This was the sort of split-the-difference address that the president is now famous for — long on Icarus-like soaring phraseology, very short on down-to-earth realities.
The first third of the president’s speech was a good summary of prior (dare we say it?) neoconservative analyses: Middle East autocracies blame Israel and the U.S., and often manipulate terrorism as a way to divert attention from their own failures to provide freedom and economic security to their people. Evidently, they are unwilling to address their societies’ endemic cultural, economic, and social problems: tribalism, religious intolerance, gender apartheid, statism, authoritarian government, and on and on. Yesterday, that was a neocon fantasy of Wolfowitz, Perle, and Bush; today, it is apparently part of a landmark new diplomacy. And yet, in this comprehensive speech on the Middle East, the word “Islam” was never mentioned.