Instead, he delivered a naive, revisionist lecture that was sufficiently utopian and self-centered to have been drafted by Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately, he also demanded major concessions from the only democracy in the Middle East and America's most steadfast ally in the region, Israel.
To no one's surprise, Obama alluded -- for the 12th time in two weeks -- to the death of Osama bin Laden and cleverly described the terror kingpin's demise, the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, to be part of his grand design for the Middle East.
After naming a litany of places where "the shouts of human dignity" and "self determination are being heard" -- including Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Libya -- he staked his claim: "... two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect." Apparently that mutual respect extends to everyone in the region except the Israelis.
In his lecture, the president asserted "the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and diversion won't work anymore" because satellite television, the Internet, cell phones and social networks "allow young people to connect and organize like never before." He says "the United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region." Yet repression and violence seem to be working just fine for the theocrats in Tehran and their proxies, Bashar Assad in Damascus and Hezbollah in South Lebanon.
Sadly, the people of Lebanon didn't even warrant an honorable mention in the remarks. He did devote 11 words to the violent suppression of Coptic Christians in Egypt -- but ignored the destruction of Maronite Christian churches in the Levant, and Greek Orthodox places of worship and synagogues throughout the region.
Obama asks us to "remember that the first peaceful protests were on the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail." Are we therefore supposed to forget the days of stunning silence from the White House as these events unfolded?
The intellectual disconnects between rhetoric and reality don't stop there. When our commander in chief first announced U.S. "participation" in the "NATO-led coalition" to impose a no fly-zone over Libya on March 18, we were told it was a "humanitarian" operation. On Thursday, he claimed that "in Libya we saw the prospect of imminent massacre," and had we not acted, "thousands would have been killed." Though nobody has an accurate "body count," that certainly seems to be what's happening right now along the Barbary Coast -- and in Syria, as well.
On Thursday, he said, "We have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force -- no matter how well intended. Yet, ironically, the only example Obama proffers for "the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy," the only place where he says "people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security," is Iraq! Who loaded these words into the Teleprompter?
All of this was preamble for the big news the O-Team wanted to make in Thursday's speech. After obfuscating history, mangling the record, and offering American tax dollars to relieve debts and "finance infrastructure and job creation" in the Middle East and North Africa, Obama dropped the hammer on Israel.
Other presidents, going back to Jimmy Carter, have called for a "two-state solution" to the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict." In 2004, President George W. Bush supported a Palestinian state but acknowledged "it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." On Thursday, Obama ditched these assurances and made an unprecedented demand: Israel must surrender territory crucial to its very existence.
For those who do not have a map in front of them, Obama's insistence that "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps" means at its narrowest point the country would be only 8 miles wide -- and utterly indefensible.
It means Israel, the only state in the region that meets the president's criteria for "self determination" -- an honest judiciary; an independent media; credible political parties; free and fair elections -- must now negotiate its fate with those who want none of those things. Barack Obama has become Yasser Arafat's dream come true.