U.S. Foreign Policy: Summary of June 4, 2009, President Barack Obama’s Speech in Egypt
The essential idea was that challenges are shared among countries; therefore, the responses to them are also shared. The White House published the text of the President’s speech here.
President Obama addressed four main areas in the speech: violent extemism, Israel and Palestine, nuclear weapons, and democracy. [President Obama also discussed the matters of religious freedom, women’s rights, and economic development and opportunity briefly towards the end of the speech.]
The President stated that Afghanistan demonstrated the common goal of addressing violent extremism—opposing the killing of innocents. The United States has partnered with a coalition of 46 countries, the President explained, to address this goal.
In an aside, The President also mentioned that the questioning or justifying the events surrounding 9/11 is not supported by the facts: Al-Queda killed 3000 people, the victims were innocents, and Al-Queda claimed credit for the attacks and state its intention to kill on a massive scale. [Note: It is unclear which person or persons are being referred to here.]
On Iraq, The President said that the world is better without Saddam Hussein, but events surrounding his removal from power have reminded the United States to use diplomacy and build international consensus.
Israel and Palestine
The President stated that the strong bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable because of cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
He also asserted that six million Jews were killed by the Third Reich. He continued that denying this is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. [Note: At the G-8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, the group announced its condemnation of statements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denying the holocaust.]
The resolution of the problems between Israel and Palestine is two states with each population living in peace and security. [However, one has a full military and nuclear weaponry, the other does not.]
The President explained that the Palestinians must resist violence. He stated that shooting rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women on a bus is neither a sign of courage nor power. [The damage created by Operation Cast Lead and other similar operations were not mentioned.]
The President attempted to compare the plight of the Palestinians with the struggles that Black Americans face. The President asserted that Black people won full and equal rights through the “peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.” This statement is not completely accurate because the history of Palestinans in their land has a different context from the story of Black people in America. [I critiqued former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a similar point. Perhaps it is best to avoid these type of comparisons]
In addition, the Palestinians must focus on what they can build, the President explained. The Palestinian Authority must develop the capacity to govern, Hamas must end violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Alternatively, the Israelis must acknowledge the Palestinian’s right to exist. The President noted that the United States does not have to accept the continued legitimacy of continued settlements. Israel, the President continued, has an obligation to ensure that the Palestinians can live and work and develop their society.
The Arab states were encouraged to do activities similar to what was being asked of the Palestinians.
On Iran, the President noted that the United States played a role in overthrowing a democratically elected Iranian government. He stated that Iran played a role in hostage taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.
The President explained that the United States is prepared to move forward without preconditions, except on the issue of nuclear weapons. The President explained that his purpose is to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. [However, one state already has nuclear weapons.]
The President acknowledged that some argue that some countries have nuclear weapons, while others do not. He stated that no one country should determine which nation has nuclear weapons. He also noted that Iran has the right to access peaceful nuclear power under the requirements of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (signatories).
No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other. The President is committed to support governments that reflect the will of the people.
The characteristics of governance that the United States supports are the following—free speech, opportunity to choose government, rule of law, equal administration of justice, government that is transparent and does not steal from the people, and the freedom to live as you choose.