I think Obama’s Cairo speech will go down as a turning point in America’s relations with the rest of the world. No one could have done it better.
The most important thing he did was to evoke the basic Muslim tenets of justice, dignity and compassion. That must be music to the ears of his Muslim audience. And for Americans, it’s as if he’d translated our own familiar beliefs into terms which, though different from our own, resonate with us.
The crucial follow-through will be adopting behaviors that effectively make the transition from life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to justice, dignity and compassion – from what our heads desire to what our hearts know to be superior.
By owning the Koran’s message Obama diffuses the weapons of Osama.
Unlike CNN, Democracy Now’s Juan Gonzalez noted that Obama didn’t once mention the word “oil”. The closest he got to recognizing our “national interest” in the Middle East was his recognition of the American role in the overthrow of the highly popular democratically elected Iranian leader Mossadegh in 1953, after he had nationalized Iranian oil.
It was undoubtedly a deliberate, carefully weighed decision not to mention oil: there will be other speeches where Obama will come down from lofty rhetoric to facts that will have to be faced. But this is not 1944, when America, seeing victory over the Nazis and Japanese, turned its unwavering attention to securing the oil that would power the phenomenal development of the next sixty-five years.
Now the oil is dwindling and all eyes are focused on finding non-polluting replacements. All parts of the world must participate in the gigantic challenge of reducing carbon emissions. This new priority will allow Obama to implement a smooth transition from the boots-on-the-ground policies of the past to a diplomacy where words will recover their weight.
Only an accomplished basketballer could do that.