I agree with Marc on a few of his points, but not on others. I too didn’t like the passage he cites on Iran (although the nuclear passage was much worse). The “on the other hand” after the Holocaust discussion was very unfortunate, although I don’t think it means that Obama believes there’s moral equivalence between the plight of the Palestinians and the Nazi murder of the Jews. On the Hamas reference, Marc leaves out the second half: “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.” I think the democracy language was pretty good all things considered, and Obama can’t be expected to seriously pressure the Egyptians on human rights when even Bush didn’t do it and democracy promotion was at the center of Bush’s foreign policy. On Iraq, yes, Obama was stinting, but he opposed the war, so I don’t know how much you can reasonably expect him to praise it. And on interrogation and Gitmo, Obama’s polices are either partly (interrogation) or wholly (Gitmo) acts of international PR, so it would be bizarre not to mention them in such a speech.
I don’t want to make exalted claims for the speech. It was a mixed bag and there are limits to the effect any one speech can have. But I think some in the conservative blogosphere are pronouncing it a scandal because they leave out all the good things. Consider: He extolled America as “one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known”; pledged we will “relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our country”; condemned Holocaust denial as “baseless, ignorant, and hateful”; said “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus”; insisted that “the Arab-Israel conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems”; and called for more democracy, religious freedom, and women’s rights in the Muslim world. And he got a standing ovation.
That should count for something. My standard is not whether Obama gave a speech I’d totally agree with (not going to happen), or whether it was strictly accurate as a matter of history of Koranic exegesis (irrelevant), but whether the speech will, on balance, help isolate Islamic extremists intellectually and politically, or not. Since I think it will, I consider it a success.