One year ago this month, President Obama addressed the "Muslim world" from Cairo, Egypt. Some saw that speech as unnecessary groveling. Critics -- and I am among them -- think such displays communicate weakness and only encourage those who wish to damage our economy and kill our people. Supporters of the president's speech think he did the right thing and that his attempt to reduce tensions between the U.S. and Muslim world can only bring positive results.
National Public Radio recalled the Cairo speech with two Muslim guests, Reza Aslan, author of "Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization") and Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian novelist and political commentator. Neither saw the speech as having made any difference. Both incorrectly centered the problem between the U.S. and the "Muslim world" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This serves as a distraction from much larger problems in the Middle East that have to do with suppression of women's rights, intolerance of any religion except Islam and dictatorships.
Mr. Aslan called the president's handling of the Israeli-Palestinian problem "disastrous," but that usually means the president has not succeeded in forcing Israel to make more unilateral concessions.
Ms. Soueif expressed the paranoia one often sees in that region of the world when she claimed, "there is no way that the U.S. administration now would really like to see a democratic Egypt because a democratic Egypt could not tow the line with regard to American policies concerning Israel and with regard to Israeli policies in the region." This depends on what one means by "democratic." Too often in that region, the first election can be the last election.
While this post-Cairo analysis was taking place, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued building nuclear weapons with the clear intent of obliterating Israel. President Obama's outstretched hand toward Iran has not and cannot work because Ahmadinejad is a true believer in the worst sense of that word and has no intention of compromising with "infidels."
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