The Muslim Student Union at UC California at Irvine (perhaps in a planned fashion) consistently interrupts the Israeli ambassador’s speech, despite escalating consequences. Interesting comments.
‘President Obama has long hesitated between the idea that Bush had the wrong strategy and the idea that the strategy was sound but that the tactics and presentation was poor. He seems now to have come down firmly on the side of the core elements of the Bush strategy. This frankly is more or less where I thought he would end up; American interests, American values and the state of the region don’t actually leave us that many alternatives.’
Mead makes a good case, but some of the administration’s undercurrents are definitely Left toward human rights (Samantha Power and Anne Marie Slaughter would be examples of Obama’s foreign policy guides…for whom Hilary Clinton’s hawkishness was likely too hawkish), while some of the bureaucratic constraints and choices would be similar for any president.
Mead goes on:
‘The President is nailing his colors to the mast of the Anglo-American revolutionary tradition. Open societies, open economies, religious freedom, minority rights: these are revolutionary ideas in much of the world.’
I’m not necessarily convinced. I do still think Obama is giving us more long-term leverage in the Middle-East that McCain would have. He is, to a certain extent, hitting the reset button. This is very valuable. As regards Israel, he seems to be more interested in peace and fairness rather than its religiously nationalistic impulses. This frustrates many Israelis and the American religious right to no end, but Obama’s view may simply be naive, aiming so directly for ‘peace’ and the kind of faith universalists have in institutions. Here’s a quote from Obama’s speech:
‘We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders — whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.’
Domestically, Obama seems more toward the Great Society, managed economy, minority rights end of the spectrum, much more Left than I’m comfortable with. There are parts of the Anglo-American tradition not very well represented by Obama at all (the threat of economic liberty by growth of government, the threat of the excessive egalitarians and their illiberal impulses).
Any thoughts and comments are welcome. Transcript of Obama’s full May 19th, 2011 speech here.
Addition: Netanyahu and Obama meeting here, where Netanyahu humbly points out that Obama’s peace vision is not based in Middle-Eastern reality.
Related On This Site: Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’…From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”… From The Washington Post: ‘Obama Authorizes Predator Drone Strikes In Libya’
You may have noticed a shift in thinking about Israel lately, or a greater willingness in American political and social life (mostly on the left, but not only) to consider the conditions and injustices under which the Palestinians live.
There may be many reasons for this:
1. A reaction to some of the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq…combined with a weak economy.
2. A still relatively intellectually confused but resurgent American left.
3. A demographic shift toward a larger Arab population in both Europe and the U.S.
4. Our interaction with the Arab world through rapidly advancing technology.
As Israel sees it (and there are many good reasons for seeing it this way), any concession to the violence of Hamas is unacceptable. Any loss of Israeli life to a Hamas rocket attack is cause for military operation to protect the civil order. Despite the rallying anger, resentment and threats of violence by much the Arab world (to which the Israelis have long since steeled themselves) they’ve gone ahead and pursued a military operation.
I don’t necessarily have a response to such current events…
…so much as I’d argue that one of our most important shared interests with Israel is still through its functioning democracy: Israeli military force is eventually answerable to the Israeli people through its laws, lawmakers, and ultimately to the people themselves. This is a form of government cast in our own image, with which we identify and understand as vital to our own freedoms and way of life.
The current wellspring of sentiment in America toward the Palestinian situation has important truths to it…but look for it to be used accordingly by groups for peace…for aid…for Islam…for justice…and more generally by U.S. politicians as they may eventually navigate these waters. As a result, perhaps U.S. foreign policy in the region may gradually be changing in much the same way…if it hasn’t been already.
Are you convinced?
Addition: It’s probably pretty obvious I’m been taking a look at Samuel Huntington lately…and don’t fully address the depth of his thinking.
From The Hoover Institution: Stanley Kurtz On Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington…From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…From Bloggingheads: Eli Lake And Heather Hurlbert On Samuel Huntington…From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work