President Obama’s speech today in Cairo met the bar he set for himself. In an address modeled after the Philadelphia speech on race, he forewent soaring oratory in favor of a thoughtful, nuanced and challenging reflection on America’s relations with the Muslims around the world (not “the Muslim world”, which for some reason became a major issue in American punditry over the last few days). As he frankly recognized, no one speech can overcome the many problems he addressed. But this speech is an essential starting point in a genuine conversation, a respectful dialogue on core issues. After the initial rush of instant commentaries and attempts to inflame controversy pass, it should become the foundation for a serious, ongoing conversation which could, as the President put it, “remake this world.”—Marc Lynch on President Obama’s speech in Cairo
On his Foreign Policy blog, Marc Lynch, author of Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, al-Jazeera, and Middle East Politics Today, offers a series of very thoughtful impressions of President Obama’s historic speech yesterday in Cairo. Despite a few misgivings, Lynch praised the speech and views it as having the potential to “become the foundation for a serious, ongoing conversation which could, as the President put it, ‘remake this world.'”
Lynch’s post examines the various themes of Obama’s speech namely, violent extremism, Iran, democracy and human rights in the Middle East, liberalism and faith, and Israel and Palestine. Of Obama’s remarks about the continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, Lynch writes, “I’m still struggling to grapple with this truly astonishing portion of his speech. I don’t think I have ever heard any American politician, much less President, so eloquently, empathetically, and directly equate the suffering and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.”
In the next couple of days, Marc Lynch will also be commenting on Arab reaction to Obama’s speech.