As President Obama becomes the first U.S. president to give a major address in the Muslim world Thursday in Cairo, Egypt, he should realize that the stakes were just raised considerably. The speech had been planned from early on, with Obama wanting to do the trip and the speech during his first 100 days. He missed that deadline, but it's still a major event.
However, Osama bin Laden's latest bombast directed toward the United States and -- for the first time ever -- Obama as president, really transforms the debate and the challenge in front of the still-new president.
In his first few engagements with world leaders earlier this year, Obama came as a supplicant. The tone was one of apologizing for U.S. foreign policy during the Bush years. But, it's one thing to -- as Obama said in his inaugural address -- offer an open hand to Iran and the Muslim world. It is quite something different to sound like an apologizer when the murderer of nearly 3,000 Americans declares:
“In this manner, Obama appears to have followed the same path taken by his predecessor, in creating more enmity towards Muslims, and adding on to the fighting enemies, thus paving the way for new long wars.
“Let the American people prepare to continue harvesting what their White House leaders grow, in the years and decades to come."
Instead, the president should tell the Muslim world that the problems of the Middle East and the larger region are not solely created by the United States -- or even, broadly speaking, "the West." The truth is that the lack of education and gross economic inequity throughout the Muslim world exist separate from the United States.
Osama bin Laden has no answer for this. Despite his outright hostility toward the allegedly decadent West (which partly educated him), does he truly prefer women to stay uneducated -- and the broad masses of both sexes to remain in poverty? There may be problems attached to American and Western culture, but it remains the great ideal to creating societies where the people are healthier and live longer.