I appreciate the symbolism of Obama's speech in Cairo. It's a significant gesture and took some guts. I am also tickled that my president has a new nickname in the Arab world: Abu-Hussein. For the rest of it - well, we shall see.
Other people are better qualified to pontificate. Among the most interesting:
The Arabist, an Arab journalist in Cairo, writes paragraph by paragraph response.
As'ad Abu-Khalil has extensive coverage. His long, no-line-break rant here, worth reading. His News Hour appearance here. His link to another commentator here . I don't care to take on Abu-Khalil's negative view of events, but he knows whereof he speaks, and his critique must be considered. He gives no quarter to corruption and abuse of power.
Juan Cole's roundup and comment, invaluable.
Philip Weiss, who was there in the room with our President, having just returned from a visit to Gaza. Weiss has had a transformation in the last five years. Scales of prejudice and tribalism have dropped from his eyes.
Ali Abu-Nimeh provides further criticism.
Richard Silverstein likes the speech and has hope.
Colonel Patrick Lang, Middle East expert and retired US Army Intelligence senior officer, says Baby Steps.
BBC roundup of reactions, including Hamas, Hizbullah, Teheran, Israel and other parties. Alison Chaiken points out that the NY Times (and the BBC) quote negative Hamas statements, whereas Al Jazeera pulls a more positive quote from the same spokesman.
Tony Karon wrote this on Facebook:
The most important part of Obama's speech today, I thought, was his invoking of the Nakbah and the Holocaust. In fact, urging the Muslim world to reckon with the legacy of the Holocaust in understanding Israelis is far more honestly a legacy of South Africa than is Obama's false suggestion, in passing, that the ANC's struggle against apartheid was based on non-violent civil disobedience a la MLK... For the record, Bam, the ANC never renounced violence until the regime agreed to democracy... But here's my 2006 piece on What Arab Holocaust Deniers Should Learn from Apartheid.
Saifedean Ammous posted a note on Facebook which he permits me to reprint, below the jump.
Saifedean Ammous is skeptical:
The PR geniuses who ran the greatest presidential campaign since FDR seem to have now been handed the reins of Obama’s foreign policy. PR campaigners are an improvement over the warmongers of the Bush Administration, but that, obviously, is not saying much.
For almost a month, everyone everywhere has been talking about Obama’s speech in Cairo as if it actually matters for anything. Obama’s PR/Foreign Policy team have built it up to be such a giant spectacle that people seem to have forgotten that at the end of the day, it is nothing but a speech by a man who has given several hundred speeches over the last two years. It is a collection of sounds coming out of a man’s mouth. It matters for nothing. He said nothing new, added nothing new, and affected nothing real in any real way.
If there was anything important in this speech, he could’ve announced it at any point in the last few weeks of build-up and gotten it over with. But creating this giant spectacle turned this speech into a global quasi-religious interpretation-fest where everyone and their dog analyzed, with ridiculous detail, every last word Obama said, how he said it, and how he looked when he said it.
So we now know what Obama’s new foreign policy is going to be: talk, speeches, platitudes, oratory and rhetoric. The good news, as Churchill would have it, is that “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war”. I’d gladly sit through 12 Obama speeches a day over one of Bush’s wars. The bad news, however, is that this jaw-jaw-fest has very sneakily turned everyone’s attention from what the US Government does, to what its talismanic leader says. There is no better recipe for stalling, doing nothing and maintaining the status quo.
Obama has not changed anything from Bush’s policy on Iraq. His policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan may well be even worse than that of Bush. There can hardly be any cause for optimism over Iran with Dennis Ross in charge of that file, issuing ultimatums and bringing his unique brand of warmongering-masquerading-
A charitable interpretation might hold that Obama really does seek to bring about real change on all these issues, and is biding his time with speeches and friendly gestures to set the stage for this change. But the reality on the ground, unfortunately, speaks louder than any words. Churchill’s quip might not apply here since, after all, the war-warring continues regardless of the jaw-jawing. Worse, the excessive fixation on speeches is helping distract everyone’s attention from the real problems of unending war.
I would love for nothing more than my skepticism to be misplaced.
Philip Weiss has posted a video documenting really awful reactions in Jerusalem. I won't link to it. You can probably find unpleasant reactions on the Arab side if you search. I don't care to give a lot of attention to the naysayers although I feel obliged to print the skepticism of experts in the area such as Ammous and Abu-Khalil. Critical thinking matters. Vicious racism does not.
I will not, therefore, indulge in the game of "see how horrible the other side is." Hence I will continue to ignore unproductive comment as much as possible. For my own serenity, I have to focus on what works and what is possible.