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Obummer: What was missing from Obama's Middle East speech


Americans were hoping for a doctrine and perhaps a road map for how President Obama plans to handle the Middle East. Instead, many tuned into a speech on Thursday they felt presented a half-baked plan that didn't address hot topics including the cost of war (in tax dollars and soldiers) and our dependency on foreign oil.

Here's a selection of the commentary.

Los Angeles Times editorial:

Pro: The president deserves praise for stating clearly that U.S. interests are advanced by a more democratic and prosperous Middle East (and not just by dictators who allow us to drill for oil or base troops in their countries). His determination to reach beyond elites and put the U.S. squarely on the side of the repressed rather than their repressors is truly commendable.

Con: Obama didn't talk enough about the tricky situations. At what point, for example, does it become necessary to go to war to fight on behalf of core American values? Obviously, the U.S. cannot use its military might to solve all the problems of the world, so how should it pick and choose? Nor did the president discuss what to do when our short-term interests clash with our long-term values -- as has been the case for many years with Saudi Arabia, a repressive, sexist, undemocratic Islamic monarchy that has been one of the United States' chief allies in the region for decades (in no small measure because it sits on vast quantities of the oil that the U.S. economy subsists on).

And how should the United States choose sides when legitimate interests appear to clash, as in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians? Obama spoke articulately about the need to reach a two-state solution, but said nothing about, for instance, how to redress the grievances of Palestinian refugees without undermining the very existence of Israel, to which he said the United States has an "unshakeable" commitment.

 Dallas Morning News editorial

Pro: Obama unfortunately skipped over some significant impediments to peace, including Israel's settlements policy. Also missing from the broader picture was Saudi Arabia, whose oil-rich regime at least deserves mention with Syria, Iran, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen among the region's most repressive.

Con: Considering diplomatic sensitivities and the high potential to ruffle feathers, Obama deserves credit for offering straight talk. But it's the wiggle room he left that could come back to haunt him.

Justin Krebs, It's A Free Blog:

Pro: The president's address, trumpeted as a singular speech, really felt more like one in a series of conversations with the country. And that, I happen to like. When we went into Libya, it was without that national conversation.

Con: The build-up to the president's speech suggested it was his time to offer a coherent and fresh explanation of how, when and where we push American values in the Middle East. Sadly, it is nearly impossible to achieve a fresh start when you have troops on the ground, planes overhead and no end in sight.

Michael Cohen, Democracy Arsenal:

Pro: It was a fine speech, but hardly a major one. There was some tough rhetoric on Bahrain and it was nice to see the President associate the United States more directly with the democratic revolts unfolding in the Arab world and to pledge acceptance of countries and movements that we disagree with but who at least accept "genuine and inclusive democracy."

Con: But in general, I'm a bit mystified by the whole thing. As near I can tell there was no significant policy shift or announcement. Generally, the President doesn't give major foreign policy speeches unless he has something new or important to say. There was little of that in this address (reiterating rhetorical support for democracy is not a policy shift) -- and little sense that the US would suddenly become more diplomatically and politically engaged in the region's most pressing issues. So what exactly was the point? 

Justin Elliott, Salon:

Pro: In terms of policy, here's the bottom line from the speech: The Obama administration will continue to get tougher on the Assad regime in Syria, while not doing much (if anything) in response to Bahrain's violent crackdown on protesters.

Con: What's conspicuously missing from that list? Yup, Bahrain.


The Middle East mess

Middle East peace: The wrong pact

Obama and 'the Jewish lobby of one'

U.S.-Pakistan relations: An unhappy alliance

--Alexandra Le Tellier

President Obama speaks on U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa on Thursday. Credit: Jason Reed / Reuters


Comments () | Archives (12)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Dr. Alan G Phillips, Sr


Israel is yet to hear from its neighbors the confirmation of their right to exist. It was a democrat President Harry Truman that signed off on the documents to create the Jewish state. In the words of the elderly rabbi in the President’s office Truman heard him say for this cause you were placed in your mother’s womb. Since that day every American President has reaffirmed Israel's right to statehood. Suddenly we have an American President who wants this tiny nation to return to the borders of 1967, won by Israeli troops in combat, and apparently suffer the consequences.

Do Palestinians have a right to statehood? Yes, if they publicly affirm Israel's right to exist and learn to live in Peace. Yet, I do not hear Hamas, the Islamic brotherhood, and a large number of Palestinians advocating for Israel's right to flourish. Therefore it makes little sense to any President who’s truly committed to the Jewish state to ask that Israel give up land to some who want to destroy her existence. Recently, to commemorate the day Israel was created instead of congratulations from her neighbors she was attacked from three sides. If this was a show of action from freedom seeking rebels I fail to recognize any benefit to the people of Israel and democratic ideals. The flames in the Middle East spurred by Iran seem bent on this little nation's destruction.

I for one support Israel and until the day dawns that Arab and Middle Eastern leaders forsake violent rhetoric and actions toward Israel she will have my total and complete support. Until destruction of Israel is replaced by her neighbors with a desire for peace by Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood I am opposed to the President's plan.

Neville Chamberlain set the tone and birthed the Holocaust in the twentieth century by loudly proclaiming that his appeasement was peace in our time. Mr. President you and I simply disagree. In my opinion your assessment is wrong and if implemented will sacrifice Israeli security if not her existence. I will never permit that on my watch.

Dr. Alan G. Phillips
GOP candidate for President, 2012


I mean, is this the kind of thing that a major American newspaper is proud to host? This should be an embarrassment for your hard-working professional journalists. What are you now, World Net Daily?













John Cameron

As I tried to discern the contours of a coherent foreign policy in Barack Obama's Middle Eastern address I realized he had no intention of elucidating any strategic design. He was just doing his usual grandstanding to create a favorable impression among the US political class of his stewardship and America’s exalted standing in the world. We heard all of this warbling before in Cairo and at the risible Nobel ceremony with its overall composition designed to play on feelings and not to engage the thought process. America under his leadership was the last, best hope of Muslims, Jews and Christians but no mention was made of Islamicists’ ethnic and religious cleansing in the Arab Spring. This is vintage Obama with no tangible accomplishment only rhetorical creation designed to fend off critical judgements and create goals that fade ever further into the horizon.


Obama is wrong on this issue and he either does not really understand what would happen to the state of Israel if he got his way or I suspect that he is only fallowing his twenty years of sitting in Rev. Wrights church where the state of Israel is not looked upon with favor . Obama is a true leftist and I suspect he can't help but staying true to it's stance against Israel . I for one do not trust him and I suspect that he has lost some Jewish voters but the left is full of left wing Jews who really don't give a hoot about Israel they are committed leftist. For example take George Soros a Jew but does not care much for Israel , His goal is one world Government , No borders and all that socialist stuff !

barbara wehrspann

I don't understand why the Palestinians should formally recognize the state of Israel when Israelis continue to occupy Palestinian territory with new
settlements. Israel is slowly occupying Palestine out of existence.

Mark Thomason

What was missing was backbone. He groveled before Israel, and even that was not enough, so he groveled even more abjectly. It was humiliating. It was an abandonment of US interests and his duty.



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