Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama's Outreach To The Muslim World

Here's Obama's new interview with Al-Arabiya, which is split into two parts:

I'm in agreement with Andrew Sullivan--this was a smart move on Obama's part:
It popped up on television last night and I had two reactions. The first was a sense of met expectation. Part of the rationale for Obama's presidency from a foreign policy perspective was always his unique capacity to rebrand America in the eyes of the Muslim world. Since even the hardest core neocons agree that wooing the Muslim center is critical to winning the long war against Jihadism, Obama's outreach is unremarkable and should be utterly uncontroversial. Bush tried for a while to do the same. But Karen Hughes is not exactly Barack Obama. And the simple gesture of choosing an Arab media outlet for his first televised interview as president is extremely powerful. It has the elegance of a minimalist move with maximalist aims.

Continue reading.


taco said...

The problem with this is, of course, that aggressive diplomacy with the Palestinian faction on top of his past comments about wanting to talk with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and rumored ties to Islam could very quickly cause Israel's leadership to question whether wild rumors about Obama might have some foundation; whether he might actually side with the Islamics for some reason and secretly wish harm upon Israel. Such is the power of these kinds of rumors in a 100 year conflict. You know its true. I'm sure either side could point to instances within Israel's government where it's happened before. And if we lose the trust of the one side that does value what we say, then we're suddenly trying to mediate a conflict in which neither side wants us involved any longer.

Ideally what Obama should have done was give his speech in a similar environment to the speech he gave in Germany - on the streets, showing solidarity with the common people, either in Jerusalem or at some relatively safe location within the perpetually disputed territory. Maybe that wasn't possible for travel and security reasons. In any case, Al Arabiya was not an appropriate place to make his first formal international statements on the matter. A traditional public address, or an interview with an impartial outlet such as the BBC would be infinitely better diplomacy.

Christopher Patton said...

Al Arabiya is a secular, reputable news source. Why would the BBC be better? And Obama will be addressing the world's Muslims from a majority Muslim country's capitol within his first 100 days as president. There's simply no rational basis for anyone to be upset about this interview.

taco said...

You would have trouble convincing an Israeli Jew of that. That's the difficulty here. How you, or even the world at large views Al Arabiya is neither here nor there. The world at large wants Israel and Palestine to stop fighting and let there be peace in the holy land, but they don't.

Christopher Patton said...

I think you're underestimating the rationality of the average Israeli Jew. But if you're not, then that's just too bad. American foreign policy has been held hostage by radical Zionists for far too long. It's time for us cut off military sales to Israel unless they play ball. We have no obligation to arm them to the teeth.