President Obama received a standing ovation in Cairo. The Arab street should be happy. In Barack Obama, they have found a president for whom accountability matters little, and for whom moral equivalence dominates. As Obama points out, the Islamic world thrived when Europe was in the Dark Ages. But this is true only to a point. By this time, the Arab world (perhaps with the exception of Baghdad) was already a backwater.
The center of gravity had shifted eastward into Persia. And then, by blaming the legacy of colonialism, a 19th century phenomenon (and one which led to considerable development and opportunity), Obama relieves Muslims in the region of the need to consider just how and why they fell so far behind several centuries before. Why did Muslim centers of science stop innovating? It is an uncomfortable question for Arabs, Persians, and more broadly speaking, Muslims to ask, but there will not be real reform or a solution to their plight until they do.
Accountability matters in other ways. On June 24, 2002, after a devastating campaign of terrorist bombings, President George W. Bush declared:
It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation . . . I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts.
For Obama, however, moral equivalency trumps accountability:
It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people—Muslims and Christians—have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations—large and small—that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
Why the Palestinian cause remains stagnant after billions in aid and Bush’s commitment to see a Palestinian state is for two reasons: rejectionism and terrorism. And yet, rather than hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for failing its people, Obama embraces moral equivalency. The problem with moral equivalency is that it does not build bridges or ameliorate understanding; it encourages conflicting sides to stake out ever more extreme positions knowing that outside mediators will always place blame in the middle.
Obama will get a standing ovation, and Bush will get scorn. Bush however can look in the mirror and know that he liberated 50 million people and inspired others chafing under dictatorship in Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere. Obama will look in the mirror and admire how handsome he is.
This is an interesting take by Michael Rubin that centers squarely on one aspect of the Obama speech in Cairo, the Obaminator’s revulsion for telling the whole truth about the Muslim World. It was glaringly obvious to most of us who follow these issues, as well as his over embellishment (read= lies) of Islamic contributions to European culture and technical advances.
Obama as well as his advisers thought it prudent to smooth the Muslim world’s feathers over by heaping lovely sounding platitudes upon them, but that humiliating exercise in appeasement by a US president will hardly translate into any positive for the Islamic world.
They will continue to look at their own miserable predicaments as proof that the West is still holding them down, no matter how much money Obama has pledged to spend on their behalf. Only the portions of Obama’s text that spoke of the West’s supposed wrong doings in the past will be remembered, as well as it’s share in the present day problems. Getting the Muslims to accept the portions that dealt with the Islamic world’s own faults….will be soon forgotten, if they haven’t been already. KGS