President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York today at a pivotal moment, as uprisings transform the Middle East and the Palestinians unilaterally pursue statehood. In the wake of the speech (full text here), three broad currents of commentary are emerging. Let's take a look at each one.
Obama had trouble explaining America's inconsistent foreign policy
"The President's toughest moment came in explaining the U.S. stance on Palestinian statehood," The Council on Foreign Relations' Stewart Patrick explains. The message that Israeli-Palestinian peace can only be achieved through bilateral talks was "incongruous, after his previous paeans to democratic self-determination in the Arab world. And it surely fell on deaf ears, given Palestinian impatience with Israeli obstruction, notably on settlement issues." Patrick adds that in regards to Syria, "where the regime's atrocities have exceeded those committed by Qaddafi," Obama managed only to call on the U.N. Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, which is unlikely to happen.
The Atlantic's Max Fisher claims that Obama was also hypocritical when it came to Bahrain, the oil-rich, U.S.-allied Persian Gulf island that violently suppressed peaceful demonstrations this year. "Obama's U.N. address made clear that, for all his soaring rhetoric on democracy in the Middle East and North Africa, and for all the very real U.S. action that has backed that rhetoric, the U.S. will not be bringing much in the way of either democracy or talk of it to Bahrain anytime soon," he writes.