Well, this has been a fascinating year considering the Democratic primaries between two very strong and unusual candidates, including an extraordinarily well-run campaign by Barack Obama. A black man was elected into office; a man who grew up with Muslim roots and whose middle name is Hussein. He didn’t just win, but there was a mystique built around him that continues to resonate with voters even today months after the elections.
Obama ran an intelligent campaign, aggressive when it needed to be (and perhaps underhanded if, as I believe, the calls of racism against the Clintons originated with his campaign), but also representing itself as fair and a true alternative. And alternative he is. He brings to Washington ideas that float around in non-mainstream circles, and has broadcast and even begun the process of pushing through an ambitious and demanding (and expensive and risky) agenda. There will be reform of many things, although he is a smart enough tactician to recognize that his opponents must feel they are being embraced – if they agree, he can move forward more easily; if they disagree, they look like obstructionists.
But this week truly was extraordinary. An American President with a Muslim background and familiarity went to an ancient Arab city and spoke to Muslims around the world. This Great Hope of the world came to speak to a huge audience and the expectations were immense.
What came of it? Well, his familiarity with their world came through. His desire to recruit the Muslim everyman as friend came through. His desire to alienate as few Muslims as possible while bringing moderate and unaffiliated forces closer to the US came through. Being diplomatic, he didn’t say everything he needed to say. This was not an angry or hubristic USA. This was not a dominant or self-righteous USA. Nor was it a supplicant. This also wasn’t Nixon going to China – the US has many allies among Muslim and Arab nations.
No, this was the guy at the prom inviting the girl he’s been teasing the entire year to a dance because he needs a job next year and her dad owns a big factory. He flatters her qualities and smoothes over her flaws. He can find some beauty in her tonight and maybe if they get along, they’ll even remain friends after this. Who knows, maybe he’ll even get to taste some work from the dad.
Except that the schnook at the dance has to do this with some delicate maneuvering. After all, he’s got to let go of the girl he brought to the dance as his date. Maybe not for the rest of the night, but definitely for now. So he tells her how good she looks and how important she is to him. Heck, with his back already half turned to the other girl, he even reminds his date that his grandfather once really helped her grandfather when he was down and out. Yes, those bonds go deep, so she should understand that he likes her a lot and pursuing the other girl may be his goal right now, but that’s because she’s got the daddy with the factory and the girl who is the date just has good looks and a history of fooling around with him. Not quite slutty, but he kinda got her pregnant and she’s screwed if he dumps her because her options are limited. His are not. He’s not pregnant. He’s not facing imminent danger. He’s just looking to improve his situation.
So Obama sidles up to the Muslim world, misstates the number of Muslims in the US, glosses over their tyrannical societies, ignores the reasons for the poverty in their societies and instead praises and cajoles them in order to show them he understands their hearts.
Then he goes to Buchenwald. “No need to be afraid, dear Jews who voted for me and dear Israelis who realize the tides have turned and your good friend is now just going to be a friend. No need to be afraid, I care about your dead people. Isn’t that what you care about?”
Iran is apparently permitted now to have “peaceful” nukes, but gosh darn it, their leader is going to be called to task for Holocaust denial. Israel has to swallow a sudden change in American policy that goes against prior agreements, not to mention the insult of being approximated to colonialists and having all their towns outside of 1949 armistice lines called “settlements,” but that’s okay because Hamas has to learn to be peaceful and to accept the state of Israel. After all, the bonds of America with Israel are unshakeable.
Well, they’ve been shaken.
Netanyahu will be a fool to maintain his obstinate opposition to a two state solution. This is a time to back down and play along. Let the other side shoot themselves in the foot. Rest assured they will, because if there is one thing they don’t want, it’s a second state. They want one state…that they get to rule.
In the meantime, here are some aligned stars in the Negev desert.
The lovely images, not professional but interesting and relevant to our discussion, were taken by dkonn from Detroit on what appears to have been a lovely trip to Israel.