Monday, June 8, 2009

Obama's Cairo Speech

The past few days has been filled with analysis and discussion of President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo. Critics and pundits have labeled it as 'brilliant' and as setting a new direction for American foreign policy in the Middle East, heralding a new bridge building approach to the Muslim world, or it has been branded as naive and even 'un-American'. 

I don't pretend to be a foreign policy expert, nor am an expert on Islam. I do believe, however, that America is going to have to take a new perspective on its relationship with the nations of the world.

Think, for a minute of how we have thought of 'globalization'. In almost every sentence in which its used, it has to do with commerce. Think of how we refer to our international interests - or our interests abroad - again, it has to do with international finance. 

In our going to war in Iraq, one of the weaknesses in our intelligence was a lack of understanding of the language or the culture. We only had an understanding of the conflict, our own interests and the need to bring democracy to the region. 

At some point we have to acknowledge that we are not the only country with self interests. And we have to understand that the perspectives of others can differ with ours without being dangerous, unenlightened or evil. 

Every country and every culture has extremists. We should vigorously seek to resist them at home and abroad. And where the harm or murder, we should seek justice. But we should differentiate between extremism and culture, government and faith. And we should know that systems different than ours are not inferior to ours. There is a difference between unity among nations and a uniformity among nations. 

If we define peace as the absence of tension, then we are the losers no matter our international interests. And in order for there to be a new foundation for diplomatic relationships with people whose governments, cultures and faith are radically different from ours. We must begin a dialogue that demonstrates understanding and respect - beyond money. 

In an HBO special about the first Gulf War, Michael Keaton, playing a CNN producer tells an Iraqui official, 'As long as we're talking, we're not killing one another.' 

Maybe Obama's Cairo speech was naive and simplistic. It definitely needs to be followed with creative action. But if he can engage other nations in the conversation, maybe its a start to bringing the killing to an end. 

4 comments:

Chris said...

Obam's speech "To the Muslim World from Cairo" Hmmm--there is an "Organization of the Islamic Conference," which is the largest single voting block in the United Nations. How about an "Organization of the Christian Conference" that would hold summits attended by prime ministers and Presidents and vote as a bloc? How would that go over? Since America is "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world," do you think we are eligable for membership in the OIC?

Then he tried to create a moral equivalence between the slaughter of 6 million Jews and the Palestines without a homeland. That's nothing but shameful.

The teleprompter got it wrong-- the Muslims did not invent printing, srches and spires or the compass.

"No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons." Oh, that is except for the Jewish state, then you can tell it anything you want because they have to get along with the Muslims.

How about a bit of understanding on the part of Muslims? Sorry, I can't understand the perspective of others who routinely behead others and even kill their own children and this is not merely extremists. Sorry--I don't understand and certainly don't respect them.

Gerald Britt said...

Chris,

You may not believe this but I am really curious about your perspective (and anyone else out there who cares to contribute, especially on this)...

Based on what you've written, how do you justify America's alliances with Russia - at least 10 million deaths are attributed to the Stalin regime; Iran, under the Shah's regime; Great Britain during the days of its oppressive imperialism in Africa and India; China with its record of human rights violations, even Iraq under the days of Hussein, who, when he attacked and killed his own people was actually a 'friend' of the U.S.?

We forged alliances, detontes, negotiated treaties with all of these countries (uneasy or not), according them respect and established trade with them even though they not only did not share values, but were guilty of gross and flagrant injustice. In fact one of the reasons we are not able to speak with a great deal of moral authority to China is because they hold so much of our debt.

So what really should be our relationships with countries who have histories of violence and oppression - especially being mindful that our country isn't free, either in its history or its present of some of the same injustices?

I really would like to see what you think.

Chris said...

Sorry, cultures that kill their daughters because they are either raped or resist do not deserve either respect or understanding. There are cultures such as in muslim countries that are inferior to ours.

As for Russia and China, I do not remember a president who went to Moscow or Beijing and informed them how much we respected them, because we did not respect them and their record of human rights abuse.

Obama is ruining our economy and he must be stopped. Check out Lou Pritchet, former VP of Proctor and Gamble-he has an open letter to Obama.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

Aside from not answering the questions, you conflate religious extremists in the Muslim world with their governments.

Surely you're not oblivious to the fact that heinous, unpunished crimes have taken place in our country, unpunished, intentionally or by benign neglect by local and federal governments?

Branding a religion and its adherents as being unworthy of respect because of the actions of the worst of those adherents is incredibly wrong.

And by the way, alliances, treaties, detonte, trade agreements and diplomatic relations with governments that commit human rights violations mean that we accord them respect.