What Obama should have said in Egypt

Obama speaking in Cairo

Good afternoon. Assalaamu alaykum.

I’m going to keep this short and simple, because I need to get back to fixing America’s health care system and designing the next Corvette. So let me start off by saying We’re Sorry.

Invading Iraq was a mistake. Instead of making the region safer or spreading democracy, all we’ve done is ignite a civil war that has destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and killed hundreds of thousands.

Occupying Afghanistan was a mistake. It was hubris to think we could control Afghanistan where countless other empires had tried and failed to impose order. Our bombing campaigns continue to kill an unacceptable number of civilians which just furthers the cycle of violence and hate. With no end to the occupation in sight, now the war is threatening to destabilize Pakistan.

Picking sides with Israel was a mistake. We’ve made the Palestinian people and their allies our enemies by helping crush their nationalist aspirations and tolerate a brutal occupation.

Overthrowing the government of Iran and propping up oppressive dictators in other Middle Eastern countries were mistakes . It is not our right to decide who governs what country even if we rely on them for supplies of oil.

But apologies aren’t enough. I know, and so here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of the year. In the interest of peace and prosperity, I pledge to help Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild their infrastructure with American dollars. We broke it, we should help fix it.

I’m going to push for a real peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I’m going to join world opinion and seek the return to the 1967 borders as the foundation for peace and Palestinian statehood.

Most importantly, I’m going to deliver on the promise of American presidents going back nearly half a century. I’m going to free the United States from our addiction to oil. This may not seem like a good thing to those of you in the audience. After all, your economies are largely based on oil revenue. That’s true, and believe me, even if demand from the U.S. drops, you will still have plenty of eager customers. But more crucially American interference in the Middle East will lose its rationale. Maybe then, a future American president wont have to return to your lands years from now and repeat these apologies.

6 Comments

  1. Ian

    “I’m going to withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of the year. In the interest of peace and prosperity, I pledge to help Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild their infrastructure with American dollars. We broke it, we should help fix it.”

    Yes because cutting checks to failing corporations in the US has panned out so well. Seriously? You want to just dump money into countries that are so unstable that money could end up in the hand of our enemies in the conflicts there?

    “I’m going to join world opinion and seek the return to the 1967 borders as the foundation for peace and Palestinian statehood.”

    That’s fine I guess, but it does strike me as a little arbitrary.

    “I’m going to free the United States from our addiction to oil.”

    Probably the most reasonable thing here.

  2. Biff

    Ian is right! Don’t put words into President Obama’s mouth like that. You have to reasonable and settle for what our leaders are willing to give us. Besides, our terrorist enemies are everywhere and we have to fight them in Afghanistan so we don’t have to fight them over here!

  3. Ian

    Swing and a miss…

  4. I think it’s pretty naive to think that pakistan wouldn’t be having problems with the taliban if we hadn’t gone in to afghanistan. If anything, the taliban would be a stronger organization with an entire country to use as their base of operations. Seems kind of like “Let hitler have poland, that should keep him quiet” argument to me.

    Right or wrong, we made this mess (part of it at least) we can’t just pack up and go home and leave countless people to the wolves. The taliban will be back to skinning people in stadiums in no time. (oh right, but that wasn’t bad because we weren’t totally at fault).

  5. I also don’t understand people’s desire for a publicly stated timeframe for withdrawal from iraq or afghanistan. What does it achieve, apart from warming the cockles of our hearts, that a privately held timetable won’t do? Do you really think that will sway those who he wasn’t able to reach?

    I doubt it.

    In my opinion, there is one main difference between a publicly held timetable and a private one. One provides a short term political boost, and, well, the other…. well, the other simply isn’t as reckless. If you were an insurgent in Iraq, a member of al-qaeda, or any other warring faction, what would you do with that information? Would you continue your daily skirmishes that achieve little to nothing, don’t help you gain any real power, and, at best, are a minor embarrassment the US. Or would you wait? Wait until troop levels have begun to dwindle or your enemy has left in “victory” leaving a seemingly peaceful Iraq in their wake. I’d wait, and cause an uproar when they’re gone to force the enemy to either accept defeat or re-commit. Either way, it would be a major embarrassment…. and, unlike the constant mini-threat they now pose, they’d have a chance for real power. To occupy real land, and to gain real income (oil — it’s not just an issue because we want it).

    You don’t lead a charge when your enemy is entrenched and committed. If you know when they’re going home. If they announce their plans to the world…. you wait.

    Don’t get me wrong. We can have a timetable. We can even share it with “friendly” governments. But announcing it to the world is, well, foolish at best.

    I’m reminded of a quote I sometimes show my students, “Keep an open mind, but not so open that your mind falls out.” We all want a transparent government. We just don’t want it to be so transparent that it lacks real depth or nuance.

  6. Chris

    Huggy Bear,
    I think there is a convincing argument to be made for targeted strikes against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. On the other hand, occupying the entire country has only pushed Al Qaeda into Pakistan (and destabilized that country), while the Taliban is resurgent. That lovely outcome has cost hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of our troops and countless innocent Afghani lives.

    You can read my thoughts about alternative Afghanistan strategy here.

    As for withdrawal timetables, I’m sympathetic to the tactical considerations of announcing exactly when you’re going to leave, but we’re not even getting vague hints anymore. Obama’s promise to leave in a little over two years has been pushed back or put on hold, and even his original promise still left ~30,000 troops in Iraq.

    I just don’t have confidence that we’re trying to leave at all, and if I don’t, I’m sure the Middle Easterners he’s trying to win over don’t either. That means more hatred and possibly more violence directed at America.