President Obama had three significant challenges for his "major address" on the Middle East:
- Explain his administration's seemingly contradictory responses to uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria
- Support the forces of democratic change in the region; and
- Describe how to manage the conflict between our interests and our values in a region where they are often in conflict.
His speech today achieved none of those.
The president laid claim to "a new chapter in American diplomacy," which he described as "shifting our foreign policy after a decade of war." But the vision he now endorses for the universality of American values has actually been the basis for our foreign policy in the Middle East for several administrations, most stridently that of his immediate predecessor -- it was President Obama's policies that had sought to tone down the emphasis our values in order to work more constructively with the repressive governments of Iran and Syria, as well as the repressive governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.