President Obama recently gave what was billed as a major policy speech on the Middle East at the U.S. State Department. The speech was about 45 minutes long, but most of the discussion following the speech centered on the last few minutes of the speech, where Barack Obama had what can only be described as a Neville Chamberlain moment.
In September of 1938, Adolf Hitler and his henchmen were openly calling for the destruction of Czechoslovakia as a nation and preparing war to achieve their aims. At the last minute, British Prime Minister Chamberlain, along with his accomplice, French President Edouard Daladier, rushed to Munich where they proceeded to carve up Czechoslovakia giving Germany all of her territories that provided natural as well as man-made defenses against Hitler’s armies. All of this was done without representation by anyone from the Czech government involved and Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler was being described in London as “peace with honor.” Chamberlain exclaimed, “I believe it is peace in our time.”
Barack Obama in an obvious attempt to appease Palestinians, stated in his address, “ The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” This being said without notifying Israel beforehand and prior to any other negotiations taking place.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to present his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in a speech before a joint session of Congress, but said that there can be no return to the indefensible 1967 borders.
A few days later, Obama left on a European trip where he planned to seek a joint Middle East agreement with David Cameron, insisting that a Palestinian state should be based on pre-1967 borders. The issue was to be raised in private talks between the two men during the state visit by Obama and his wife to London. Obama has already secured the political backing of the United Nations, European Union and Russia.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said endorsing the pre-1967 ceasefire line was done in the hopes of dissuading the Palestinians from going ahead with their plan for recognition of an independent Palestinian state in the United Nations in September.
Palestinian success in obtaining a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN would leave Israel increasingly diplomatically isolated in the region and the world. The United States also opposes unilateral action, which would put Washington in the awkward position of having to vote against Palestinian statehood.
While the Israeli-Palestinian issue is important, the other parts of Obama’s speech were at least as important and at least as troubling for anyone hoping for stability in the area.
President Obama initially stated that the purpose of his speech was to talk about the extraordinary events taking place in the Middle East and North Africa and the change taking place there. He began by describing the story that began in Tunisia with the Jasmine Revolution there, comparing it to the American Revolution and the civil rights movement in America. “Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands,” he said, “and in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home—day after day, week after week—until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.”
Obama said, “There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity.” He spoke of a set of core principles that he said has guided our response to the events over the past six months. Those principles include the opposition to the use of violence and repression against people of the region; support for the right of free speech, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders; and support for political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa.
He goes on to say that our support for these interests are a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal. “Let me be specific,” the president said, “It will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.”
Indeed, Obama seemed indignant that “in all too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence.” It should not be surprising to a national leader that Kings and dictators might feel compelled to quell protests that they feel threaten their regimes.
President Obama threw his support for hope and change to people demonstrating in multiple countries in the region and told several leaders to basically give up their leadership within their respective nations to those protesting in the streets. He actually invoked a little Saul Alinsky when he said, “…after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”
President Obama has no idea who will be in charge in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya come the end of the year. He has no idea what their beliefs or policies are or will be. Yet he is promising billions of dollars worth of aid and investments in the area. He is promising a Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa without any clue who he is offering it to.
While I support the idea of using the principles that our nation believes in and is based on as an example to those who desire similar freedoms in their lands, I do not believe we should be overtly involved, either directly or through agitation, in regime change for the sake of regime change.