Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama Refers to Yemen in Presidential Address

I truly appreciate President Obama making the comment he made yesterday about Yemen (and, in particular, about President Ali Abdullah Saleh):

Now, our opposition to Iran's intolerance and Iran's repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for consistent change -- with change that's consistent with the principles that I've outlined today. That's true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power.

However, I found the speech to be pretty vanilla, and the idea that we are going to engage the Middle East in a different way moving forward a bit specious. President Obama said within the speech that

It will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy. That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia... both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections, a vibrant civil society, accountable and effective democratic institutions, and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place."

Love him or not, it was our past president, George W. Bush, who heralded this new age in American foreign policy with a speech he gave at the NED in 2003. He said:

Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.

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