The President's speech received a standing ovation from its Cairo audience and this Huffington Post report indicates why:
"In a gesture to the Islamic world, Obama conceded at the beginning of his remarks that tension "has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear," said the president, who recalled hearing prayer calls of "azaan" at dawn and dusk while living in Indonesia as a boy."
A few immediate reactions from commentators:
James Forsyth: "Obama’s speech to the ‘Muslim world’ in Egypt was full of necessary fictions. But more substantively it set out what Obama sees as seven areas where progress must be made if tensions are to be eased: the fight against violent extremism, Israel / Palestine, Iran’s nuclear ambition, democracy, religious freedom, womens’ rights and economic development. Missing from the speech was a clear appreciation that violent extremism comes out of an extremist ideology. Violent extremism cannot be defeated until the ideology that lies behind it is tackled."
Janet Daley: "The White House presented this speech as "a beginning" and made it clear that it did not expect the problems of the region to be transformed overnight. The question is, what happens next? Mr Obama's requests for Hamas to lay down its arms, and Israel to accept a two-state solution are not going to be met (at least not in the immediate future). Violent extremism is not going to be roundly eliminated by Muslim governments. Islamic women are not going to be given equal opportunties for education, and Arab regimes are not going to embrace human rights, however universal Mr Obama believes their value to be. The White House is presumably aware of all this. Will the speech then simply become another symbol of the Obama moral superiority over his bellicose, tactless predecessor, and so serve purely the interests of domestic politics? Or could it be a useful pretext for justifying later military action on the basis that diplomacy had been tried and proved futile? Does the White House have a plan for what happens when the Muslim world applauds but fails to change course?"
Andrew Sullivan: "I think the last decade or so has shown the extreme limits of hard power and the desperate need for more public diplomacy, national re-branding and some shrewd maneuvering to advance the interests of the West and to help avoid what could be a catastrophic era in global politics. I still believe in the prudent use of military force, and the need to keep a threat of such force in diplomacy. But the great challenge of the war against Jihadist terror is shifting the psyches of countless young Muslims, from Pakistan to Morocco. That we have chance to do that with this president is itself testimony to democracy's capacity for correcting mistakes and the strength of its ethnic and cultural diversity in appealing to the wider world."
Ali Abunimah of 'Electronic Intifada': "He may have more determination than his predecessor but he remains committed to an unworkable two-state "vision" aimed not at restoring Palestinian rights, but preserving Israel as an enclave of Israeli Jewish privilege. It is a dead end."
Michael Rubin: "Obama studiously avoids the word democracy. Instead, he declared, "That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people." Dictators of the world, relax: Stage a spontaneous demonstration to demonstrate popular adulation; don't worrt about those pesky votes."