The most troubling aspect of Obama’s performance has been his frigidness, exacerbated by indecision, when it comes to human freedom – the major issue of the day, and of the post-Cold War world. For a man supposed to embody the triumph of an African-American community long denied its freedom at home, Obama has been unusually reluctant to employ American power – military, ideological, and diplomatic – to assist those abroad denied their freedom. Whether it was his response to the demonstrations in Iran against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen Syria, or even Libya, where the U.S. is involved in the NATO campaign, the president has been evasive and hypocritical, incapable of transcending his innate analytical detachment to seize the high emotions of the moment and shape them to his benefit.
Morally, Obama’s behavior in the Middle East is objectionable; diplomatically, the president has been without inspiration, a leader who has prompted few genuinely profitable foreign policy openings. His three major speeches on the region – those in Ankara and Cairo, and his more recent effort at the State Department, in which he vowed that the United States would “promote reform across the region, and … support transitions to democracy” – have become embarrassing reminders of how little the president has achieved. Even Obama’s urge to engage in a dialogue with the Muslim world was vacant, the whim of a college professor, a meaningless exercise in self-flagellation – for who but the U.S. alone, the president plainly implied, was responsible for the misunderstanding with the Muslim world?