Stop what you’re doing and listen to Obama’s Cairo speech

Stop what you’re doing and listen to Obama’s Cairo speech June 4, 2009

For those wondering where to find it, I just listened to the audio for President Obama's historic speech in Cairo on NPR's website (from which you can download it, as well, if you don't have a connection fast enough for streaming audio). NPR also has the transcript, too, but their version isn't print-friendly. WaPo's transcript is much better for that purpose. And HuffPo has the video.

So much to parse and ponder.

Aside from the from-a-sitting-President-shockingly evenhanded tone, the biggest news is probably its unequivocal rejection of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.

Don't have time to react in any detail now and I realize that you can only cover so much ground in an address of this nature (even one weighing in at nearly 6,000 words), but I will say that as happy (and proud) as I am with it overall, I would've liked for it to touch on non-Muslim rights in Muslim societies. Given all the respect he showed to Islam and Muslims, when he discussed the largely successful integration of Muslims in American life it would've been entirely fair and rhetorically balanced to note in passing that work needs to be done to fully enfranchise non-Muslim minorities in many Islamic societies. In a day when Islamic media hold forth loudly about the rights and dignity of Muslim minorities around the globe, it's high time they started discussing the lack thereof for Christians, Jews and other non-Muslim communities in too many parts of the Muslims societies and the barrier this presents to Western-Islamic rapprochment. This needs to be on the agenda.

But that's a fairly minor quibble in the scheme of things, as the address was inspiring, constructive and courageous on so many levels.

The knives are really going to come out from the Israel-firsters and "dhimmi"-chanting Islamophobodunces at this drawing of a line in the sand before Bibi on settlements, but they're going to have to tread lightly, as all but the certifably insane instinctively understand that new, more pragmatic approaches are desperately called for in the Middle East peace process than this endless carte blanche to hardliners in Tel Aviv to do as they will. Some good old fashioned tough love is called for from Washington–to both sides–for everybody's sake.

Interesting times these. Could the virtues of common sense and long term planning are slowing making headway inside Beltway Mideast policy circles?

Update (2009-06-08): Silly me, I see that Obama did address the question of religious freedom, if a bit more obliquely than I hoped. 

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