Dr. Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. Today he commented on President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Egypt for the Daily Telegraph. Below is his commentary in its entirety:
It’s never easy delivering a landmark speech before a foreign audience, and a potentially hostile one at that. Barack Obama gave a 56-minute address before a Muslim audience in Cairo that was well received and drew a standing ovation. He made some good points about the need for greater religious tolerance on the part of governments in the Middle East, and more respect for women’s rights, points that President Bush made numerous times when he was president.
The speech was however highly problematic in many ways, and a continuation of the theme of atoning for America’s past. Here are some of the key negative points in his speech that will backfire on both the President and the United States.
- Obama attacked the decision to go to war in Iraq – “a war of choice” – it “reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible” etc, without even mentioning the fact Saddam Hussein was failing to comply with several Security Council resolutions. This was completely gratuitous, wrong and unnecessary. There are still over 100,000 American troops fighting in Iraq, and this kind of message will only serve to undermine morale. As President, Obama should have paid tribute to his own soldiers who are putting their lives on the line everyday in a war against Al-Qaeda-backed insurgents. The United States does not need to apologise for removing a brutal dictator from power and liberating over 20 million Muslims from tyranny.
- Obama did not address the scale of the Iranian threat, or Iran’s support for terrorism, or UN sanctions against Iran. Obama made no mention of the fact Iran is arming, funding and training some of the terrorist groups in southern Iraq responsible for killing American and British troops.
- The president drew a hugely controversial parallel between Jewish suffering in the Holocaust with the current plight of the Palestinians.
- Obama used the word “occupation” to describe the Palestinian refugee camps, a term more commonly used by Israel-hating UN or EU officials when attacking Israel.
- Once again the president brought up the Guantanamo/torture issue in front of an international audience, part of a ritual exercise in self-loathing that has become a hallmark of the Obama administration.
- Obama did not once use the words “terrorist”, “terrorism” or “Islamist”. When you are waging a global war, you have to identify who you are fighting against – in this case the free world is fighting against Islamist terrorists representing an Islamist extremist ideology.
President Obama’s feel-good Cairo speech will do little to strengthen America’s position in the Middle East. It is a speech that projects weakness and contrition rather than American leadership – at times the president seemed embarrassed about America’s global power and achievements. Many of Obama’s statements were apologetic in tone, and the speech failed to recognize the huge role the United States has played in freeing tens of millions of Muslims from the Baathists and the Taliban. In fact no country in history has done more to defend Muslims from oppression than America, from Afghanistan to Kosovo to Iraq. The president’s address will only deepen the impression among both America’s enemies and allies that Barack Obama does not have the stomach for a long war against Islamist terrorism, nor the will to stand up to the Iranian nuclear threat. The world needs stronger leadership than this.