Some reactions to Obama’s speech. Andrew Sullivan has the speech in full.
Marc Ambinder has some tweets
I didn’t get the chance to watch Barack Obama’s Cairo speech live, although I’m sure that it will be chopped up on YouTube within the next couple of hours. Instead, I read the full text posted by Andrew Malcolm, as well as Andrew’s commentary, and in most ways, it wouldn’t differ from a similar speech given by any recent American President. In fact, the Cairo audience may have been a little surprised about the depth of the defense of Israel’s right to exist in peace, as well as the strong denunciation of 9/11 Trutherism that has been wildly popular among Arabs, even though Osama bin Laden claimed credit long ago for the attack.
Despite all his supposedly frank talk, Obama insists on hiding behind the euphemism “violent extremism.” It’s not only the “t-word” — terrorism — that failed to pass from his lips. It’s the j-word — jihad, violent jihad — that Obama will not acknowledge. He clings to the myth that only a “tiny minority” of “extremists” subscribe to the deadly Koran-inspired mission to force infidels to submit. He refuses to acknowledge and confront the violent jihadi virus around the world and on American soil.
For one thing, the underlying idea of this speech seems a bit odd. It’s hard to know how to even characterize what it was.
But the execution first and foremost reminded me of why Obama has always been the writers’ candidate in American politics. This is a guy who’s not afraid to try to express complicated or difficult ideas. He wasn’t afraid to do it in Dreams From My Father and now that he’s long past writing his own material as a solo act, his whole team is clearly imbued with the same spirit and that same mandate to try to really explain the complicated and difficult ideas rather than sweep them under the rug.
M.J. Rosenberg at TPM:
Mission accomplished. For the first time in memory, an American President spoke to Muslims and Arabs not as antagonists who need to take certain actions before achieving US acceptance but as equals. Not only did the speech specifically reject western (and American) colonialism, its entire tone was the antithesis of colonial. This is a profoundly different American voice, one that will do much to advance American goals rather than to sabotage them.
Stephen Hayes in The Weekly Standard
Alex Massie (h/t Sullivan):
I have no doubt that Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo today will not have gone down well amongst American conservatives. In fact many of them will be appalled by it. How long before someone in the right-wing blogosphere writes something about how terrible, if unsurprising, it was to see an American President protstrate himself in such humiliating fashion. All the right’s worst fears have com to pass! It’s like Jimmy Carter has returned to the White House!
And, I guess, you could pull some lines from the speech that made it seem as though Obama was “apologising” for the United States while rarely putting as much emphasis on the sins of the muslim world. But that would be to miss the point: the arab and muslim worlds don’t need to be lectured by the United States, they need to be engaged. And that was Obama’s point. In fact, reading his speech, you’d describe it as a talk rather than a speech and certainly not as a lecture. Admitting mistakes is a means of gaining credibility and persuading other people that you’re worth listening to.
Obama studiously avoids the word democracy. Instead, he declared, “That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.” Dictators of the world, relax: Stage a spontaneous demonstration to demonstrate popular adulation; don’t worrt about those pesky votes.
More later, I’m sure
UPDATE: From Commentary, Ira Stoll:
During the campaign I had actually defended Obama against those who felt he would be a disaster for Israel. This speech makes me think that may have been a mistake. The only chance now is that this speech will be mere rhetoric, like so much in the Middle East, intended only for public consumption. But if Obama really means it, it is bad news for the Jews in Israel and America, not to mention for American national security.
I realize that the Obama speech isn’t going to satisfy those (like me) who once thrilled to Bush’s unapologetic pro-democracy rhetoric but, for all of Obama’s rhetorical sleight of hands and elisions, I thought he did an effective job of making America’s case to the Muslim world. No question: He is a more effective salesman than his predecessor was. Which doesn’t mean that his audience will buy the message.
And on his last topic, women’s rights, he softly cajoles but makes no mention of the abject abuse of women in the Muslim world. Only if they come up with some liberal welfare programs “will [the U.S.] partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.” Might it be better if they stopped stoning women for adultery?
Will this speech accomplish anything? The American elites will swoon. But it won’t do much of anything — other than encourage Iran. The president operates from a false premise and paints a distorted picture of the region. It’s all everyone’s fault, and no one’s fault. And it’s about forgetting how we got to where we are. The Palestinians don’t lack a state because of Jewish settlements. They lack a state because they rejected one — again and again. So long as Obama is being anything but “honest” I suspect we won’t see much progress, let alone peace.
At The New Republic, Shmuel Rosner:
Obama’s Cairo speech had a misleading quality to it. The president was speaking the rhetoric of Reagan, while intending to execute the policy of George H. W. Bush. Conveying the image of an emotional, forthcoming, and understanding bridge-builder, he is actually a cautious and calculated leader, wanting to scale down America’s foreign policy–back to the days when “interests” were king, not “ideologies.” Obama is a new type of the old “realist.” He is a realist with feelings–one that can naturally combine a call for halting Iran’s nuclear weapons because of “America’s interests” (and others’) with his personal story of “an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama.”
But in fact, much of Obama’s speech had a different sort of familiar ring. Most of his main arguments have been made before–not just by Obama himself, but by his predecessor. “Today I’d like to speak directly to the people across the broader Middle East,” George W. Bush said at the United Nations on September 16, 2006. Like Obama, Bush explained that the United States is not at war with Islam. Like Obama, Bush said that America respects the history and traditions of the Muslim world. Like Obama, Bush deplored the September 11 attacks and vowed to fight the tiny minority of Islamic extremists. Bush also assured his audience that “freedom, by its nature, cannot be imposed. It must be chosen;” Obama said that “no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.” Bush lamented the “daily humiliation of occupation” suffered by the Palestinians; Obama said the Palestinians “endure the daily humiliations… that come with occupation.” Bush assured Iran that he did not oppose their use of peaceful nuclear power; so did Obama.
UPDATE #2: In Foreign Policy:
UPDATE #3: Andrew Sullivan
Jonathan Chait on Michael Rubin
UPDATE #4: Paul Mirengoff at Powerline
UPDATE #5: Charles Johnson at LGF
Michael C. Moynihan at Reason
UPDATE #6: After Chait, Sullivan, Keith Olbermann and others point out that President Obama did in fact say “democracy,” Michael Rubin offers an explanation
UPDATE #7: Kevin Drum on Rubin
UPDATE #8: One year later, Max Fisher at The Atlantic has the round-up