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Jordan a Better Choice


Sorry to the experts like Marc Lynch, even as little clout as it has compared to Egypt, I still wish Obama had chosen to speak in Jordan. Let’s just hope he can do the U.S. some good, though by picking Egypt it just reminds everyone of their repression and U.S. acceptance, even complicity, in it.

The poll of six Arab nations found that residents think that Obama will have a positive impact on the Middle East – a region marked by war, religious disputes, ethnic and sectarian violence – as well as on the United States and the rest of the world.

Obama scored highest in Jordan, where 58 percent of its citizens have a favorable opinion of him, 29 percent have an unfavorable view, 6 percent had no opinion and 7 percent didn’t know.

The difference between Obama’s popularity and that of the United States is a goodwill gap that spreads from 26 points in Kuwait to 11 points in Lebanon, all in Obama’s favor.

As for Egypt. Ugh. Mubarak has been a pain in our foreign policy, especially with regard to Hamas, but also Iran (though the Saudis aren’t great either, but Obama wouldn’t dare speak there), with Mubarak’s domestic oppression so intense that I just don’t see the plus here. It just compounds the U.S. coddles dictator talking point.

Lynch disagrees:

Obama could take advantage of the location to forcefully speak out in favor of democratization and human rights. He could point out and favorably cite Rice’s remarks, acknowledge the weak follow-through, and vow to do better by being more pragmatic and cooperative. If he wanted to be really bold, he could reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood as an example of an organization facing a choice between “resistance” and “constructive partnership”, and criticize the Egyptian regime’s repression of the Brotherhood at a time when it was trying to play the democratic game. He could do the same on the foreign policy front, reframing the moderate/radical divide into something more constructive.

If he does some of that with his usual dexterity, then the Cairo location could go from a negative to a net positive — and set the stage for the real purpose of the address, which I assume will be to fundamentally reframe America’s approach to its relations with the Islamic world.

Okay. I just don’t see Pres. Obama in a “reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood,” while tut-tut-tutting the host, Pres. Mubarak. Hey, but hell could freeze.

Egypt’s historic greatness could use resurrection rehabilitating, or maybe the term is redemption, especially since they’ve been a partner in U.S. rendition. Except to be redeemed you must repent. Fat chance from Mubarak.

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