William Galston previews Obama's Cairo speech:
The early evidence suggests that President Obama has chosen--or feels compelled--to reduce the emphasis on democracy promotion and to put economic and security concerns first. Given the gravity and urgency of the problems in these areas, the administration's stance is understandable, perhaps even inevitable. But Secretary of State Clinton's blunt statements to that effect have evoked negative reactions in many quarters.
A March 10 Washington Post editorial accused her of undercutting her own department's criticisms of Egypt's repressive policies, and Egyptian human rights groups accused her of giving the Mubarak regime a "green light" to intensify them. The State Department immediately shot back with an unusually strong response, denying that Clinton had downplayed these issues and characterizing her policy as a change of means, not ends. "We are going to continue to push," said a high-ranking spokesman, "but ... we want to be more effective than previous administrations have been. ... You've got to try to come up with ways that you can use--the media or other elements of society--to [exert] influence in a positive direction." So it seems fair to scrutinize the forthcoming trip to Egypt for early evidence of this new and allegedly more effective strategy...
Early evidence? Why early? Doesn't this strategy work primarily in the long run?
For my part, I see in the Obama administration a move away from the somewhat utopian democratization talk of Bush in favor of a more realist take on American interests in the region and the world. He's more like GHWB than GWB. And my sense is that Obama's chief democratic emphasis will be on Iran - which is part of the audience he is addressing in Cairo. His speech will surely try to appeal subtly to the Iranian people to use what democratic leverage they have to push their rulers toward compromise with the West. His main tool will, I suspect, be a vision of true respect for Islam. It will be a speech designed for the masses, not the elites.
But even there, this will take time to bear fruit - perhaps more time than Obama actually has left.
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