Obama in Cairo

5 Jun

The United States is again going to roll up its sleeves and try to mediate a difficult, bloody crisis that serves as the perpetual epicenter of strife and extremism in the Middle East, occasionally spilling out into the rest of the world.

Obama has put the brakes on our sometimes clumsy foreign policy by smart bomb, and is setting out a traditionally conservative blueprint for using our soft power to get the petulant, fighting kids to take a time out and cut it out.

And as a mediator, we can only maintain our credibility and bona fides if we tell each side something they want to hear, and something they don’t. We have to remind these parties that we have a special relationship with one of them, but that isn’t a license for Israel to behave badly. By the same token, the Arab states surrounding Israel need to clamp down on the extremists, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and renounce violence.

To the neoconservatives and Israeli right-wing and Islamic militants who are all having conniption fits, consider this:

President Obama assumed positions virtually identical to those of Israel’s political center –- namely, that the Palestinians must renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist, while Israel must cease settlement building and permit a Palestinian state to arise. Now, Benjamin Netanyahu’s problem is that it’s difficult to distinguish between President Obama and Tzipi Livni. And in Israel’s recent elections, Livni and her Kadima party won more votes than anyone else.

After all, if you mediate a settlement and each side doesn’t walk away angry that it didn’t get something it wanted, then one side got screwed. The fact that extremists are upset only underscores that Obama struck the right tone. The extremists make a lot of noise and embrace war, but little else.

Nothing else has worked. Telling each side the brutal truth is a good place to start.

5 Responses to “Obama in Cairo”

  1. Colin June 5, 2009 at 8:22 am #

    Sounds good, except that we aren’t a mediator. We’re a participant. No amount of words can change the fact that when Israel strikes against the Palestinians, it does do with American weapons and American diplomatic cover. Sweden can be a mediator. We can’t.

    It also might be important to note that much of what the Palestinians want is nothing more than they’re owed by international law, human rights standards, and UN resolutions. It seems odd that they should be made to engotiate for some (but not all) of their rights.

    Had Obama been serious about setting things straight with the Islamic world, he might have mentioned some of those truths.


  2. Jon Splett June 5, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    I guess it’s easy to talk about the brutal truth of other countries while suppressing it back home.


  3. hank June 6, 2009 at 7:01 am #

    Commentary from the Muslim World included “Talking is not enough—what does he intend to change?” from the Director of North American Studies at the University of Tehran.

    We’ve been asking the same question for 18 months.

    Hassan Fadlallah, a lawmaker for Lebanon’s Hezbolla, said the Islamic world did not need moral or political sermons.

    Especially not from the Great Satan.

    Mohamed Habib, Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader, said the speech was a “public relations address” more than anything else. “There’s an unjust perspective on the part of the American president towards the Palestinian issue, one that does not differ from former President Bush’s and the neoconservatives’ perspective.“

    Hmmmm So they think O is no different than W. Guess you voted for the wrong guy.

    Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, a former Afghan prime minister, said: “From one side, he opens his bosom to Islam. From the other side, his troops are killing Afghanistan, what he says is totally different from what his soldiers are doing here.”

    OOPS–It is HIS war now, isn’t it? Where’s Code Pink now? Where’s Cindy Sheehan?, Where’s Martin Sheen Shrieking “NOT IN MY NAME?” Oh, I forgot—Bush is at home in Texas—War’s OK now. GOOD!

  4. Frankie June 6, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    Actually Hank, Code Pink is still protesting, Cindy Sheehan hasn’t been heard from in years, and while i would have assumed Martin Sheen was likely against the war (because he’s smart), i don’t recall seeing one interview where his view on it was expressed by him. So i’m not really sure what your point is.

  5. Colin June 6, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    Yeah, Code Pink is still doing their thing. Cindy Sheehan’s last big action was running against Nancy Pelosi in the primary out in California — so no, she’s not exactly taking it easy on the Dems. And Martin Sheen’s big foreign policy issue was always the School of the Americas, not Iraq or Afghanistan. Two of the biggest national groups — UFPJ and ANSWER — held demos to mark the anniversary of the war. The other big national group — Peace Action — has shifted its attention back to nuclear disarmament, its historical focus.

    Which is a long-winded way of saying no, the war’s not OK because a Dem is in the White House.

Contribute To The Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: