Obama on Self-Determination, Israel
On Thursday, President Obama addressed the nation on the topic of future foreign policy in the Middle East. Much of what he said has been heard before; however, he made some points that were either unexpected or somewhat vague, leading some people, including myself, to question his intentions.
The Middle East is has been, is, and will likely continue to be in turmoil; therefore, the role that the US plays will be extremely important in determining if peace will ever be achieved. In his speech, Obama stressed the role of the US as a protector of democracy and the rights of people in any nation; essentially, he took direct shots at Bashar al-Assad and Muhammar Gadhafi. He also declared US support for a two state Israeli solution in which Israel is returned to its pre-six day war boundaries. While on the surface these solutions appear benign and genuinely positive, they raise several issues and leave many listeners with more questions than answers.
"We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the 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...we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region." Touche, Barack. But, as previous leaders have learned, staying true to one's ideals is not nearly as easy as it seems. Obama seems to be an avid supporter of Woodrow Wilson's self determination; however, self determination in Wilson's world did not have anywhere close to the worldwide impact that it would have today.
In 1918 at the Peace of Paris, Wilson argued for states in Eastern Europe which were previously of the Austro-Hungarian or Ottoman Empires to be able to determine their own government and state boundaries. The result would have little effect on America. Today, should the people of the Middle East be granted the ability to determine their own government, they could follow the path of democracy. Or, they could turn to fundamentalist Islam and become like 1980 Iran, a theocracy with open hatred towards the West and Israel. Or, they could fall into the hands of a Taliban-esque group such as Hamas. The point is, self determination sounds great in theory, but, as Otto von Bismarck said, "When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn't the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice." Obama may intend to allow new states to determine the path on which they tread. However, what if a situation such as that of Iran happens in, say, Egypt? Would Obama risk a leader like Ayatollah Khomeini taking power in a traditional US ally? Obama could face the decision of whether to stray from his ideals and install a puppet government, or to risk allowing the establishment of an openly hostile Islamic fundamentalist government. Obama said that he would allow the people to do as they choose. I simply wonder if he will keep his word.Continued on the next page