Don't know what they're headed for
Everybody's crying peace on earth
Just as soon as we win this war -Mose Allison
I didn't really expect President Obama to be overtly critical of the American military effort in the Middle East and Asia in his Cairo address, but I don't believe he accurately portrayed the problems created by the continuing U.S. military presence and action in Iraq, and consequences of the escalation of force in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In his address, the president immediately pointed to the threats he sees from ''violent extremists" who he says have 'exploited' tensions among Muslims in the region and elsewhere. Yet, despite the fleeting reference to the 'war of choice' in Iraq, the consequences and effects of the opportunistic military assault on the sovereign nation were ignored and unmentioned by Mr. Obama as he sought to rally his Muslim audience against what he described as common threats from attacks by al-Qaeda and their supporters on civilians.
Citing the numbers of innocent civilians killed in the original 9-11 attacks on our nation, the president sought to portray every violent offensive by combatants against American troops, our allies, and on the population in the way of our military advance on their territory, as a mere extension of that original crime.
"So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end."
However, it's clear that many of the violent attacks on the populations (which haven't come from the U.S.-led NATO forces) have been from the predictable and inevitable resistance against the nation-building efforts of the U.S. in their homeland, and against our allies who have aided in the overthrow and replacement of the sovereign governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, as well, there is a similar resistance to the efforts of the government there in support of the U.S. military effort to keep the hundreds of thousands of individuals routed from Afghanistan from spilling back over the border and assuming their former role of dominance in the affairs of their exile nation.
As the president so eloquently expressed in his speech, there is a rich and complex Muslim history and legacy in the U.S. which is in stark contrast to the perceptions created around the region and the world that our opportunistic and grudging militarism is an American crusade against the Muslim community. That perception of an America bent on expanding empire across sovereign borders is going to take more than the president's demonstration of an understanding and appreciation of Islam in his address.
Any rapprochement between America and the communities and population which reside in these nations he's insisting need our military intervention will have to come from a reduction of that military presence and action, not the escalation and persistence of those assaults which Mr. Obama insists is necessary in the effort to 'defeat' the al-Qaeda nemesis.
While President Obama did acknowledge the limits of 'military power alone' in 'solving the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan', it's clear that his address was intended to enlist the support of Muslims for the ongoing military effort. The president's requisite homage in his speech to providing humanitarian aid and redevelopment assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan is transparently overshadowed by the primacy and long-term prospects of the open-ended military mission he's chosen to pursue in the region which he describes as a battle against 'extremists.' What's not clear, however, is whether the citizens of these Muslim-dominated nations that he wants to rollover and accept the military assaults on their territory actually share the U.S. interest in killing every individual and attacking every community who identifies their cause with al-Qaeda or its agents.
What these Muslim nations needed to hear from the American president is some indication of when our country is going to take our boots off the necks of those in the way of whatever ambition the White House decides to pursue behind the shock-and-awe of our military forces. It's not just a failure of those in the region to understand or appreciate the impetus behind the American assault on their homeland which is an obstacle to repairing the animosity among Muslims to the U.S. and our ambitions - it's the devastating reality of the ongoing, seemingly arbitrary exercise of our military forces which has dominated the landscape and made any humanitarian or diplomatic initiatives appear to be mere self-serving attempts to consolidate whatever power has been achieved behind those assaults and seizing of territory. It's difficult (if not impossible) to 'promote peace' in the face of an escalating grudge match.
"It's easier to start wars than to end them." President Obama said near the conclusion of his address. It's that ultimate end to the Americans' vengeful assaults on their homeland which the Muslim community was mostly looking to find in his speech.
What they got instead, was an invitation to either adopt that self-perpetuating grudge or stand down while the U.S. does it's dirty, nation-building work (albeit bearing gifts to help mitigate the damage done in the process). 'Assalaamu alaykum' was the greeting which the president graciously offered at the beginning of his address. Wishing his Muslim audience peace must now be followed by concrete efforts to move toward that enlightened state, to make his words of reconciliation more than patronizing and hollow in his insistence on continuing to adhere to the militarism which has divided us.