Saturday, June 13, 2009

The New Beginning

I found a lot of interesting articles over at Watching America this morning. While there was no overall theme (it was a relatively quiet week), some of the themes from past weeks have reappeared. Several articles on President Obama's Cairo speech cropped up, and one, from Egypt's Al Masry Al Youm for the almost wistful hope it expressed. The author, Yasser Abdel Aziz, asks "Is the 9/11 Era Over?" considering the explicit and implicit meanings of Obama's historical speech and making from them a title to the speech, there is no better title than “A New Beginning.” Obama signified to the Islamic world, through this visit and speech, the initiation of a new era in the relationship between America and the Islamic world. That is, between an America that has unprecedented powers and capabilities and an Islamic world that penetrates the every fiber of society in all four corners of the globe with its 1.5 billion Muslims, ideas, principles and values.

Without a doubt, Obama did not apologize for the sinful policies of Bush and his administration. However, he assured us of his willingness to completely change these imprudent policies, to defuse conflicts, to speak the language of common interest and mutual respect, to abandon the talk of hollow victory and good-for-nothing arrogance, and to have the courage of confrontation in place of lies and manipulation. ...

In summary, the 9/11 era is over. Or, rather, is about to be over as long as Obama confirms his good intentions and nice gestures through steps that put Israel and Iran on the same level in regards to nuclear nonproliferation. Most importantly, Washington must both firmly and softly intervene by pressuring Israel to grant Palestinians the legitimate right to live within a state that enjoys recognized borders, resources, security and integrity.
[Emphasis added]

So far, President Obama has shown amazing maturity and sensitivity when it comes to this country's foreign policy and most of the rest of the world has felt it safe to exhale in relief. His overtures to the Islamic world and to Cuba and the rest of Latin America have defused much of the huff-and-puffery of those who use the excuse of US imperialism and unilateral international action for their own malfeasance (e.g., North Korea and Russia).

And it hasn't just been talk at this point: he has made it publicly clear to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that the US will no longer just accept the ongoing building of settlements in the West Bank and has reiterated the concept of a two-state solution in the Middle East most forcefully. He has accepted the offer of Cuba to re-open discussions on travel and monetary transfers between the two countries. For this we and the rest of the world should be both impressed and grateful. At least in foreign policy, the 9/11 era does indeed appear to be over.

Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case when it comes to domestic policy. President Obama has shown that he prefers to follow the Bush doctrine of Angst Uber Alles when it comes to constitutional issues, from the restricting of the Freedom of Information Act, to the release of the torture pictures, to the "State Secrets" defense, and to the expansion of snooping on Americans (see my post from earlier today).

He seems more anxious to curry favor with those who harbor him nothing but ill will than in keeping the promises he made to those who elected him. It took millions of signatures on a fairly innocuous petition to get him to realize that the majority of Americans want a public health plan, not a minimally tweaked set of private plans. Yet even with that, the most he is willing to back is such a plan as a possible alternative. He has turned his back on the GLBT community that raised millions for his election and come to the defense of both "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the "Defense of Marriage Act."

While I have to admit that we knew what we were getting, a centrist politician who was a whole damned-sight better than the alternative, I still am disappointed. Barack Obama has shown that he knows better. He has shown the instincts of a decent man, but he has allowed the savvy-politician to over-ride the decency. At some point, that savvy-politician might do the same when it comes to foreign policy, and that will put us back to 9/12/01.

No, the 9/11 era isn't over. Not just yet.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home