JUNE 2, 2009 – The president plans on travelling to Cairo, Egypt to make a speech to the Muslim world about U.S.-Muslim relations. For the record, I don’t think this is a terrible idea. In fact, I think it’s a healthy move for international and inter-religious dialogue as well as a savvy political strategy for the U.S.’s image abroad.
Instead of shutting-out the parts of the world in which our nation does not get along (acting like the ‘badboy’ on the playground whom the other kids are too scared to mess with or talk to) we need to keep the international dialogue open, ESPECIALLY with nations we don’t exactly have a shining rapport with. Prefacing the speech and trip to Egypt, Obama sat down with NPR’s Steve Inskeep and Michele Norris to talk about the U.S. relations with the Muslim world and what the president plans to say.
When Inskeep asked Obama about the concern of speaking to an allied-yet-non-democratic nation, he replied:
“There are a wide range of governments throughout the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world. And the main thing for me to do is to project what our values are, what our ideals are, what we care most deeply about. And that is democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.
Now, in every country I deal with, whether it’s China, Russia, ultimately Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, allies as well as non-allies, there are going to be some differences. And what I want to do is just maintain consistency in affirming what those values that I believe in are, understanding that we’re not going to get countries to embrace various of our values simply by lecturing or through military means. We can’t force these approaches. What we can do is stand up for human rights. We can stand up for democracy. But I think it’s a mistake for us to somehow suggest that we’re not going to deal with countries around the world in the absence of their meeting all our criteria for democracy.”
This statement seems antithetical to the Bush-era mentality that was captured so well by Tommy Lee Jones’s character in the film, In the Valley of Elah, whose son was mysteriously murdered after returning from Iraq, when he said his son was “bringing democracy to a shithole.” Of course, this is no surprise considering the obvious ideological schism between the Bush and Obama doctrines. In the above statement, Obama does not seem to care so much about saving the world with democracy as he does promoting that which underlies the values of the American people. I relate this to having an informed conversation between a Christian and a Buddhist about why each believes so strongly in his respective religion as opposed to standing on a street corner with a sign that states: “ALL SINNERS ARE GOING TO BURN IN HELL – REPENT!”
The U.S. is not the world police force. It is true that considering our economic and military prowess we are looked up to by other nations to aid in international crises, but we should not take this responsibility up with arms – we should embrace this responsibility with the promotion of health, self-sustaining agriculture, and education.