In just a few hours President Obama will deliver arguably one of the most important speeches of his presidency in Cairo, Egypt.
But I believe that in order for Obama to get the Arab world actively engaged in the issues that are important to us and our allies he must do three things.
One reiterate that the US is NOT at war with Islam. Reinforce our support for Palestinian statehood. And three show respect for the view held by many people across the Arab world (and arguably the entire world) that the American way is not the ONLY way.
These are the three main points Obama has to hammer home in order for his words to resonate with the average muslim man and woman in the Middle East.
Every rational American can accept that the US is not at war with Islam however a majority of muslims believe that we are actively seeking to destroy Islam. This perception has arisen primarily due to conflicting political interests and it will disolve into thin air after his speech. But what Obama and diplomats can do is to highlight our common interests-the establishment of a free and secure Palestinian state and the mutually desired withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.
If we can actively work to align these two key interests and maybe even achieve one of them in coming years we can then begin to work on our differences. However, in order to achieve a desirable outcome on those two issues I believe that we must be willing to accept and adjust our way of thinking.
Now I’m not suggesting that the adjustments have to made solely on our end, not at all. Arab states and muslim men and women everywhere must be willing to do more than simply pay lip service to the idea of rejecting radical elements within their communities. Instead they must wholeheartedly renounce and squash those elements within their midst before members of their citizenry have become radicalized and a threat to America and its allies. We can’t do that for them they must do that on their own.
As a hyperpower the United States could tell any state or nation ‘to shove off’ but we tried that route look how far it got us? Our influence and dominance on the world stage can be increased tenfold if we admit to a few mistakes.
And this is one of those occasions.
To admit a mistake as a nation doesn’t make us apologists as some have suggested instead when a world leader is willing to admit his or her mistake what it says to the rest of the world is that the country is big enough to admit its shortcomings, accept that it doesn’t have all the answers and is wise enough to seek counsel and assistance from others in an effort to never repeat that mistake in essence it is a state deserving of the mantle of leadership.
However the idea of our President acknowledging past mistakes bothers millions of Americans.
And I can understand that.
Forgive me for using my own character as an example but like most people I hate admitting mistakes but what I hate even more is act of admitting to others that I was WRONG that gets under my skin. And I don’t know a single individual as strong willed and stubborn as I am that likes to admit that she/he could’ve been wrong on anything…LOL!.
But there are times in our lives when a simple acknowledgment of a past mistake is enough to garner us respect and admiration from our loved ones and even our enemies and I believe this principle can be applied to a state as well.
How we go about rectifying those mistakes will say more about us as a country than any wrong we have committed in the last past years. Let’s hope that those men and women in the Arab world are also ready for a fresh start because I know that we are.