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Cairo, Nest of Potential Obama Fans?

June 5, 2009

I will be honest: the French Cowboy didn’t listen to Obama’s Cairo speech, nor did he read the transcript. I might do so some time but so far there is an inner resistance that keeps me away from the speech. What does it matter what Monsieur Obama is saying, anyway? It’s actions that count, especially when the person in question has a history of making promises only to be broken later and to use mushy, meaningless expressions that allow everyone to interpret them in any way they please. Besides, the French Cowboy already has a fair idea of what Obama likely has said. He will have spoken about how the US is not at war with Islam and how they respect Muslims and how there are so many Muslims in America that they’re really not that different from Egypt…

But irrespective of what President Obama did or didn’t say in his ‘major’ speech to ‘the Muslim world’ the French Cowboy is wondering about something. What does Obama believe he can accomplish by ‘reaching out’ to the non-existing average Muslim? It is not as if foreign policy in Egypt, Saudi Arabia or even Turkey was made based on opinion polls on how 5,000 randomly chosen Muslims from different countries view the President of the United States. Yet you have the impression that this is what Monsieur Obama believes to be the case. Instead of negotiating with leaders of Muslim nations with sticks and carrots in order to make them cooperate on foreign policy issues, Obama seems to think broadcasting interviews and speeches in which he tries to make a sufficient number of Muslims fans of his is going to win – or to “responsibly end”? – the war on terror.

It’s shocking to consider that Obama might actually think that large numbers of Muslims won’t be able to resist his Ivy-league, Hyde Park charms and become his adoring followers and that as a result ‘the Muslim world’ will actively fight against the extremist lunatics who want to terrorise America. But it’s also shocking that Obama appears to believe that this is how the world works. Or is it that he thinks he can merely charm the sundry bunch of leaders of Muslim nations into cooperation through friendly gestures? Does he think they will give him what he asks for out of the goodness of their hearts once they have been convinced that this Obama guy really isn’t that bad for an American? Or isn’t that the type of result that Obama is seeking in first place?

A good reason for a speech like the one in Cairo are an affirmation of principles the USA stands for: liberty, freedom from oppression and democracy. It implies why the USA are legitimately the world’s greatest nation, because they have been founded on these values and have thrived through them. A speech should encourage all those who are fighting for those values. Of course it doesn’t hurt if you can win over some new sympathisers on the way but should this be the aim? Would it be a realistic aim? President Obama in particular gives the impression of wanting to establish his personal popularity. That is a very bad reason for giving such a speech. For Obama, foreign policy seems to be so much more about himself than about America or even about the promotion of liberty and peace in parts of the world where those lack.

Whatever President Obama has said in his Cairo speech the importance of the speech has been hyped beyond what it can accomplish. Maybe it can win brownie points with some who otherwise dislike America. But so what? That won’t change America’s plate of foreign policy issues. Yet there are people in dire straits in different parts of this world who are resisting tyranny and oppression. In many cases, even the President of the United States can realistically give them only a speech. But what a difference a speech can make for those people when it contains the right message. On the other hand, when it doesn’t, what a blow to those who need encouragement the most. If America doesn’t shine as the light of liberty who does?

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