Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama's Big Speech

I just read the transcript of Obama's speech in Cairo. Bearing in mind that I thought the speech was unnecessary -- the Muslim world should be reaching out to the U.S., not the other way around -- overall the president did a decent job. Leaving out the shameless pandering to Muslims, here are some of the high & low points.
Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known.
I commend him for making this point, in contrast to many of his "blame America first" leftist supporters. And given that he was speaking in Egypt, a country where conspiracy theories about 9/11 are massively popular, it was good to hear Obama strongly attack Al Qaeda and defend our war efforts in Afghanistan & Pakistan. But on Iraq, although Obama grudgingly conceded that it was better off than with Saddam, he had to throw in the ridiculous leftist catchphrase about it being a "war of choice." He followed it up with another unnecessary attack on the Bush administration.
9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course

Except that we didn't act contrary to our ideals. We did the kinds of things and made the types of mistakes that occur in unconventional wars. And Obama is basically continuing Bush administration policies anyway.

Obama's section on Israel and the Palestinians was the expected attempt to appear evenhanded. Being evenhanded is foolish and not in the U.S. interest, and I doubt his audience will be convinced. But it was nothing special either way.

On Iran, instead of just apologizing for past U.S. actions, Obama did point out Iran's history of aggression toward the U.S.   But then he went on to give his usual pap on nuclear weapons.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power

Stupid utopianism combined with a pretense that seeking "peaceful" nuclear power isn't just a cover for obtaining nuclear weapons.

Obama gave a strong defense of democracy, religious freedom, and women's rights, all of which were good to see -- with one glaring exception. He said this

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

This is complete nonsense. When Muslims demand special treatment outside the normal bounds of standard cultural and societal practice, they are the ones being intolerant. Requiring certain uniforms or standards of dress in the public sector, or even in certain businesses, has nothing to do with "hostility" toward religion. Throughout this speech, Obama goes out of his way to pander to Islam on certain points.

As I mentioned at the outset, overall I thought the speech wasn't bad -- especially since I had low expectations. I doubt it will have any effect on anything, but I don't see it doing any harm either. And with Obama, that's about as much as you can hope.

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