Jan 31, 2009

Obama And The Muslim World

By Chuck Missler

According to the Obama Administration, the United States has been too ready to "dictate" and too unwilling to "listen" to the Muslim world. President Obama reached out a hand toward Islamic countries in an interview on Arabic television as part of an effort to change what he perceives as America's reputation for being overbearing.

Obama gave an interview on Al Arabiya network on Monday, in which he discussed the Middle East and specifically Israel. His interview was conducted as his Middle East envoy George Mitchell began a trek through Egypt, Israel (including the West Bank), Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Obama told Al Arabiya that his envoy was under direction to "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating." During his campaign, Obama avoided talking about his Muslim heritage, but he did mention his many Muslim relatives in Kenya and his childhood in Muslim Indonesia in speaking to his Arab audience on Monday. He made clear the US is still a supporter of Israel, but included remarks intended to show his willingness to be equitable.

"The Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives," said Obama. He wanted Muslims to know "that the Americans are not your enemy."

"We sometimes make mistakes," he said, and he wanted to once again find "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago."

In the meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters the new administration would be willing to talk to Iran without conditions. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had offered to talk to Iran in 2006 if Iran would agree to stop enriching uranium. Clinton made no such requirement for talks. She told reporters at the State Department, "There is a clear opportunity for the Iranians […] to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community."

While Obama's willingness to be at peace with the Muslim world is admirable (on the face), it isn't as great a move from the former administration as Mr. Obama seems to believe. The Bush Administration constantly declared that America was at war against terrorism and not against Islam. The US federal government already has friendly diplomatic relations with most countries in the Middle East and only butts heads with those nations that are also state sponsors of terrorism, like Iran.

And while Obama's willingness to be at peace with the Muslim world is admirable (on the face), it isn't necessarily the gentle hand and the listening ear that bring about that desired peace. Israel's willingness to pull out of Gaza in 2005 did not bring peace in the Gaza Strip. America was not being mean to the Muslim world in 1979 when 52 American diplomats were taken hostage. Carter's weak efforts did nothing to free the hostages. It was only when Ronald Reagan took a strong stand that the hostages were released. The US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole bombing were not the results of America's bossiness. The attacks on September 11 were not caused by America's need to "dictate," but rather by Islamic terrorist groups with a goal of dominating the world for Islam.

We all hope that the Obama Administration will have success with Iran, and we pray that Iran will not produce a nuclear bomb with which to nuke Israel. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), though, predicts that Iran will have enough enriched uranium this year to make a nuclear weapon. We will watch and see what happens in the Middle East under Obama's softer approach.

Related Links
Clinton Seeks Iran's 'Meaningful' Engagement - The Washington Times
Obama, Iran Talks Next? - Fox News
On Arab TV, Obama Makes Overture To Muslims - International Herald Tribune
We May Have Made Some 'Mistakes': Obama Tells Muslim World - Press Trust of India
'Uranium For Iran Nuke In 2009' - Sky News
Strategic Trend: The Rise of Islam - Koinonia House