Tuesday, February 03, 2009

# Posted 10:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBAMA REACHES OUT TO THE MUSLIM WORLD: I may have a slightly more positive reaction than other conservative-types to Obama's interview with Al-Arabiya. Now, I certainly agree with Charles Krauthammer and others that Obama's thumbnail history of the US relationship with the Muslim world was atrocious:
And what of that happy U.S.-Muslim relationship that Obama imagines existed "as recently as 20 or 30 years ago" that he has now come to restore? Thirty years ago, 1979, saw the greatest U.S.-Muslim rupture in our 233-year history: Iran's radical Islamic revolution, the seizure of the U.S. Embassy, the 14 months of America held hostage.

Which came just a few years after the Arab oil embargo that sent the United States into a long and punishing recession. Which, in turn, was preceded by the kidnapping and cold-blooded execution by Arab terrorists of the U.S. ambassador in Sudan and his chargé d'affaires.

This is to say nothing of the Marine barracks massacre of 1983, and the innumerable attacks on U.S. embassies and installations around the world during what Obama now characterizes as the halcyon days of U.S.-Islamic relations.

And don't forget our mini-war with Libya! I still remember when I was a kid how the morning DJs in Manhattan used to play a song called "Qaddafi Sucks!"

Attacking from a different vantage point, Michael Goldfarb blasts Obama for his failure to state clearly and unequivocally that it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons. As Mike points out, Obama was never shy about making this point during the campaign, at a time when Obama was under to pressure to show that he's tough. Jennifer Rubin thinks this is basically just Obama going soft.

I don't think Obama intended to go soft or to back off from his position that Iran going nuclear is unacceptable. But he wanted to make the point as softly as possible in an interview designed to reach out to the Muslim world. The deeper question here is whether Obama appreciates the conflict between his desire to reach out to the Muslim world and his actual positions on key issues in US-Muslim relations. The Iranian bomb is one example. Israel is another. When President Obama tells American audiences (as he did during the campaign) about his love for Israel, that will also be broadcast on Al-Arabiya and other networks in the Muslim world.

Is there any way to square this circle? I think Obama believes that if he can work out a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, that will change the entire regional dynamic. George Bush took a different approach. He told the Muslim world that America will help them achieve their long-repressed desire for political freedom. That didn't work out so well in the short-term, but it doesn't strike me as less probable than a peace deal for Israel and the Palestinians.

Clearly, Obama disagrees. He said nothing about freedom or human rights. He has carefully avoided that subject in the past as well. Precisely because Obama is seen as the antithesis of George W. Bush, it would send a powerful message if Obama sent the message America believes in human rights for the Muslim world. Obama seems to have calculated, however that any talk of human rights or political freedom will provoke a Muslim backlash.

In the final analysis, Obama deserves applause for using his first broadcast interview to reach out to Muslim audiences. As Obama correctly observed, "ultimately, people [in the Muslim world] are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration's actions." I hope Obama understands just how hard it will be to take actions that both advance our national interests and appeal to Muslim audiences.
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