Commentary Magazine


The Obvious Irony

From Fouad Ajami’s absolute must-read in today’s Wall Street Journal:

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” President Barack Obama said in his inaugural. But in truth, the new way forward is a return to realpolitik and business as usual in America’s encounter with that Greater Middle East.


The irony now is obvious: George W. Bush as a force for emancipation in Muslim lands, and Barack Hussein Obama as a messenger of the old, settled ways. Thus the “parochial” man takes abroad a message that Muslims and Arabs did not have tyranny in their DNA, and the man with Muslim and Kenyan and Indonesian fragments in his very life and identity is signaling an acceptance of the established order. Mr. Obama could still acknowledge the revolutionary impact of his predecessor’s diplomacy, but so far he has chosen not to do so.

Yet, hopefully that revolutionary impact will not be lost on those who felt it most. If security and political progress advances or merely holds in Iraq, and if President Obama allows David Petraeus to institute an innovative counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, the work of the Bush administrations will bear fruit for a long time to come. What exists as troubling blurs in the memories of Americans eager for “change,” live on as the formative nuclei for Muslim democrats who were willing do die for change.

And here’s the difference made by the quotation marks: Within the confines of one spoken paragraph of his Al-Arabiya interview, Barack Obama asserted that “All too often the United States starts by dictating,” and then immediately praised the dictatorial King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for his “great courage.” If future American presidents find themselves short of apology material in addressing Muslims, they should look no further than President Obama’s cynical wordplay-as-policy.

And to round out the obvious irony noted by Ajami, it was supposed to be the oil-slathered Bush family who cleaved shamelessly to the House of Saud.

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