George W. Bush and Dick Cheney didn't understand this. They only knew force, lots of it, taken out on the wrong people. And that incompetence has led us to where we are today - with the Muslim world despising us in increasing numbers by the day, leaving America more and more vulnerable. (Just because we haven't been attacked since 9/11 doesn't mean we were kept safe by the previous administration.)
In his speech today, President Obama set to change course:
I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.The President didn't just cow-tow to the Muslim world. He said what needed to be said:
...When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.The speech is quite long, but in my mind it is required reading. Teachers across the country should print it and require their students to read it. The rest of us should make sure to set aside some time to study it.
This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.
That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely.
It is that important.
The full text of the speech can be found here.