Saturday, May 14, 2011

Obama's Upcoming Speech on the Middle East

Mr. Obama intends to speak about the Middle East and the US's role there sometime this week.  Rami Khouri weighs in with some advice and admonitions:

In this case, the problem is simply that the epic Arab struggle for liberty, rights and dignity is perceived by many abroad as a television drama that is captivating, even thrilling – but one that remains peculiarly detached from the world of Western powers and, more importantly, remains beyond that realm of people, political movements and social forces that the West can embrace with the same clarity and force with which, for example, it embraced the Soviet dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s. The Arab citizen’s right to liberty is neither clear nor consistent in Western eyes. When it touches on the realms of Israel or oil, especially, Arab liberty becomes the victim and ward of greater Western interests. . . . .

The first point, then, is to appreciate the Arab Spring as a long-term process, and not to recoil and then retrench in the company of known dictators and ruling thugs once the momentum for democratic change slows down. . . .

Obama should proclaim that Washington will actively assist those who fight for their freedoms, and oppose those who deny such freedoms. He will find that the Arabs and others will then achieve their own liberty, just as the subjugated Soviet victims did.

I consistently have found myself siding with Mr. Khouri's prescriptions for many years.  But if, by asking Obama to "proclaim that Washington will actively assist those who fight for their freedoms," does he mean military intervention?

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