Yesterday in this space, I wrote that President Obama was preparing to give the wrong speech to an audience that doesn't want to hear it. I pointed out my strong belief that Muslims who refuse to face reality, insist on living in an imagined past paradise, and applaud those who murder in the name of their faith are the real problem. I wrote that it shouldn't be an American president who "apologizes" to the Islamic world, but Muslims who should be apologizing to America.
That said, I have read the text of President Obama's speech (and you can watch it at the link posted on Mike's blog), and am less angry (if no less concerned) that I was at this time yesterday.
That Mr Obama is an excellent speaker is well known - my concern was that his speech would be long on unnecessary apology and short on presentation of facts the Islamic world doesn't want to hear, truths it doesn't want to acknowledge, and responsibilities it refuses to face.
On balance, I think Mr Obama did a very good job. He acknowledged some of the mistakes the United States has made in the past, but without begging for forgiveness. He underscored the role of Islamic extremists in spreading hatred and violence, and America's determination to fight them. He affirmed our support of Israel, but also called that country to renounce its self-destructive policy of building settlements in contested territory.
Naturally, there are those who condemn his remarks. Predictably, blowhard moron Osama bin Laden did. Hard-line Israeli settlers didn't like his comments about their illegal settlements. Islamic extremists didn't like anything. Many Palestinians claimed that his condemnation of Israeli occupation policies was insufficiently strong. Some Americans believed he went too far in praising Islamic religion and traditions, and not far enough in condemning its extremist violence.
There was something for everyone to like, and everyone to object to. But on balance, I think it was a good speech presented to a tough audience, every member of which was prepared to denounce all or part of anything he said.
Whether or not the Muslim world will hear his call to renounce violence and focus on building, rather than destroying, remains to be seen. Whether Israel hears his admonition to seek a just peace with the Palestinians and the larger Arab world also remains to be seen.
In the final analysis, as Mr Obama said, "We cannot impose peace." People have to want it and work for it. He spoke the right words. Now, it's time to see if those words spur people of all nations and faiths in the Middle East to the right sort of action: to building, not destroying; to communicating with each other, rather than shouting death threats in the streets; to recognizing the rights - and responsibilities - of all rather than the narrow interests of a few.
I'm still not holding my breath, but maybe - just maybe - there's a glimmer of hope out there.
Have a good day. Tomorrow is Cartoon Saturday - be here!
More thoughts coming.