Beginning in 2007, Barack Hussein Obama captured the imagination of millions of people across the United States and other nations with his inspirational message of ‘hope and change.’ A first term senator from Illinois, Obama used these two simple, yet powerful words to defeat American icons Hillary Clinton and John McCain, during his quest to become our 44th president.
Last week, President Obama attempted to extend this rousing message to a part of the world that historically is slow to change – the Middle East. The trip also included stops in Germany and France, but the focus of this journey was Obama’s speech in Cairo.
With his hypnotic tempo and perfect pitch, our president started his much ballyhooed speech. He mentioned his Muslim lineage, a taboo subject during the 2008 election, in order to establish a rapport with his predominantly Muslim audience.
Mentioning Obama’s Muslim background could actually be an asset, lending the U.S. credibility with Islamic audiences. Obama should be commended in his attempt to reach out to the greater Islamic world in the spirit of partnership against extremism.
However, the speech soon devolved from potentially transformative to a vague rant that contained few specifics and little facts in order to placate his audience. In other words, it was a ordinary Obama speech.
During his hour-long oration, Obama cited Islam’s ‘history of tolerance,’ but only briefly mentioned the heinous state of human rights in many Islamic societies.
He constantly berated the U.S.’s treatment of Islamic nations, but not once did he mention women’s inequities in Saudi Arabia, or the execution of homosexuals in Iran.
He did not remind our Islamic neighbors of the billions of dollars in foreign aid the United States has given over the years or the American blood spilled in Bosnia, Somalia and Kuwait to liberate and defend Muslims.
Instead, he mentioned torture and the CIA-led coup in Iran and Guantanamo Bay.
These errors were trivial compared to his insistence that no nation had the right to stand in the way of Iran’s nuclear goals. And in the same speech, he said that the U.S. would not allow Israel to build more settlements in the West Bank.
By doing this, Obama somehow managed to reach out to one of the world’s most potentially dangerous regimes while simultaneously alienating our greatest ally in the region.
Americans hope this unprecedented gambit will work but, as history has shown us, when it comes to despotic regimes, leaders like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad perceive appeasement as weakness. This pacification does nothing but embolden our enemies and place our country and our allies, such as Israel, in danger.
Timothy Mathis is a history junior and may be reached at [email protected]