leaders must show integrity and courage to attain peace (Haaretz)
    20:23 Netanyahu: Even moderate Palestinians will not recognize Israel as Jewish state (Haaretz)
    20:22 Netanyahu: Israel`s withdrawal from Palestinian territories has not brought peace (Haaretz)
    20:22 Netanyahu: The closer we get to an agreement, the farther the Palestinians retreat (Haaretz)
    20:21 Netanyahu: West Bank does not stand at the center of dispute with Arab world (Haaretz)
    20:20 Netanyahu: Root of the dispute is refusal to recognize Israel as Jewish state (Haaretz)
    20:19 Netanyahu: We must ask ourselves why has peace not arrived after 60 years? (Haaretz)
    20:18 Netanyahu: I don`t want war, no one wants war (Haaretz)
    20:17 Netanyahu: We want both Israeli and Palestinian children to live without war (Haaretz)
    20:15 Netanyahu: Financial efforts won`t come instead of peace, but will aid in its arrival (Haaretz)
    20:15 Netanyahu: We want peace, in Damascus, in Riyadh in Beirut, and also in Jerusalem (Haaretz)
    20:14 Netanyahu: After yesterday`s election, the Iranian threat is at its most dangerous (Haaretz)
    20:13 Netanyahu at Bar Ilan: Meeting of extremist Islam and nukes is greatest threat (Haaretz)
    20:12 Netanyahu: Iran, economic crisis, peace process are our greatest challenges (Haaretz)

  • Bliffle

    It’s popular to ridicule Jimmy Carter, yet he’s the only one to ever have effected a lasting peace agreement in the Middle east: the Egypt-Israel peace pact 30 years ago.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    It’s popular to ridicule Jimmy Carter…

    Frankly, madame, until this afternoon, Mr. Carter had only my contempt – just another damned Jew-hating cracker. But, there may be more to the man, yet. G-d has given him a long life. One is forced to wonder why.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    REACTION TO NETANYAHU’S SPEECH LAST NIGHT.

    Netanyahu put on a consummate act, swallowing the poison while saying he was hedging it about with conditions. With all the conditions it was “just a little itty bitty bit of poison”. The conditions will all disappear – only the phrase “two-state solution” will remain. Netanyahu is an expert at this kind of shit.

    Talkback #141 at this Jerusalem Post article said it all.

    HE BUCKLED! No leader can afford to play these kind of games with the future of his country. A REAL LEADER must do and say what is right, not to attempt to please everyone, much less foreign governments. His job is the protection Israel and – in spite of all the frosting on top – this was nothing but a speech of surrender. Israel will pay dearly for Netanyahu’s words. And so will he because next time there won’t be any reason for voting Likud. By trying to please everyone, Netanyahu has angered the majority of Israelis. Mr Netanyahu is accountable to Israeli voters – not to foreign powers. This is nothing but a travesty of democracy. The US government will continue to squeeze because they know Israel has surrendered.