Tuesday, June 9, 2009

President Obama's Cairo Speech -- a Worthwhile Effort or an Exercise in Narcissism?

President Obama's Cairo speech was full of sound and peacefulness, but signified little.

First published by Blogcritics on 9 June 2009.

President Obama delivered an historic -- some would say "masterful" -- speech in Cairo on 4 June 2009. Some have disparaged it and some have praised it to the heavens, going even 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."


"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 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 are likely to 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.

Perhaps the gushing reactions of President Obama's supporters to his Cairo speech noted in paragraph one above accurately reflect President Obama's own views. If so, his narcissism knows no bounds. In any event, he clearly wants to be remembered as the Great Peace Maker. That is a worthy ambition; it would be even more worthy if his words and deeds had a realistic chance of success in actually bringing forth the blessings of peace. However, I fear, that they are little more likely of success than was the spectacular willingness of Neville Chamberlain to turn Czechoslovakia and other countries (but not, of course, England herself) over to the Nazis in 1938.
Chamberlain believed passionately in peace for many reasons . . . thinking it his job as Britain's leader to maintain stability in Europe; like many people in Britain and elsewhere, he thought that the best way to deal with Germany's belligerence was to treat it with kindness and meet its demands. He also believed that the leaders of people are essentially rational beings, and that Hitler must necessarily be rational as well. Most historians believe that Chamberlain, in holding to these views, pursued the policy of appeasement far longer than was justifiable . . . (emphasis added)
I very much wish that President Obama did indeed have at least a chance-- for the first time in recorded human history-- of producing a lasting "peace in our time." However pure may be his motives, as things now stand, I consider this very unlikely.


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