Barack Obama 3/4/2007

Barack Obama has been flapping his foreign policy wings of late. His eager supporters (once was I of such folly), hoping that Obama will help mend America’s image in the Middle East are holding their breath in anticipation of bold, expressionistic policy initiatives out of his cuffs, a spectacle of which I am gravely skeptical. So far the cautious Senator’s limited pronouncements of his policy initiatives have been tepid, standard and more or less the same as his less celebrated counterparts’.

I find little novelty about Mr. Obama’s character–besides the obvious. My enthusiasm for his candidacy was greatly affected by his cohorts’ horrible mishandling of the “madrassa” affair and now his address to AIPAC has dashed my hopes regarding his candidacy opening a new era in American policy toward the Middle East and the greater Islamic world. I am certainly not of the persuasion that favorable Middle East policy (from the Muslim perspective) must necessarily be avowedly Pro-Palestinian (whatever that may mean); in fact I share many concerns with American-Muslims supporting Mr. Obama, regarding the formulation of level-headed and rational policy that is wider in scope and consciousness than the current swing. I would like to see dialogue with Iran, which is not freighted with belligerence; I would like to see progress on the Palestinian question; I would like to see a resolution to the Iraq war–as an American-Muslim, it is inconceivable for me to compromise American national interests, but at the same time policymakers should realize that being vocally opposed to certain facets of current American policy in the Middle East is not synonymous with being against American national interests!

At the same time, to offer support to a candidate simply because he has a Muslim name and may be able to pass through some of the barriers erect between America and the Middle East is dangerously naive. Obama’s Muslim supporters need to demand of the junior senator for their votes. So far, to me Mr. Obama has given no indication of bringing to fruition, the votive hopes of his Muslim supporters.

Perhaps I am being hasty; perhaps Obama is only doing what is politically prudent; perhaps I demand too much Obama’s radical novelty as a presidential candidate!

The AIPAC speech can be found here.

Shmuel Rosner charts Obama vis-a-vis Israel here.

Ali Abunimah at the Guardian blog has a less favorable view of Obama following the AIPAC speech.

Daily Times (Pakistan) editorial about Obama.

Here is an Obama interview from the Tribune. I cringed until my ribs bent and broke at:

As for Pakistan, Obama said that if President Pervez Musharraf were to lose power in a coup, the United States similarly might have to consider military action in that country to destroy nuclear weapons it already possesses. Musharraf’s troops are battling hundreds of well-armed foreign militants and Pakistani tribesmen in increasingly violent confrontations.

Obama said that violent Islamic extremists are a vastly different brand of foe than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they must be treated differently.

“With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don’t want to be blown up, we don’t want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain,” Obama said. “I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don’t make those same calculations.

“… I think there are elements within Pakistan right now–if Musharraf is overthrown and they took over, I think we would have to consider going in and taking those bombs out, because I don’t think we can make the same assumptions about how they calculate risks.”

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