U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally at Eden Park in Cincinnati, Ohio September 17, 2012
Credits: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
American foreign policy is in a shambles, but Obama remains unperturbed.
The answer lies in his keynote foreign affairs speech, delivered in the spring of 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.
The White House set up a special website dedicated to the speech, with the grandiose title “A New Beginning.” They even translated it into
14 different languages.
It’s the template for Obama’s foreign policy, especially towards the Middle East. And, when read again today, it shows why Obama isn’t particularly upset with developments. Because he told us, in advance, he wouldn’t be.
Here are some excerpts.
“Tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”
That’s what the speech was: An apology to the world’s dictatorships, like Egypt and Iran. But America has never been a colonial power — it was a British colony. In fact, America’s last half-dozen wars were to defend Muslims in Kuwait, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
“I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.”
Obama did not speak country to country, or person to person. His speech was an outreach to Islam as a whole — to a religion. That’s odd. But fine: What did Obama have to say about religious freedom and Islam?
“The United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.”
But what about the right of women not to cover their faces in public? And why does he criticize America, where women are equal — why not a word for women suffering under Arabia’s gender apartheid?
“Regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God.”
Those are a good list of values. But where is the quintessentially American value: Freedom?
“Nine-eleven 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 traditions and our ideals.”
That’s all Obama had to say about 9/11 — not that it was an act of war or terrorism. In the hour-long speech, Obama carefully managed not to say the word terrorism once. Instead, he blames the victim. Instead of saying that 9/11 was an immoral act against America, he said 9/11 caused Americans to be immoral.
He had a special message for Iran, too: “In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.”
Leave alone whether that revisionist view is true historically. Iran doesn’t care. What Iran cares about is that Obama was clearly saying it will not interfere again — in the future. It was a final reassurance that Obama would not stop Iran from its nuclear ambitions today.
And here’s the most important part: “No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other. That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.
Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.”
No mention of freedom. Not even democracy. Just that each country can run itself in its own way. If that’s the Shariah law, if that’s the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group, Obama won’t object. And he hasn’t, has he?
Obama wanted the Muslim world to hear this speech. They did. He wanted a new beginning. They’ve given him one. They’re delighted. So is he.