There is an absolutely priceless photo on the cover of the Financial Times, today (unfortunately, I can’t find it on the web). Under the headline, “Obama appeals to Muslims”, is a picture showing two Hamas “militants”, dressed in fashionable guerilla gear (flak jackets, ski-masks), and sitting in chairs in what appears to be a bunker, each man with an automatic rifle in his lap. They are staring at a small television set, on which Obama is giving his Cairo speech. Hanging on the wall behind, and dwarfing, the television is the Hamas flag.
Perhaps it’s just serendipity, but the photographer has managed to convey the proverbial thousand words with just one picture. Because of the perspective, the Hamas thugs are looming menacingly large in the foreground, and Obama’s small screen presence, due to the size of the television and its position in the background, looks positively… dinky. It’s a virtual snapshot of the vague and ineffectual line being taken in the Middle East by a president who seems to hope that his own personal benignity and solemn recognition of Arab “victimhood” will be as oil upon the troubled waters of this violent region. Even assuming that there is a sizable body of moderate Muslims who are willing to set aside their cultural and religious antipathy toward the non-Muslim world, it is precisely the sort of goons pictured in this photograph who will prove to be the least tractable in a peace offensive engineered by the U.S., and who will continue to cow the moderates into a state of powerlessness.
Having said that, I will also state that this is an area (unlike many of his domestic schemes) in which I do sincerely wish the President the best of luck, because an honorable and genuine peace is in everybody’s interest. The emphasis, however, is on honorable and genuine, and I am, to put it mildly, far from being assured that Obama has struck the right tone, or hit upon anything resembling a viable policy, to effect such an outcome.