A recent book from Martha Bayles, a lecturer in humanities at Boston College, tackles the question of how American entertainment industry products confound official U.S. government efforts to represent the nation to...KEEP READING
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Obama Tries Again in the Arab World
DUBAI --- Take a look at Barack Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo. It was beautifully written and radiated good intentions. The U.S. government relied heavily on new media tools to disseminate it throughout the Arab world and beyond. Arab opinion of Obama improved significantly; and then it dropped like a rock.
The reason? The beautiful words were seen to have been built on air, not on a foundation of policy. Arabs are a tough audience. They’ve heard it all before: blueprints, roadmaps, promises about this and that. And yet nothing ever seemed to change…until they took matters into their own hands.
This is my fourth trip this year to the Middle East, and it is an exciting place to be. The triumphs of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt, and the ongoing struggles in Yemen, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere have energized people here, especially the young. They are intent on shaping their own destiny and are rightly wary of the United States, which for so long embraced and protected the despised old order.
This means President Obama has a steep hill to climb as he tries to “reset” the U.S.-Arab relationship. Here are some issues he should address forcefully:
If he emphasizes these three principal topics, President Obama will have a chance to achieve a significant breakthrough in American relations with the Arab world. There remains a residual respect for American culture, technology, education, and resources. Almost every Arab college student I talk with speaks about her or his desire to come to the United States for graduate school, and those who have already studied in America are almost always more friendly and sophisticated in their attitude about the United States.
This is the generation that has been in the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Sanaa, Manama, and elsewhere, trying to build a new Arab world. These are the people President Obama should address. They carry America’s hopes in the region as well as their own. They are the future.
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