Europeans have a reputation for diplomacy and nuance. Americans tend to be blunt. The honesty of Americans often rubs Europeans the wrong way.
Asians tend to be better negotiators than most Americans. That is because Americans have little patience. They want to get a job done and move on to the next matter at hand. Americans have little time for deception and guile.
I think this is one of the reasons that there are so many Americans who don’t like Mr. Obama (the Rasmussen poll has consistently shown 30% of Americans strongly disapprove of Mr. Obama and his job performance). He is too European, too Asian, too Un-American. He is Inspector Hercule Poirot (or Clouseau). We want a John Wayne character or Patton.
Take for example his speech to a group of Arab elites in Cairo yesterday. Instead of taking the situation head on, he was European, and, Asian. He was very diplomatic. He revised history to make it more acceptable to his audience.
To his credit, he was quite American at times, to wit:
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
Then he would become a European or Asian saying things like:
The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem (underlining is mine) in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace.
John Wayne would never say it was our fault, just to make friends. Mr. Obama did:
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (again, the underlining is mine)
Then he revised history. The UN proposed a physical territory for a state of Palestine and one for Israel, and the Arab states rejected it promising the Palestinians their own state once they defeated Israel. Palestinians are only refugees today because none of the Arab States (except Jordan) would accept any of them. By contrast, Israel has accepted millions of displaced Jews from around the world. So what did Mr. Obama say?
“On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”
John Wayne would have said, “You Arab states screwed up when you didn’t accept the U.N.’s proposal of both a Palestinian State and an Israeli State. Then you compounded that mistake by keeping Palestinians holed up in Refugee camps when you could have absorbed them into your population like Israel did with displaced Jews. We’ll give you one more chance. Sit at the table and we will hash out an agreement that will disburse many Palestinians to your countries and will carve out a plot of land for a Palestinian state. If you won’t sit with us and with the Israeli’s and seriously compromise to get the job done, you have no one to blame but yourselves.”
Patton would have said: “This whole Palestinian issue is your damn fault. You Arabs were so confident that you would defeat Israel and have everything your way. Then you got your butt’s kicked. Here’s what you should do. Compromise with Israel. According to you, everyone else has been responsible for this mess. It is time for you to quit hiding behind women and children and in churches while you kill innocents. It is time for you to clean up your own house. It is time for Arab nations to take some responsibility. End this stupidity, or continue to get your butts kicked.”
Mr. Obama gave an excellent speech. It was filled with diplomacy and nuance. It was deceptive in spots and revised history to make the audience like him. It was a speech to stroke his ego. It did not face the fire, like Patton or John Wayne would have.
I would have respected him far more if he had spoken from a position of power, acted like an American and told the Arab Elites the blunt truth, “Until you start to accept Palestinians, until you control your own radicals, until you get more serious about peace than you are about victory over the infidels, the rest of the world will occupy your territory to protect innocent people.”
I don’t think this speech will accomplish any movement in the Middle East from the hard positions held by most Islamic states. In my view, it was a wasted opportunity. I hope I’m wrong.