Like Bush and other American presidents, Obama hailed the United States as "one of the greatest sources of progress the world has ever known." And the candidate who treated our mission in Iraq with scorn seems to have felt obliged to acknowledge that "the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein" and that the government of Iraq is "democratically elected."
But he still has some history left to learn. "No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other." But that's what the United States did in Germany and Japan, and in Iraq, as well. As one of the Democratic senators who insisted that the Iraqis meet benchmarks, Obama was a micromanager in that process himself.
"We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity" into Afghanistan. No, it was by choice; we could have stayed out and depended, as we did after the attacks of the 1990s, on homeland defenses. And as for his claim that "Islam has always been a part of America's story," that's a stretch, and one that requires airbrushing out the war against the Barbary pirates.
Most disturbingly, Obama seems to have gotten the history of the Israel-Palestine issue wrong. The plight of the Palestinians since 1948 or 1967 is not the moral equivalent of the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust, as Obama's "on the other hand" segue suggested. Nor are private statements by Arabs accepting the continued existence of Israel the moral equivalent of Israeli governments' public willingness to negotiate with Palestinians.
Obama seems not to have learned from previous presidents' attempts to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that no solution is possible without an interlocutor willing to let Israel live in peace. His attempt to muscle Israel into stopping even natural growth of settlements beyond the 1967 line applies pressure to the party already willing to make peace. Obama needs to brush up on the Barbary pirates, but even more so on the last 40 years of Middle East history.
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