The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Obama the Neocon?

Posted on | May 19, 2011 | 27 Comments

Max Boot’s take on the president’s big “Arab spring” speech:

As John [Podhoretz] and Jonathan [Tobin] have already noted, today’s speech at the State Department marks Barack Obama’s emergence as a full-fledged, born-again neocon firmly in the George W. Bush mold. . . .
Obama, like Bush, is a neocon because he has been mugged by events—in his case by the Arab Spring which has exposed the fragility of dictatorships that he once thought, in the fashion of his predecessor’s father, George H.W. Bush, he could make deals with.
Gone now is the apologetic tone of Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo, where he denied that America was “at war with Islam”; proclaimed, in light of Iraq, that “no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other”; and even tried to make amends for the U.S. role in the overthrow of the Mossadeq government in Iran in 1953.
Instead today at the State Department he spoke from a position of moral authority, telling Middle Eastern dictators that the U.S. will no longer tolerate a situation where “in too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of the few.” He even specifically repudiated the Realpolitik policy he had once favored, saying that “we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals.” From now on, he announced, “it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.”

Hmmm. I suppose people hear what they want to hear. Did Ed Morrissey hear the same speech?

Barack Obama showed up a half-hour late, and once again used the self-promoted White House occasion to say nothing specific, and nothing new.  Even in the most specific part of the speech, regarding the American position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama offered nothing new.  The entire speech could easily have been delivered by George W. Bush in its commendable but hardly inspirational cheering of democratization, which foundered on Obama’s decision to task Bashar Assad with leading democratic reform in Syria.

National Journal has the text of Obama’s speech. Here’s video:

UPDATE:John Tabin at The American Spectator:

President Obama’s speech on the Middle East represents a watershed in his shift from a destructive and delusional approach to the Middle East, marked by indifference to democracy promotion and solicitude toward tyrants, toward embracing a policy that looks a lot like George W. Bush’s Freedom Agenda.

So that’s three commenters who see Obama’s speech as a shift toward Bushism.

UPDATE II: “They told me if I voted for McCain we’d be getting a reluctant clone of Bush’s policies. And they were right!

UPDATE III: Professor William Jacobson isn’t joining in the general jubilation over the alleged Bush-ification of Obama-ism.

UPDATE IV: Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch didn’t get any leg tingles, either. Now a Memeorandum thread.

UPDATE V: Ace calls the speech “a political document, pure and simple,” and I ask: Who expected anything else? He’s clearly in re-election mode now, and everything he says or does is calculated for political effect.

UPDATE VI: Allahpundit called this the headline of the day:


Who knew the National Enquirer had a foreign-policy desk?

UPDATE VII: David Limbaugh asks, where’s the outrage? But the problem is that, according to various commentators, what Obama said about Israel returning to the 1967 borders is just a reiteration of longstanding U.S. policy. If Max Boot isn’t complaining . . .

UPDATE VIII: Welcome, Instapundit readers! President Obama’s remarks weren’t a big hit with Benjamin Netanyahu.

UPDATE IX: Max Boot’s sanguine initial assessment of Thursday’s speech is now giving way to more skeptical views from his Commentary colleagues, including John Podhoretz (“Did Obama Think He Was Giving a Pro-Israel Speech?“) and Omri Ceren (“Obama Abandons Decades of U.S.-Israeli Diplomacy“).


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